March 25, 2024

Episode 63: Strike Gold With Your Very First Book!

(Rookie Pitfalls to Avoid)

Tips for navigating the pitfalls and realities of writing your very first book

Episode 63: Strike Gold With Your Very First Book! (Rookie Pitfalls to Avoid)

by Carma Spence | The Author Switch Podcast


Are you thinking about or working on your first book? Then tune into this episode of The Author Switch podcast! I share insights, tales, and invaluable advice for anyone venturing into the world of authorship.

Curious Conversation with Carma

Recap & Takeaways

  • 01:27 My “first book” story
  • 02:51 Pitfall #1 – Lack  of a clear focus or purpose
  • 04:50 Pitfall #2 – Underestimating  the importance of editing
  • 06:02 Pitfall #3 – Neglecting  target audience
  • 06:33 Pitfall #4 – Poor marketing and promotion strategies
  • 07:26 Pitfall $5 – Unrealistic expectations
  • 08:42 Writer’s Block
  • 11:11 Publishing process – Choosing the path
  • 15:02 Publishing process – Manuscript preparation
  • 15:59 Publishing process – Understanding your market
  • 16:41 Publishing process – Professional presentation
  • 17:49 Publishing process – Marketing and Promotion Strategy
  • 18:49 Official Book Trailer: You Can Make It to the Finish Line
  • 20:13 Publishing process – Marketing and promoting your book
  • 22:44 Publishing process – Value of professional editing and design
  • 24:35 Publishing process – Setting realistic expectations and goals

Resources Mentioned

Episode 19 Monster Method
Episode 36: Unshackling the Muse: Answering Your Questions about Writer's Block
Writers Block Assessment

Transcript for Episode 63: Strike Gold With Your Very First Book! (Rookie Pitfalls to Avoid)

Hello, and welcome to The Author Switch Podcast. Now, everyone’s got to start somewhere, right? So if you are working on your very first book, or are about to start on that author’s journey, this episode is for you. Because I’m going to be sharing some common pitfalls that new authors fall into and provide you with some advice so that you don’t fall into them yourself.


Hi, I’m Carma Spence host of The Author Switch Podcast and I help entrepreneurs write a lead-attracting or client-attracting book in 90 days or less. In this episode of The Author Switch Podcast, I am going to share with you some common pitfalls that new authors fall into and give you some tips and tricks on how you can just avoid them altogether and not fall into them.


Sound like a plan? Here we go. Okay. So first I want to tell you a little bit about how I got started with my very first book. It was Bonkers for Bundt Cakes,  and I really didn’t know what I was doing. Lulu had just come out and you could buy an ISBN. That’s a little number that you put on the back of the book for like $99 and I had.


I’ve been doing these cookbooklets for my family as Christmas presents, and I thought, hey, I’ll just turn one into a book and see what happens. Well, I really lucked out because Bunk Cakes is a really strong keyword, and so that book still sells, even though I didn’t know what I was doing, and it has, it’s terrible.


It’s, I mean, the content is good, but the design is terrible. I mean, I, I literally, you took a slice of one of the cakes I made and put it on a plate and put it on a nice tablecloth and took a picture of it.  It’s slightly blurry. That’s my cover. Yeah. So it’s really easy to get into the book game and really easy to make mistakes.


But, if, there’s two things, you can either learn from your mistakes and keep going like I did, or you can learn from somebody else’s mistakes, like me, and not make them at all. So let’s go over the common pitfalls that new authors fall into.


The first one is a lack  of a clear focus or purpose. And that’s, I mean, honestly, that’s. One of the problems I had with that first book, because I really didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t, I just, honestly, I just wanted to have author after my name. And that was, that was why I did it. That’s what started me off because I had wanted author next to my name for a little long, really long time.


And I wasn’t getting there with where the things I was doing, and this was an option that was fairly easy and quick. Voila! I’m an author. So, a lot of new authors start writing their books with no idea. I mean, if they’re at the beginning and they don’t know where the end is, they don’t know what this book is going to do for them.


And they just lack all the focus and purpose that they need in order for the book to achieve a goal. Now, if your goal is just to have author next to your name, like it was for mine, then it doesn’t matter. I mean, you can make all sorts of mistakes. You’re still an author, even if no one buys the book.


But I suspect that if you’re watching this podcast, you probably have some goals, and you’d like to achieve them. And I’m pretty sure that your goal is beyond just having author next to your name. Although that can get you a lot of things, but if your book’s really crappy, it won’t get you some of those things.


So you want to get a clear focus and purpose for your book. And I’ve talked about this in another episode, but basically in summary, you need to know What you want the book to do for you personally, what you want the book to do for you professionally, and what you want the book to do for the people who will eventually read that book.


Once you know what the answers to those three things are, you will have a better idea of what kind of book you need to write. Therefore, giving you the book. focus, and purpose.


Thing number two, underestimating  the importance of editing. Oh my gosh. For a while there, I was doing book reviews of science fiction and fantasy, and horror novels on a website I had.


And I would get a lot of books submitted to me from indie authors. And what I found was. A lot of them, it was like, this is a really cool idea. It is implemented terribly. You needed an editor. Don’t spend money with those vanity publishers to get your book out when they aren’t going to get it professionally edited.


It does you no good. It does you no good. Even I, who have won awards for my editing, get somebody else to edit my work because the thing is, when you are enmeshed in your book, you see what you intended to be there, not necessarily what’s actually there. That’s what a professional editor does. They come in with a fresh pair of eyes, and they are looking to make you look your best.


So, hire an editor.


Number three, neglecting  target audience. Okay, so you need to know who you’re writing the book for because otherwise, you can’t answer that question number three. Remember question number three? What goal do you want that book to achieve for your audience? Well, if you don’t know who your audience is, you have no clue what that book will do for them.


So that’s probably one of the first things you need to do. You need to understand who you are and who you serve, and then write a book that is the bridge between those two things.


Thing number four, poor  marketing and promotion strategies. If you write it and publish it, and slap it up on Amazon, they will not necessarily come.


 You need to get the word out. You need to let people know this book exists. You need to do the marketing. That could mean a lot of different things because there’s a book marketing buffet out there. You could be doing all sorts. You could be posting on social media. You could be hosting a podcast and talking about it. You could be guesting on somebody else’s podcast. You could be doing webinars. You could be doing PR. You could be doing book signings. There are lots of things you can do in the book marketing buffet. Choose some, choose some, and market your work. If you’re going to spend so much time to get a book out in the world, get it out into the world.


Thing number five setting  unrealistic expectations, you know, even I think even the most seasoned authors sometimes fall into this trap. And that is, you know, you dream big and you, and you make the mistake of expecting big. What’s better is to dream big, aim for big. And if you get halfway there, time to party, time to party.


 So, just set your expectations of their realistic and, and that’s not just in the, the results of your book. It can be like expectations of how fast you can get the book done, how fast the editor can get it edited. There are a lot of expectations along the Author’s Journey. And if you set those milestones to be unreasonable, too high, you’re going to have a problem.


So those are the main, five main things that are under the rubric of common pitfalls. Top five common pitfalls of authors.


Now I’d like to say a little bit about writer’s block, what I call having a glitch in your Author Switch. And it’s outside of the scope of this podcast to really go deep into it, but you need to understand that there’s a lot of stuff out there in the world that’s talking about writer’s block.


And the vast majority of what I see, they have it wrong or incomplete because writer’s block is not a thing. It’s not like a cup like this is a cup or a mug, it’s a thing. Writer’s block’s not like that. Writer’s block has more in common with a sneeze or a sniffle  than it does a cold. Because there are multiple things that cause multiple glitches that cause writer’s block.


And the thing is, you can’t cure your writer’s block if you don’t know what’s causing it. Now, I’ve identified six primary causes. And they are mindset. You can get a mindset glitch. Emotions, you can get emotional glitch. Physical, you can get a physical glitch. Environmental, that’s something in your environment can glitch you. Creative glitches. Those are like when glitches in the creative process. And the least common, but probably the most devastating, is spiritual. Your disconnection to the divine can glitch your Author Switch.


If you can understand which one or ones, because often they come in multiples, yay, which things are causing your writer’s block, then you can take steps to remedy those causes and therefore release your block.


Now if you want to know more about writer’s block, put WRITER’S BLOCK in the comments and I will send you some links to some podcasts I’ve done on that topic that I think might be helpful for you. I also have a writer’s block assessment quiz. It’s still the first generation. I’m working on a second generation of it, but it’s still relatively accurate.


And I will include that if you say writer’s block, I’ll send you some resources and the quiz. So that’s all I want to say about writer’s block for now.


The next obstacle that new authors face is navigating the publishing process. And so I’ve come up with some various things that can help you navigate the publishing process. One is choosing the right publishing path for you. There are three main publishing paths. traditional, self-publishing, and hybrid.


Now traditional, that’s what a lot of authors do. They, they write their proposal, and they send it to either an agent or a publisher, and then they either get accepted or not. And then you get to work with a professional publishing house. This kind of thing if you can get it, it can be great, or it cannot.


It really depends. It depends on your goals, honestly, because when you’re working with a traditional publisher, you lose control of your manuscript to some degree. They tell you what the cover is going to look like. They tell you what the interior is going to look like. They tell you when it’s going to be released.


Like, if I was working with a traditional publisher, I could not I can’t do my book a month unless I did, but I wrote them all last year and they started releasing them this year, and then at any moment they could decide, you know what, we’re not going to release this book this month. And then you’re, there goes your plan.


So, working with a traditional publisher can get you greater prestige, it can make the publishing process easier, but it comes with some giving up of control, which may or may not be an issue for you.


Self-publishing, you’ve got complete control, complete and utter control, which means you can completely fall on your face.


But if you get the right coaching, if you get the right education, you can do it. And it’s not, it’s really not that hard. It, well, It’s simple, it’s time-consuming, and sometimes it takes a bit of funding because you need to hire proofreaders, and editors, and designers, and if you’re going to do an audiobook, you may need to hire an audio engineer, or, and, or a narrator.


So there are costs when you are self-publishing, time, and money, but you have so much more control over what your book looks like, when it was released, how well it does, everything. Everything’s on you.


Hybrid publishing and that’s how I published Public Speaking Super Powers. I did the vast majority of work, but the hybrid publisher allowed me to publish under their name, and they gave me the guidance I needed to know what the steps are.


So now I know, and I can do it on my own. But I really enjoyed that hybrid publishing experience for the first time because it taught me how to publish hardcover, which I really wanted to learn, and I couldn’t figure out on my own.


And then there are other hybrid publishing where they’re a little bit more hands-on.


It depends. There’s a variety of hybrid publishers that are like a traditional, but you do a lot of the work yourself as a self-publisher, and you just have to figure out which one there is.


And then, and this I don’t recommend, but there are still vanity publishers. And what they do is they charge you to do, they’re kind of like a hybrid, they charge you money to produce your book, but they don’t care what the quality of your book is.


So be careful when you’re in the hybrid. There are some that are reputable, some not so much. You get what you pay for, and you need to do your due diligence.


Another pitfall in the publishing path is quality manuscript preparation. A lot of authors who don’t know what they’re doing cut corners, and they don’t hire an editor. They don’t hire a proofreader. I highly recommend both. Especially if you’re getting a physical book.


Now the balloons. Did it do when I was talking about a party? No, it does it now.


A lot of new authors will cut corners on editing proofreading, and you really need those. You really need those, especially if you’re gonna go with a physical book because when you’re designing for a physical book orphans and bad hyphenation happens. And you need a proofreader to look at the laid-out copy to make sure that it is good. And you need an editor and a proofreader before it goes to design so that you know that your book is doing what you want it to do.


Next thing is understanding your market. You need to understand your market so that you can answer question number three. What goal do you want your book to do for the people who read it? You can’t answer that question if you don’t understand your market. You also don’t know how to market to them if you don’t understand them.


Where are they hanging out? How are they going to find out about your book? Is it better to get on a radio show than a podcast? Is it better to be posting on social media? Is it better to be in a high-profile magazine? Or is it better to do blogging? It depends on who your target market is and what is the best way to reach them.


Professional presentation. That’s the next one. Again, hire a designer unless you are a designer yourself and have high-quality design know-how chops hire a designer. I’ve done some of the design myself. I get better every time, but when I can, when, when I’m not dropping the book every month, I do hire designers to do my design work because I get a different level of quality by having a person who knows book design to design my book.


And having them do the interior is awesome. Unless you’re doing something simple, like an eBook, and then you can have just like a software like Atticus, which I talked about in the multiple formats’ episode, to do the interior for you. But having a professional or at least professional software do it, Word will screw it up because that’s not what it’s meant to do.


Word does what Word does really well. Word does not do what it’s not supposed to do very well. Just saying.


Next thing is marketing and promotion strategy. You kind of need to have a strategy to get your book out there into the world. You just do. You need to understand again, understand your target market, understand where they hang out, have a plan so that you can implement the plan.


Don’t just wing it. When you wing it, It doesn’t work very well. And when you wing it, you don’t know what you’re doing necessarily it that’s actually working because you don’t have the metrics in place to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing.


So before I go into the rest, I’m going to give you a word from our sponsor.


After that, I’ll be talking a little bit more about marketing and promoting your book. I’ll talk a little bit about the value of professional editing and design and setting realistic expectations and goals. So now, here’s a word from our sponsor.

You Can Make It to the Finish Line

Transform Your Expertise into a Book Worth Reading

Are you an entrepreneur, coach, or consultant dreaming of publishing a book but trapped in the maze of myths and fears surrounding the author’s journey? You Can Make It to the Finish Line by Carma Spence is your compass to navigate this journey, debunking the myths and illuminating the path from rough idea to polished publication.

Writing a book might seem like climbing Mount Everest, but with Carma’s guidance, it’s more like a stimulating hike where the right tools and mindset turn obstacles into stepping stones. Carma dispels the daunting myths of book writing with practical strategies, making the process accessible and engaging.

Hi, we’re back. Welcome back to The Author Switch Podcast. I am your host, Carma Spence, and I help entrepreneurs write a lead and client-attracting book in 90 days or less. Before the word from our sponsor, I shared with you five common pitfalls that new authors fall into and how to avoid them. I touched a little bit on writer’s block and how to figure out or actually what you need to figure out in order to get beyond it. And I shared a little bit about all the pitfalls that can happen while navigating the publishing process.


Now I want to go into a little bit more detail about marketing and promoting your book. It is so important to market and promote your book because if you don’t it’s going to collect digital dust or actual dust if you’ve got some because I’ve had that happen and You need to get the word out. And like I’ve said before, you need to understand who your target market is.


That idea that you need to know your target market is so important, so important that I’m, I will always be saying this because if you publish it, they will not come.


I mean, some might, you might randomly get people buying your book because you have good keywords or something, but. Keywords, by the way, are part of your marketing strategy. You’ve got to get the right categories, the right keywords. You need to do the right description. You want to have the right images. You want to have the right strategies for you, what you can do, your time, the time you have allotted, and your market. Need to know where they are so that you can market to them, which is one of the reasons why you really need to have an email list, because then these are people who’ve raised their hand and said, yes, I want to hear about you. And I want to hear about your books.


There you go. So. Now there are different ways to market your book and I have sort of touched on its outside the scope of this episode to really go deep into them. But just so that you know, and you have an idea, social media is a big one. There are people on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook I found are very good places to market your book.


Depending on your audience, LinkedIn is also a good option for social media. Pinterest also. Pinterest is really good. Pinterest is often where people are going, and this is, I learned this from the Pinterest people themselves, people go to Pinterest to plan. They plan what their future purchases are going to be.


So you want your book to be there because, at some point, they’re going to buy your book, especially if your book will help them plan. How cool is that?


You also want to have a compelling book cover. The whole look and feel of your book and the imagery that goes with it, which is the imagery that you use on Amazon, that’s the cover. And your book page and social media posts all need to be compelling to your ideal target market.


Networking is another good way to sell books. I, you know, it’s very interesting. If I go to networking events, I’m not going there to sell my book, right? I go there to learn whatever the conference is about.


But I always carry copies of my book because, at some point during the conversation, it may come up that I’m an author. Someone will ask me, what book do you have? I tell them about my latest book and somebody at the table invariably says, I want that. And I’m like, well, I just happened to have a copy and they give me a 20 or $15 or however much the book is.


And they take it and I sign it for them. And it’s just sold another book. And sometimes that gets you a client. Yay. And sometimes networking with other authors can help you sell your book as well, as well as industry professionals. Those are probably the top three things I think should be part of your marketing mix.


Podcasting, both as a guest and as an actual host are good ways to get the word out about your book. I talk about, Hey, the word from our sponsor was my latest book.


So, yeah, I’ve got a platform here, right? All right. Now that’s marketing. Make sure that you have a plan, a marketing plan. And if you need help with that, you can always schedule a Curious Conversation with Carma at And we can have a conversation about how I can help you create a marketing plan for your book.


Next topic is the value of professional editing and design. So I told you about my first book at the beginning of the episode where I took a somewhat blurry picture of a piece of cake on one of my plates, which was on top, and you know what? The plate didn’t go with the…. The tablecloth is like a blue and green plaid. The plate was like a peach color with flowers on it. It’s just a gaudy cover. It’s terrible.  I am working on the second edition of that book, and I will definitely have someone professional do the cover of that book because it’s a good book and it deserves a better cover than what I gave it. So you want to have someone professionally design your interior at, if you can, your interior, most definitely your cover because I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover but guess what?


We all do it. We all do it. We’re on Amazon and a cover catches our eye or it doesn’t. You want your book to have a book cover that will catch the eye of your ideal target market.


And editing, oh my gosh, so important. So important. Like I’ve said, like I think I’ve said this several times. I have, I’m an award-winning writer.


I’m an award-winning editor. I know how to write. I know how to edit. I don’t edit my own stuff. I have someone else do it. I usually have more than someone else do it because I found if you only have one someone else do it, they invariably will miss something too. It’s, it’s just the way things are, and you want it to be proofread before it goes into design.


So it’s as clean as possible. And then you want proofread after design, especially if it’s designed for a physical book, because the designing process often like cuts paragraphs weirdly, leaves orphans and widows. I have, those are basically like when you have one word or half a word on a line all by itself and you don’t want that.


It makes you look bad. And if you’re using this book to attract leads and clients, you want your book to be Its best, and hiring editors and proofreaders will help it be its best.


Now, how do you find these writers and editors? Now, there are lots of ways to do that. One way is to ask people you know and respect, other authors who have worked with editors and ask, who do you recommend?


There are also, there’s an association of editors. You can look them up there. And sometimes, if you’re networking with other authors and in publishing circles anyway, you will probably meet editors or people who work with editors who can refer. So those are the best ways to do it. The editor I’m currently working with on this Authorneer’s Journey series is someone who was recommended to me by my copywriting coach.


She’s been great. Love her. And of course, I also have my husband do it because he’s awesome and I like his editing. So. There you have it, I lucked out. I’m married by one of my editors. I didn’t know that before. Well, I mean, I knew he was a writer, but he wasn’t my editor before we got married. It was after.


But anyway, that’s beside the point. Anyway, hey! Maybe he’s open to editing your stuff. If you want to check that out, I can always try the referral. Who knows? He’s good.


Anyway, last thing is setting realistic expectations and goals, and I did touch on this a little bit earlier in the podcast, and you want to make sure that the goals you’re setting for your book are achievable.


So don’t set them so high that you know you’re never going to get there. But don’t set them so low that they’re uninspiring. You want them to be kind of stretchy goals, but realistic. Something like, yes, I think I could do that. And I mean, all my books have achieved at least the primary goal I set for them.


They’ve sometimes achieved other goals I hadn’t even thought of. And then sometimes they didn’t quite meet other goals. And I’m like, okay, I learned from that. But. I’ve set my own expectations to the point where, okay, these are the goals I have for my book. I think it’s reasonable that it can achieve them.


And if it doesn’t, I’m going to figure out why, so I can either fix it or do better the next time. If you’ve got that attitude that a failure isn’t really a failure, it’s a learning opportunity, you’re going to be so much better off.


So, takeaways, to sum up, you want to get professional help along your Author’s Journey.


You are not an island. Do not pretend you are.   Hire help. And that help can come in multiple ways. It can be a book coach. It can be a publisher. It can be an agent. It can be an editor. It can be a proofreader. It can be a beta reader.


And set your expectations high enough to inspire you but be willing to learn if you don’t reach them. Those are my two main takeaways for this podcast.


I hope that you found the information I shared helpful. This is Carma Spence at the end of this episode of The Author Switch saying ciao for now, and I’ll see you next week. Ciao.

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The Author Switch is a podcast dedicated to helping experts, entrepreneurs, and small business owners turn on The Author Switch — and keep it on — so that they can leverage the power of books to take their businesses to a whole new dimension. Learn more about the show and where it is available on its page.