Top 5 Embarrassing Rookie Mistakes for Authors

Top 5 Embarrassing Rookie Mistakes for Authors
Note: Please join me for a Google Hangout for an informal discussion on mistakes to avoid when building your platform using email: Tuesday at 2pm ET HERE or just copy and paste this into your browser:
So make a note in your calendar!
When I was a little kid I thought grownups knew what to do. Seems like a  logical assumption, right? I figured when I grew up I’d stop making mistakes too. Ummm. Nuh-uh. I make pa-lenty of ’em! Pretty much daily. But hopefully I learn from them. Hopefully, too, they’re not as embarrassing as the ones I’m about to reveal to you. (No skipping ahead, now!)
Everyone makes mistakes, of course. You might tweet out wrong thing, or not even realize what you’re doing, like commandeering a hashtag, like when the pastry company, Entenmann’s tweeted out about not feeling guilty if you eat their sweet snacks. They used the hashtag #notguilty. Problem was, they did it the same day Casey Anthony was found innocent and the #notguilty hashtag was already going viral for that reason.

Embarrassing mistake.

In an effort to gain momentum and start building an author platform, lots of people make mistakes. It’s unavoidable. I’ve made plenty. Before I admit to my own humiliation, let me help you by filling you in on what to avoid.
Rookie Mistake #1 – Thinking Promotion is Self-Promotion

If you read my post the other day called “Shut Up,” She said, “Why Self Promotion as an Author Doesn’t Work” you’ll know that I truly believe that reciprocity rocks, and that Delilah S. Dawson, the writer who wrote the original post I was responding to, was railing against all the writers who blather on with their newsletters and tweets with, “Look at MEEEEEEE!!!” I totally agree with that.

When you are generous and promote other people, viewers are seeing you, too. You are becoming a conduit for information. You’re turning yourself into an expert. Not only that, but the recipient of your generosity appreciates it, and will spread the information that you shared.

I always called it being selfishly unselfish because selfishly, it feels good to help others. But still, you are helping others! I get these emails from certain writers – and there is nothing in it that teaches me anything, does anything for anyone but the person writing it. All it is is BUY MY BOOK!BUY MY BOOK!BUY MY BOOK! Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong in announcing your new book, as long as you’ve been providing great, useable content and teaching others too. But if all you do is every few months or years slam people with missives to buy your book or latest product, then there will be grumbling.

When you use abundance thinking you’ll get more back: in fact, the more you give the more you get. Then, when you’ve written a book, your exciting news is welcome and your peeps will WANT to help you spread the word. AND buy your book. It’s hard to do sometimes, I know! But do it. It feels good. You’ll like it.

Be generous when it comes to building your author platform.

Rookie Mistake #2 – Getting Upset When People Unsubscribe from Your Email List

The reason you have an email list (and if you don’t learn why you need one through my free training here) is to create a dialogue with your peeps. Your fans. Your followers who are interested in what you have to say and offer. If someone isn’t interested, you don’t want them on your list anyway.

You will have an unsubscribe button or link at the bottom of every email – it’s part of the CAN-SPAM act… and people will use it. Plus, there will be folks who will sign up for your list just to get your freebie (aka lead magnet or ethical bribe) and then unsubscribe. It doesn’t matter.  Don’t worry about that. And this is not just sour grapes. Those are people who wouldn’t read your emails anyway, they probably wouldn’t ever buy any of your products or books, and they’re just not the right person to be on your list. It’s better to have a strong, engaged list of 100 than an unengaged list of 1,000.

They just may not be the right audience for you. Fine. Move on.

Rookie Mistake #3 – Email Overwhelm!

No one has time. What you send out doesn’t need to be long and involved. Fill it with resources, great links, and make it easy to read: short and to the point! I very rarely send out emails that are longer than absolutely necessary. Edit them as furiously as you would your books! And here is a great tip: the P.S. has been shown to often be read more than the body of the email––or is the ONLY thing read. So add your most important point to the P.S.!

Rookie Mistake #4 – Forgetting About Your Peeps

Perish the thought! If you’ve taken my free training (and if you haven’t you can sign up here to do it) you know how to schedule evergreen newsletters, so you won’t ever forget about your peeps, right? You schedule your news to go out the same day every week or month so your subscribers will hear from you on a regular basis.

Internet marketers send out sometimes daily – but writers, I’ve found, are more sensitive to that, so I send mine out a LOT less frequently, also to leave room for my event, or calendar-based broadcasts or blasts. I once signed up for a famous writing organization’s newsletter and didn’t hear a word from them again until they had something to sell me. What was it? It was an expensive retreat. I was like, are you kidding me? I was not happy. I should’ve received a welcome message, and then a whole series of follow ups, offering me lots of great content before ever hitting me up for my wallet.

Rookie Mistake #5 – A Biggie: Get Your Email Addresses in a Legit Way

Not only are there laws about how to grow your email list, there is logic about why and who you want on your list. So you never want to grab email addresses from someone’s cc on another email. Don’t do that. I’ve seen people use their own gmail account to send out information, and they’ve added people to it from their kid’s English teacher’s email home about the midterm, and have all those email addresses on it. And then to add insult to injury, they don’t bcc the list! It’s not legal, and you’ll just end up making people angry. Use your power for good. Never for evil!

My Very Embarrassing Mistake/s 

I wasn’t even such a rookie at the time, either! It was 2011. I’d just published the picture book Little Chicken’s Big Day with my husband Jerry and was doing a big launch campaign. Believe me, I did learn from this mistake, so much so that I when I was ready to launch my next one, I used the lessons learned and ended up launching my book How to Promote Your Children’s Book at #1 on Amazon–thank goodness, or it wouldn’t have been a very good marketing book!)
I decided I would create a month of giveaways and have them all lead up to a huge celebration.It was SO complicated and convoluted, asked SO much of my peeps, it was ridiculous! I have no idea what I was thinking.
I mean, really? Did I actually think teachers would go to such lengths in their incredibly busy days? Take videos and post them of their students? And then come back and read through all the directions, yadda yadda yadda? There was too, too much to do. Week  in and week out.
Top 5 Embarrassing Rookie Mistakes for Authors
My #1 Embarrassing Not-So-Rookie Mistake
I learned that legally, you’re not supposed to called these thing contests. The first blog post in this series of giveaways talked about this. I then go on to refer to the series of giveaways as (just guess)… yep. I called what I was doing a contest. In the same blog series! 
Super Embarrassing Mistakes for Writers
I asked sooooo much of my audience! It was way too much work. I seriously can’t even believe I did this. Plus, it was a ton of work for me! I took art from the book (which I owned), and put in new text to match the giveaway. I had huge prizes but after seeing very little interaction, I abandoned the entire series. It was a major fail. But it’s not as bad to fail and learn as the person who confidentially told me what she did. Keep reading.
Mistakes made as a rookie writer trying to establish a platform
Never, ever do this: 
If you’re going to  go through with a raffle, giveaway, or whatever, make sure you follow through if someone wins!
Bad Contest Mistake
If you’ve gone through my free training you now know about giving a freebie in order to grow your email list. This video has an example of another way to grow your email list which will, in turn, help you to build your platform. I haven’t tried this myself, so if you do, I’d love to hear how it works for you!

Recent Comments

  • Joe Kovacs
    April 26, 2015 - 10:02 pm · Reply

    One huge reason people will buy your books (and even look forward to them before they have actually come out) is because you have a strong relationship with them, even if that relationship is just online. If you know how to build that relationship–by helping them succeed and shining a light on them and the awesome work THEY are doing–you won’t even have to self-promote. Others will do it for you. You are so right on this point, Katie, thanks. By the way, I’ve watched your entire video series so far on building an author’s platform and I find it very helpful. Cheers, Joe

    • Katie
      May 12, 2015 - 2:02 pm · Reply

      Thanks, Joe! I really appreciate that comment! And yep, you won’t even have to promote if you’re doing all you say. That’s why I called my course How to Create Your Author Platform (& Market Your Books without Being Pushy!) 😎

  • Al Holtz
    October 14, 2015 - 9:11 pm · Reply

    Katie–great article. I was not aware of the bit about the PS on emails. And I appreciate you sharing the big mistake–very helpful. Love the podcast–keep doing what you do.

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