7 Mistakes the Entrepreneur Makes as a First-Time Author

7 Mistakes the Entrepreneur Makes as a First-Time Author

Common wisdom tells us that “Everybody has a book in them”, and the stats back this up. More than 80% of people say they hope to become a first-time author.


Entrepreneurs are no exception. At Grammar Factory, we recently surveyed business owners. We found that even among this time-starved group, nearly 70% want to write a book.


The sad truth is that of those who even start writing, only 3% actually complete their book and become a first-time author. Average earnings from book sales are just $3,100 according to the Author’s Guild’s 2018 Author Income Survey. It seems that even those that get to press don't achieve sustainable income from authorship alone.


Entrepreneurs we surveyed aim to write a nonfiction book related to their business. So it’s even more important that any book they publish provides tangible results and doesn't get lost among the millions of books that are published each year.


Why do entrepreneurs write books? Many struggle to cut through in their competitive market. They have trouble converting leads. They aren't able to attract attention from media and other strategic partners who could help them achieve their goals. Their business feels like a grind, and many see authorship as a way to stand out and scale up. Their instincts are correct.


Unfortunately, most aren’t professional writers, and they worry they won’t see a return on their investment of time and resources.


With the chances of completion so stacked against them, how can business owners flip the odds? How can they write and publish a book that delivers results and helps grow their business?


The 7 mistakes the entrepreneur makes as a first-time author

In helping more than 200 business owners become published authors, we’ve observed 7 common mistakes. These result in entrepreneurs publishing a book that doesn’t deliver results with many never even completing their book in the first place.

First-time author mistake #1: Thinking they have nothing to write about

A first-time author often struggles to come up with what they believe is useful content that people want to read. But if your business effectively serves a customer segment, then you have valuable content right under your nose. The problem may be that you’re so close to your business that you take for granted the unique I.P. you have.


Review your processes, methodologies, existing content – even emails, sales materials, and customer communications. It’s nearly always possible to pull out unique, compelling ideas that are excellent sources for book content.

Review your processes, methodologies, existing content – even emails, sales materials, and customer communications. It’s nearly always possible to pull out unique, compelling ideas that are excellent sources for book content.

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First-time author mistake #2: Writing without a strategy

Every entrepreneur intuitively knows the importance of a business, product, or marketing strategy. So it’s surprising how few look at their book in the same way. Unlike a fiction writer, a business owner must think of their book as an integrated part of their business. Your book is part marketing asset, part sales tool, and part product. Jumping into writing it without first developing a strategy is a huge mistake.


There are three core components of this:


Your business strategy

Before writing, you need to clarify the elements of your core business that are important reference points for your book. This includes identifying specific business objectives for your book, identifying links to your products and services, and creating a business plan.


Your reader strategy

Consider the various stakeholder groups who may benefit from reading your book. Then identify your ideal reader (that is, envision a specific person you’ll be writing to). Finally, articulate the intended transformation you want your ideal reader to undergo as a result of reading your book.


Your book strategy

Book strategy goes well beyond simply stating your topic. You also need to articulate the central question your book will answer, your unique angle on the topic, and the appropriate tone given the topic and ideal reader. Your book strategy also clarifies the type of book you will write (How-to? Memoir? List book? Essay? etc.) and considers how the book will be positioned. For this, you identify book categories, search keywords, comparable books, and the like that will help define your marketing and distribution strategy.

Your book is part marketing asset, part sales tool, and part product. Jumping into writing it without first developing a strategy for it is a huge mistake.

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First-time author mistake #3: Writing without a plan

Very few business owners create a plan to guide their writing. While drafting a table of contents is a common first step, this is insufficient and is usually the wrong place to start. It can prematurely stunt the creative process before it’s even begun.


Instead, use brainstorming methodologies (mind-mapping, index cards, etc.) to get ideas out of your head, and only then start structuring them into a logical outline.


Even with an outline, the first-time author often finds the writing process difficult. That's why I recommend taking it a step further. Detail out not just sections, chapters, and topics that you’ll cover, but also the key points you'll make on each topic and subtopic.


This adds time up-front, but the benefit is that you’ll have a robust blueprint to write from. You'll significantly improve your ability to both start and stay on topic when you get down to writing the content itself.

While drafting a table of contents is a common first step, this is insufficient, and is usually the wrong first step. It can prematurely stunt the creative process before it’s even begun.

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First-time author mistake #4: Applying inconsistent effort

A robust writing plan makes it much easier to write the content of your book. However, it still demands time and effort to produce the 30,000 to 50,000 words required for the average, non-fiction book most entrepreneurs need.


Let’s face it – with a business to run and personal goals and commitments, it’s hard to imagine where you’ll find time to pound out your manuscript.


There are two paths that can work, and both depend on having a rock-solid writing plan.


1) Knock it out

The first is to lock yourself away for a week or so where you can just write, write, write. Writing daily for 5-7 hours generates around 5,000 words per day and can get your first draft completed in a week, give or take. This, however, isn’t realistic for most people, let alone a first-time author.


2) Plug away

The better approach is usually to dedicate one hour per day, every day, and aim to produce 750-1,000 words daily. At this rate, you should be able to knock out 5,000 words per week and finish your manuscript in 6-8 weeks.


In either case, the key is to keep writing and resist the urge to self-edit as you go. The habit of back-tracking, re-writing, and hopping back and forth between Word and Google is incredibly common. It's a major reason why books don't get finished.


Trust the process and keep writing with the knowledge that the first draft will be ugly, but the magic comes in the edit.

Back-tracking, re-writing, and hopping back and forth between Word and Google is incredibly common. It's a major reason why books don't get finished.

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First-time author mistake #5: Underestimating the power of the edit

Editing is the secret that the typical first-time author doesn’t fully appreciate. While nearly everyone realizes that you can’t simply publish your first draft, most don’t understand what a proper edit involves. Nor do they know of the immense power that editing holds to transform their draft into a high-calibre book that grabs and holds readers’ attention.


There are 3 main types of editing that every book should go through.


Structural edit

A structural edit looks at the overall structure of your book and reorganizes it to make the most logical sense. It consolidates repetition, cuts back rambling content, and recommends new content that would help make your case.


Copyedit

By contrast, a copyedit looks at paragraph structure, sentence structure, tone, and readability. It ensures that you’re communicating your message in the most effective way.


Proofread

A final proofread is not done until the overall content is set. It looks at spelling, grammar, punctuation, and other typos and ensures you’re consistent throughout.


After completing the first draft manuscript, every author should set it aside for a few days and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Then do at least three rounds of self-editing: the first as a structural edit, the second as a copyedit, and the third as a proofread.


Next, hire a professional editor to take your manuscript over the finish line. Full-time writers use professional editors, so as a first-time author, it's bold to think you can get by without. Your editor should also do a structural edit, a copyedit, and a proofread. This will have a massive, positive impact on the quality of your final manuscript.


For business owners, it is doubly important to seek professional assistance. Your reputation is on the line. The quality of your book is how readers will judge your quality as a professional, and the quality of your services.


If your book is structured illogically, your phrasing is confusing, your content is repetitive, or your pages are riddled with typos, then questions of competence will be transferred to the reader's impression of you. It will impact their desire to engage further with you or hire you to help them.

The quality of your book is how readers will judge your quality as a professional, and the quality of your services.

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First-time author mistake #6: Underestimating the power of packaging

We know the importance of product packaging and the impact it can have on someone’s willingness to buy. The same holds true for your book.


I use the term packaging to refer to anything other than the content of your manuscript. This includes your title and subtitle, your cover design, and your interior layout. But it also includes the book description on the back of the book and in its online listings, your author bio, book website, and any promotional assets related to your book or to you as an author.


Packaging serves three purposes that I refer to as the 3Ds.


D1: Discover

Packaging helps your book get discovered by your ideal readers, whether on store shelves, through search or recommendation engines, or by people’s browsing patterns.


D2: Differentiate

It also helps your book stand out among all other books. It entices people to pick it up or click on it, to learn more, and ultimately buy and read it.


D3: Describe

Finally, packaging communicates the contents of your book and the promise it offers to your reader. It must do this in a way that inspires them to engage with it, but also correctly sets their expectations. You don't want to attract people looking for something other than what you provide as this will only disappoint and result in poor reviews and negative word-of-mouth.


There is a very specific funnel that readers go through. From discovering, to considering, to purchasing, to reading, to enjoying, to recommending, packaging is critical in moving readers along.


The mistake too many first-time authors make is believing that if their content is great, everything else is gravy. It’s not. It’s vital to pay as much attention to the packaging as you do to the book contents itself.

From discovering to considering to purchasing to reading to enjoying to recommending, your book packaging is critical in moving readers along.

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First-time author mistake #7: Having no good way to monetize

The final mistake that business owners make in writing their first book, is that they don’t create an effective means of monetizing it.


If you did your due diligence up-front in defining your strategy, then you’re well ahead of most. You probably have a good idea of how you will make money from your book. Unless you’re a professional writer whose primary commercial activity is writing books, this is almost certainly not about selling lots of copies of your book.


There are many ways for an entrepreneur to monetize their book. Most, however, can be grouped into the following four strategies:


1) Authority Strategy

This strategy is focused on building your authority as an expert thought-leader in your field. It involves gaining as much exposure as possible through media, speaking engagements, social engagement, etc.


2) Lead-Generation Strategy

This strategy focuses on getting your book into the hands of as many of your ideal customers as possible. The goal is to generate pre-sold, qualified leads for your existing products and services. Your readers will already know, like, and trust you, so your job is to convert these leads into paying clients for your core business.


3) Product Development Strategy

This strategy is focused on creating new products and services based on the content of your book. While similar to the Lead-Generation strategy, this strategy creates a new line of business around the book itself, rather than using the book to sell existing products and services.


4) Book Series Strategy (note: this is NOT a first-time author strategy)

This strategy is for the entrepreneur who wants to eventually be seen more as an author than a business owner and earn meaningful income from book sales.​


It’s a long-term strategy. It depends on publishing multiple titles around a related set of topics, then developing and nurturing a community of followers. This is viable for those who love writing, but you shouldn’t expect it to provide significant direct income as a first-time author. You won't start to see the payoffs until you have published at least 3 or more related books.


Success in any of these areas is likely to support success in the others as well, but it’s a mistake not to select one as your primary monetization strategy. This allows you to set up promotional and distribution activities accordingly. It also lets you integrate the book into your broader business in a way that most effectively delivers revenue.

There are many ways for an entrepreneur to monetize their book. Most, however, can be grouped into the following 4 strategies: 1) Authority Strategy, 2) Lead-Generation, 3) Product Development Strategy, and 4) Book Series Strategy.

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STEPS to write and publish a book that ROIs - even as a first-time author

To put structure around the author journey, especially for the entrepreneur working to become a first-time author, I’ve developed a framework that addresses these 7 mistakes. It focuses on 5 pillars integrated into what is called The Entrepreneur to Author STEPS Method. While there’s nothing magical about STEPS, it offers a structured way of writing and publishing your nonfiction book. It ensures your book will build authority at scale so it can deliver real, positive benefits to your business.


[S] Strategy and Planning

  • Develop a strategy up-front that includes the business strategy, the reader strategy, and the book strategy.
  • Create a business plan for your book so you know the metrics it will impact and can assess the return on investment over time.
  • Create your writing plan by brainstorming, structuring, and detailing your book outline.

[T] Transfer of Knowledge

  • Tap existing sources for content, such as proprietary methods and processes, sales materials, emails, presentations, blogs and the like as a starting point for formalizing I.P. in your book.
  • Write your first draft by applying consistent effort against your writing plan, resisting the temptation to back-track and self-edit as you go.

[E] Editing Excellence

  • Perform a three-round self-edit of your manuscript: a structural edit, a copyedit, and a proofread.
  • Hire a professional editor to take your manuscript over the finish line and deliver a high-calibre, publishable manuscript.

[P] Presentation

  • Treat all the non-manuscript, packaging elements of your book with the same rigour and executional attention as you would the go-to-market plans for your core products and services.

[S] Sales Conversion

  • Be clear about how you will monetize your book, and make sure you have the requisite assets in place to capture the value within your core business.
  • Choose the right formats, distribution channels, and promotional tactics to support your monetization strategy.

Let structure set you free

While there are no guarantees in business or publishing, success in both arenas benefits from tried-and-true approaches. They provide structure to what can otherwise feel like an ambiguous and risky endeavour. By using a framework like STEPS, it’s possible to avoid common pitfalls. Then you can focus your efforts on developing strong, compelling ideas and on leveraging your book effectively within your business.


Far from limiting creativity, such methods provide guardrails. These guardrails give the first-time author comfort that their time and resources are well-spent. They leave them feeling confident that their book will enhance, rather than hurt their reputation. They know their book will help scale their business and ultimately allow them to enjoy the entrepreneurial lifestyle they’d envisioned.


Curious how STEPS can help get you from entrepreneur to first-time author? Download our Ultimate Guide to Writing Your Best Book at https://grammarfactory.com/awesome-book-guide/

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