1. Using bland book covers
Even though my book was a YA title which discussed serious issues like; dissociation, rape, and cutting, I thought the image of a sunset was too beautiful to not use as the cover of my book.
My Mistake: I was thinking about what looked pretty as a book cover instead of my target audience and how the cover would translate to those readers.
The Lesson: Great book covers help sell books, right? Not only does a great cover help to sell the book, it also conveys the book’s overall message through the cover images and design. Sometimes you can correctly guess the book’s genre just by looking at the title, the font, images, etc. So if you are serious about targeting the right readers and standing up to the competition consider a professional, well thought out design for your book’s cover instead of using a basic or bland cover.
2. Not using a pen name for different genres
I write mostly fiction with spice (i.e., erotic romance) but in the beginning of my career I swayed a bit and wrote a couple of young adult books. All seemed well, except I never considered using a different name to separate my adult books from my young adult books.
My Mistake: I wrote for two completely different genres using the same name. Those genres were complete opposites and definitely needed to be separate.
The Lesson: If you write different or conflicting genres, consider using a pen name. If you don’t want to use a totally different pseudonym but want it to be different enough to distinguish between the genres you write in, use your initials or your name mixed around (i.e., L.L. Sanders, Leslie Lee, or Lee L. Sanders). It’s still your name, and still recognizable to your readers, but separates the many genres you write.
3. Experimenting with fiction
There’s nothing wrong with experimenting. However, I can’t break the rules without understanding and applying them first. No one can.
My Mistake: Once upon a time, I had a master plan to write at least one book in EVERY single genre. Now reread that last sentence and take a moment to process what I just said. Yeah, big mistake! Although I managed to write and publish in three different genres (Romance, Young Adult and Horror) I did use a pen name for my horror. So, I think I earned a gold star for that good idea.
The Lesson: As much as we enjoy reading different genres, not all of us has what it takes to successfully write in every single genre. Sometimes writing well requires you write a lot in a specific genre to develop the skills necessary to make it a satisfying read. Now, I’m sure it’s possible to do and probably has been done, but it’s mighty difficult to manage several different personas, platforms, marketing strategies, writing styles, etc.
4. Moving ahead when not ready
Rushing. Rushing to write, rushing to edit, and rushing to submit and/or publish.
My Mistake: I struggle with this even now. It’s a hard habit to break when you have so much to do in a twenty-four hour day, especially if you self-publish because usually you’re doing everything on your own. If only our days were forty-eight hours instead and there were no such things as deadlines.
The Lesson: Rushing to complete a task more than likely results in poor performance, especially if you don’t spend enough time away from your project to look at it with fresh eyes. You hear that advice all the time, I’m sure. Put the manuscript away for a few days or weeks, get it out of your mind, then come back to it. You would have removed yourself from it long enough to see it in a new, fresh perspective. Then you can move forward to the next step with more confidence and a sense of completion of the previous step.