I had an enjoyable weekend last week, with an opportunity to speak to a writers group in Denton. It’s such a joy to find a room filled with studious and interesting writers, eager to hone their crafts. The other speakers included Sandi Steen, Penny Richards, LaRee Bryant, Patricia Springer and therapist Jan Blankenship and it was great fun.
I always try to keep my presentations fresh and new, but regardless of the topic I present, many of the same questions come up over and over again. I gather some things bear repeating.
This time, I spoke about the mistakes beginning authors often make. And to be real honest, it’s not always just beginning authors so if the shoe fits, as they say…
1. Bad photos. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to invest in good photos. I don’t mean airbrushing. I don’t mean keep using a good photo you had made when you were 22 and you’re now 52. I mean a professional, accurate photo. Nobody expects you to be Marilyn Monroe, or Sean Connery as the case may be. But that photo will literally represent you and be a part of the first impression you make on many people who see your promo material long before they ever meet you. It can mean the difference between people seeing you as a professional or a hobbyist who writes on the weekends. They should be able to recognize you from the photo. Make sure it looks like the “you” you want people to see.
2. Bad bios. It still amazes me that I can be hired to represent an author who wrote a 400 page novel, but I can’t get him to write 50 words about himself. It’s not just how many words a bio is, either. It’s which words you choose. Some bios are factual but they’re dull as dirt. Think about what you write. If the exact same information was given to you about someone else, would you be interested? Be truthful but be realistic. Unless you want to write that you went to elementary school with Barack Obama, probably nobody cares where you went to school. If you need help, ask someone in your circle of friends and family to list the things they find most interesting about you. Or even have someone else write it. But please, take some time with it. Like your photo, your bio is a representation of you and creates a first impression of you for many. First impressions, good, bad or otherwise, are hard to overwrite once they’re written.
3. Unrealistic expectations. This one comes up a lot. Myths about the writing life abound, particularly on the Internet. It’s important that every writer make acquaintances with writers in all stages of their careers so they can learn from the experience of others, and not just rumors or opinions.
4. Listening to bad advice. Like the previous one, this one comes up frequently as well. I’m sure the advice is well-meaning, and it can certainly be freely given and abundant. Unfortunately, what works for one author promoting one title doesn’t often work for all the same way and heeding the wrong advice is often costly. It seems those who have the strongest and most vocalized opinions sometimes have the least experience to back it up. Always consider the source.
5. Arrogant attitudes. This one always surprises me because I’ve dealt with very few authors who exhibited this trait, but a plethora of booksellers and guest bookers swear it happens to them all too often. Authors who don’t request but act in a demanding and arrogant manner. Don’t let this happen to you!
I’ll continue the thoughts next week, but meantime, I’d love to hear your take on mistakes authors make.
Till next time,