3 author mistakes that will hold you back in 2018

Writing, publishing, and marketing a book require a great deal of time and knowledge.

Most authors feel a great sense of accomplishment when they hit “publish” on Amazon and make that labor of love available for purchase.

The smile that comes with that achievement quickly fades, though, when you discover that nobody is buying your book.

Once you take friends and family out of the mix, you’ve got no movement — no sales.

It’s discouraging. And it’s frustrating.

But it’s also typical, so know that you are not alone.

And know that you can turn that around if you work to avoid these three author mistakes.

Mistake 1: Asking other authors, “What are you doing to market your book that works?”

Why it’s a mistake: Each book has its own audience. If you write children’s books, your audience goes beyond the age range you’re writing for to adults who will buy your books for their children and grandchildren, as well as other adults who might purchase them as gifts. Those aren’t necessarily the same people who read science fiction.

Or memoirs.

Or are concerned about global warming.

Unless you’re asking authors who are writing for the audience you’re trying to reach, the answer to that question could be useless. Doing what they’re doing might very well be a waste of your time.

The fix: Be thoughtful and honest about who will love your book. (Pro tip: It’s not everyone.) Those people are your target audience — not mine or anyone else’s.

Then figure out where to reach them online and in the real world.

Yes, this takes effort. But nobody said marketing a book was easy.

Learn more about how this works in “The formula for more book sales.”

Mistake 2: Refusing to invest in your book’s quality.

Why it’s a mistake: Books sell by word of mouth. If your book isn’t exceptional, readers won’t recommend it.

Most authors need help to go from good to great. If you expect strangers to spend money on your book, you need:

  • Excellent content.
  • A compelling cover that’s appropriate for the genre.
  • A plan for helping readers discover your book.

A professional editor will help most authors improve their manuscript; a professional cover designer will create a cover that appeals to your target audience.

Both come with a traditional publishing contract but when you self-publish, you have to find and pay for those professionals yourself.

Once you’ve got the best book possible, you need to let the right people know how it will transform their lives.

The fix: Ask successful authors to recommend a good cover designer, editor, and proofreader.

If you can’t afford to pay appropriately for decent help, you will want to manage your expectations about sales.

While the professionals are improving your manuscript and creating the ideal cover, you can start exploring your marketing options. My free Book Marketing Plan Template will walk you through the process.

Mistake 3: Not tracking your marketing activities and results.

Why it’s a mistake: You won’t know what works and what doesn’t if you aren’t linking tactics to outcomes. This is important because your goal is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

If you’re making mistake number one — blindly following the lead of others — you’ll uncover that mistake if you’re watching what happens when you do something to promote your book.

Similarly, you’ll notice when you’re doing something right.

The fix: Try one new marketing tactic at a time, watch your Amazon ranking for changes, and record both the activity and results in an Excel file. Then watch for patterns.

For example, when I changed the keywords for my book’s Amazon listing, I sold more books immediately. I wouldn’t have seen that cause and effect if I wasn’t checking my sales.

Here’s what my tracking file looks like so you’ve got a starting point. Create an approach that works for you.

Find publishing success in 2018

Make 2018 the year you do what it takes to become a successful author. That starts with:

  • Knowing who will love your book and learning how to reach those people with messages that will motivate them to buy, read, and recommend your book.
  • Publishing the absolute best book possible — and accepting the outcome when you can’t do what it takes to meet conventional publishing standards.
  • Doing more of what works to market your book and less of what doesn’t.

With some knowledge and effort, you can do it!

What’s your biggest book marketing challenge right now? Share it in a comment — maybe we can help. 

Like what you’re reading? Get it delivered to your inbox every week by subscribing to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter. You’ll also get my free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” cheat sheet immediately!


  1. Now that I have nearly finished Book 3 I shall be following the road of blogging and marketing. Sandra, thank you ever so much for the volumes of tips and thoughts you impart. My main goal for 2017 was to get the first two books on Amazon.com which I did and work on Book 3. Thanks again and have a great year ahead.

    1. I’m so glad the information here is helpful, Sheila! Congratulations on hitting that huge goal for 2017! Here’s to a wonderful 2018.


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