first-time author

Writing, books, and personal branding go hand in hand. When you know how to write, and you use that power to write and promote a book, you can change your life, especially as a first-time author.

Writing and promoting a book opens windows of opportunity–opportunities that would never otherwise show up. As a published author, you’re branded as an expert to new clients, prospects, and job opportunities. Your book becomes your business card, proving your expertise and professionalism. You can access experts you’d never, otherwise, be able to access.

You can leverage your book into whatever you want your life to be.

As Harry Beckwith wrote in The Invisible Touch, “If you want to change your life,”write a book.”

Success, however, is not guaranteed

Many first-time authors are not prepared for the possible land mines and pitfalls along the way. Many find writing a book to be a frustrating and unrewarding experience.

Fail to receive rewards

The following are the 11 biggest reasons many first-time authors fail to receive the rewards they expect:

1. Unrealistic expectations

Don’t expect to get rich off your book, even if it’s a success by publishing standards. The vast majority of books fail to earn out their advance.

Instead, right from the start, develop a personal marketing plan to leverage off your book.

Instead of trying to make money on the book itself, use your book to open doors, promote your credibility, and build relationships with readers. Know how you’re going to profit from your book through follow-up information marketing, providing sales and services, or seminars, worksheets, and paid speaking and training.

I’m amazed by the number of authors, especially first-time authors, I’ve interviewed for who have told me they devote their publishing advances and royalties to charity, knowing that profits from book sales will never equal the profits from their own back-end products and services.

2. Writing without a contract

Never write a book without a signed contract. Instead, prepare a detailed book proposal and two sample chapters.

You can use a tool like Jotform Sign to create a signable contract online.

Publishers are increasingly selective the titles they accept. Often, less than 1 in 50 titles proposed are published. Worse, most books change during the writing and editing process.

Writing a book that isn’t accepted is not a good use of your time!

3. No agent

It is essential that you be represented by a literary agent.

Publishers rarely accept unsolicited book proposals. Unsolicited proposals are frequently returned unread or are simply discarded. The right agent will know exactly which publishers might be interested in your book.

More important, publishing contracts frequently contain “boilerplate” text that can sabotage your writing career before it begins. You must have an agent who knows what to look for and is able to negotiate more terms.

4. Weak titles

Titles sell books. The title of your book is like the headline of an advertisement. The title is the “headline” that helps you sell your project to acquisition editors as well as bookstore readers.

Successful titles stress the benefits readers will gain from your book. Successful titles arouse curiosity and offer solutions. They often include consonants and alliteration (repeated ”hard” sounds like G, K, P or T).

5. Title versus series

Don’t think “book,” think “brand.” Focus on a series of books rather than an individual title. Publishers want concepts that can be expanded into a series rather than individual titles.

Do it right, and your first book becomes your brand, the “shorthand” that identifies you. Think in terms of brands like Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing series which has provided him over thirty years of quality lifestyle, challenging clients, and speaking opportunities throughout the world…and still does.

6. Going it alone

Successful careers involve a nurturing support group of readers and peers.

Your quest should include the support of your friends, other authors, book coaches, readers and others who will help you maintain your enthusiasm while providing ideas, assistance, and feedback.

Hiring a developmental editor while preparing your initial book proposal helps you avoid the myopia of focusing too closely on the trees, rather than the viewing your book in the context of your career as well as existing books on the topic.

7. “Event” writing

Commit to writing a little each day. Avoid “going away” to write your book.

Stress is an author’s biggest enemy, especially as a first-time author. When you attempt marathon writing, you’re putting an unrealistic burden on yourself; after all, “What happens if I come back and my book isn’t written?”

Commit to write 45 minutes a day. Review your progress just before bed. This reduces stress and continuously reengages your subconscious mind.

8. Self-editing

Avoid unnecessary self-editing. It’s far more important to complete the first draft of your book than to agonize over the perfection of every word.

Nothing can happen until you finish the first draft!

When you’ve finished the first draft, various editors will ensure that grammar is correct and ideas appear in the proper order. But, they can’t do anything until you submit the final manuscript.

9. Failure to promote

Publishers are not promoters. Publishers are skilled at editing, manufacturing, and distributing books. But, they are not set up to give your book the marketing attention it deserves. A single, often overworked, publicist may represent 100’s of different titles–with more coming every season.

If you want your book to succeed, you have to promote it as well as write it.

10. Failure to backup and save

Save your work frequently when writing. Always save before printing. Never turn off your computer without making a copy of your files for off-premises storage, or sending a copy of your work to yourself via e-mail.

Never end a writing session without printing out a hard copy of the latest version of the chapter you’re writing. Consider printing your manuscript on 3-hole punched paper, which you insert in a 3-ring binder.

11. Failure to plan future profits

Before writing your book, create a book marketing plan.

View book sales as the first step in an ongoing relationship with your market. Your book marketing and business plan should identify opportunities from consulting, newsletters, audio/video recordings, seminars, speeches, and yearly updates, etc.

Focusing on future profits as early as possible. By identifying your ideal clients, prospects, and (perhaps) employers before you write your book, you’ll be better able to write the book that impresses the right people and creates a brand that makes you both attractive and memorable.


A book can, indeed, change your life. But, you must take charge take a proactive role in promoting and leveraging its success.

I was lucky. Without the guidance that’s available today, writing and personal branding helped me out of a very difficult situation. I had relocated 3,000 miles away from home, with a new wife, baby, mortgage, and 2 new Saabs when I lost my job.

The ability to write and promote a book is the ability to control your destiny.