Book Publishing Blunders of First-Time Authors

first-time authors

Author, book publishing expert, and coach Judith Briles (AKA The Book Shepherd) joined our February #BBchat Twitter Chat to discuss book publishing blunders of first-time authors.

Judith Briles is an innovative and creative writing coach, book coach, and how-to-get-published expert who can assist you with your book and publishing project. As The Book Shepherd, she has mentored up-and-coming authors and publishers for years and dedicated untold hours to educating others to the pitfalls, and joys, of the publishing world. In 2009, she created AuthorU(niversity), a membership organization designed for serious authors who want to be seriously successful.

If you’d like to be notified about future BookBaby Twitter chats, subscribe to our Facebook events. To view the entire chat transcript, visit this link. Below is a reformatted version of our discussion.

In your coaching experience, what kinds of writers typically need the most help with crafting a professional manuscript?

Authors need to let their egos step aside. I’m here to help make their work even better. I want “your voice” intact, so editing – getting the right one for your book will be at the top of the list – then design comes into play. Finding the right editor is key: understand that if I gave the same 10 pages to 20 different editors, they will all have different suggestions and takes. Ask for a sample, give him/her a chapter to see what they do and if it “feels” right (their suggestions are good and make sense). There are children’s editors, YA editors, nonfiction, fiction – then there are subs. But the real editor question is, do you need content/development or just copy editing? Then after the book is laid out, it should get what I call a “cold eye” edit.

Every book needs a plan – how do you find and set reasonable goals and deadlines?

Plans are essential. Yours should start with exactly WHO are you writing for. Authors need to know their target market, but few do. You need to know their fears, hopes, concerns, and what are their problems – this is for both fiction and nonfiction. Plans contain what social media will be used and what marketing will be focused on. And book marketing should start pre-publishing.

Are there any common essentials every first-time author should include in their book to reach success?

As The Book Shepherd, I act as the project manager. I do do content editing, but I also bring in the cover and interior designer and I start brainstorming covers and branding. I coordinate eBook, audiobook, and the game plan for marketing. In some cases, I help with setting up Amazon, social media, and working with the author’s website. In other words, launching the author and the book.

What design elements should writers incorporate into their book to keep readers engaged?

I love book design, for both fiction and nonfiction. Make the interior interesting and engaging; use a piece or theme from the cover and drop it in. It’s a nice set-up for the reader. Book interiors need white “space” and maybe an illustration to engage the reader. In the interior, customize. Create pullouts/callouts. Open your chapters with your quotes, maybe an “aha!” moment from the chapter. I think it’s important for all authors to understand that book publishing is a business.

When planning a book launch, how far out should you start marketing before the release date?

Launch date time plans can start months in advance. Get ready, build the audience, offer goodies, create a contest, etc. Think of your book launch and marketing in waves. Create a spreadsheet of activities/events that you can do to support and build up

Should writers spend more of their time building a social media following or growing their email list?

Social media and emails go hand-in-hand. Let’s start with email. You must have a website. Create an “opt-in” to gather email addresses. Websites do three things: build trust with visitor, deliver content, and gather names/emails. With an opt-in, you get the emails. On my website,, I give a 24-page PDF on eight publishing essentials – free. The first time I posted it, I got 1,800 new names. I like Twitter best, it’s fast and punchy, which fits my style. Find your style. On of the best ways to build fans/followers is to create quotes – why not yours? – or share others. Use Canva or PicMonkey to gussy them up. They get shared plenty and you build your author platform at the same time.

Do you recommend any tools or resources for staying on track to first-time authors?

One of my personal keepers to stay on track: DON’T do what I have no business doing. Think about it. The other is: If I never say NO, my YESES become worthless. We authors get pulled in multiple directions. We have to say no sometimes. Also use a social media management tool. I use Hootsuite, and there are others. The goal is to multi-task here, otherwise, social media is a time suck.

Guest questions

So, Judith, what is THE WORST mistake?
Oh my… let me count the ways. Let’s start with bypassing editing. People actually do that? Too many authors think they can do a DYI or have their mom, sister, or a school teacher do it. NO.

What is a reasonable amount of time for editing your book?
Editing time depends. In content/development, it may take a few months; if its 100,000 words, it’s going take more time (in most cases). Get an estimate from the editor. My cold eye editing is less than a week; I plan on two weeks for most nonfiction; fiction takes longer as a rule; children’s book are quite fast.

Once you have your book edited and cover designed, how do you develop a marketing plan?
Ideally, marketing plans should start early. They start with knowing your competitors in the genre and knowing your target market. Determine which social media platforms are right and set one or two up, then build from there.

What about marketing low-tech? There are some who don’t do social media, Kindle, want only hard copy books, etc.
It takes time now, start with baby steps here. With that said, use your mouth to sell books. Start speaking. My personal record after a talk was 566 books in three hours.

Are there good templates for marketing plans? Something I could edit to my needs?
There are “common” things, but most marketing should have two parts: 1) What are author/book competitors doing? 2) What social media are they doing? Then mimic the best, don’t reinvent the wheel. If the competing author is using Twitter, for example, then follow him/her, THEN start following followers. You will build fast. The best question to ask is, “How long do you want book sales?” Then you know how long you have to market your books. What’s good about the self-publishing/indie markets is that you can repurpose books and relaunch them. Don’t roll print, eBook, and audio at same time. Come back to the party and do another announcement and support each separately.

What’s the best way to get people to review your book?
It’s always good to have someone outside of friends and family do a review. Here’s my #1: have readers of your genre review your book.

What are other common mistakes?
Too many authors rush to publish. Breathe and learn the biz. Commit to consistent updates.

Can you speak to e-publishing short stories / novellas / novelettes? (Kindle Direct). What’s the price point there?
Shorts are hot. Short books and stories are the new black. Do them and for all, think “repurpose” of existing books.

What marketing mistakes should authors avoid making?
Getting sucked into elaborate plans that cost lots of money. Again, who is your target market? Where do they hang out? What social media are they on? Then focus there. If you are a speaker, or plan to be, DRILL into the industry that’s your expertise and claim it. Problems are your BEST friends, because you have answers and solutions. It’s how I sold over one million books in healthcare.

Can you use your blog to promote or does it need to be a separate website?
You should absolutely use your blog to promote, and you should keep on your website. With each new post, blast it out on your social media channels.

Is it worth the investment to create an audiobook version of a print book – do you see authors getting an ROI?
Audiobooks are HOT. I say yes indeed, and there are ways to spend lots of $$$ and ways to do it for little. Richard Rieman’s The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation is a great info/how-to guide. (Disclaimer, I was his book shepherd.)

Thank you ALL! I do free coaching every MONDAY at 12 ET. Info on


Find your way to self-
publishing success in just 5 easy steps with this 62-page book. Yours absolutely free.


Related Posts
Why do you need professional editing for your novel?
What Type Of Book Editing Do You Need? And When?
Humans vs. Robots: When (And Why) You Should Use Editing Tools
A “Fresh Eyes” Reader Can Save Manuscript Errors
Know Your Audience Before You Write Your Book
A Step-By-Step Guide To Making An Audio Book Using ACX



    • Hi Brad. I’m writing my first book. Can you help in giving me advice on which publisher is trustworthy? I’m not good with self publish.

      My book is about teaching how to draw and paint.

      Thank you.


  1. Publishing book for the first time author , anyone can blundr this task. The points you shared are very helpful for the authour who are publishing their book for the very first time. To avoid any kind blundr one can also go for editing services available in the market.

  2. ‘You need to know their fears, hopes, concerns, and what are their problems – this is for both fiction …’ I confess that when I am looking at the likes of Ian Rankin, David Baldacci, Stephen Leather, et al, any fears, hopes, concerns, problems that I might have are NOT at the top of my decision-making process. In fact, they’re nowhere in it.

  3. I hear so many writers/publishers mention audience and social media. BUT what if you do not have a big enough audience…. Some may not have hundreds or thousands on their FB or a twitter account let alone people knowing who you are. I find that many professionals assume you already have ready to read audiences and when you post, they respond… this is not true for everyone.

    So the question is and maybe this could be another blog topic.

    How does one GATHER an audience, before talking about interacting with an audience?
    (Personally, I have a finished story that I am editing and re-editing, and will be looking for an editor in the future when I feel it is polished as possible—and I truly don’t know when exactly I could be published. So what do I do in the meantime before I even know the date of publishing and how to GATHER an audience,before conducting contests and etc.)

    This could be for people who are literally wet behind the ears, newborn babes to publishing and marketing.
    Or people who may not have been on social media for various reasons and now they have a book to get out.
    And if there are 10 people on FB how does one get they to even LOOK at your posts….the feed can play games.

    How does one go about this without looking desperate?

    Thank you!! :)

  4. Social media tools like Hootsuite are great, but you don’t want to rely on automation only. The key to social media success is to actually be social, to respond to and engage with followers.

  5. “Too many authors think they can do a DYI or have their mom, sister, or a school teacher do it. NO.”

    I love how there’s a spelling mistake in the sentence recommending editing above all else. Or is it supposed to be a ‘Do Yourself In’ instead of ‘Do It Yourself’?

    What if you already have a track record in self-editing, in a non-professional setting? Or what if you’re not even sure you can afford editing, because your chosen genre is pretty much dead and you want to revive it?

    Certainly given me some stuff to think about, though, thanks for that ^^

  6. If I am not self-publishing, which publishing company is trustworthy for a first time writer like myself?

    My book is about teaching how to draw and paint.

    Thank you.


  7. I have just finished my first book. I realize to have it published, I will have to self publish it, like so many others have. It is 3/4’s fiction about a utopia 3 miles below Antarctica. I believe I should get a Patent because the ideas in my book are so unique, I have never heard any of them used before.

    Will your coaching lead to the publishing of same? What do you charge for such assistance ?


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