Biggest Mistakes New Writers Make #5 Giving up too soon

This is the last post on “Biggest Mistakes, and I think it is the most important.  Take a deep breath, and read slowly and carefully.

At a recent NJ Author’s talk on “Getting Published” (scroll down below for the list of authors), the authors discussed the biggest mistakes they think new writers make.

This is really important, because the temptation to take the “easy road” is there, blinking and coaxing every day.

Don’t throw your novel out to self-publishing if you are not ready.

I’m going to say it again.

Don’t throw your novel out to self-publishing if you are not ready. 

Say that line over a few times.  Make it stick in your head, then continue…

I have a friend who actually did “go through the motions”  They put their novel out there, and were getting rejections.  They then decided it might be a good idea to get some beta readers. (Okay, they did that part in the wrong order, but at least they realized what they did)  After about ten or so beta reads, they came across me.

“The barracuda” attacked with reckless abandon.  (As nice as I could possibly be, of course) I knew EXACTLY why this wonderful, elaborate very imaginative story was not being published… I explained over and over in great detail.  They revised, but only slightly.  They did not want to ruin their “artistic integrity”.

That book is now self-published… with exactly the same beginning that I ripped to heck and back.  I feel horrible about it.  It is not selling.  Now… that is not to say that I’m always right.  I can be wrong.  This time, I wish I was.

Remember:  Most e-book channels let you read the first few pages just like if you are in a bookstore.  The first few pages of this novel are BORING.

Is it a great story?  YES.  Is it original?  YES.  Did the author make all the mistakes noted in the “biggest mistakes”?  Unfortunately, YES.  (Sorry BK)  I dearly, dearly hope I am wrong, because this is a great story, and they put a lot of work into their baby.  Right now, my heart is sinking over it.

If one person tells you something you do not want to hear.  Consider it.  If two people say something, think hard about it.  If three or more people say the same thing, suck it up and admit you are wrong.

Try to get a publisher first, and try long and hard.  Don’t put out something sub-standard just because you are in a rush or afraid of the process, or don’t agree with the feedback.  That first novel can haunt you for the rest of your life… and you never know, you just might end up with a “Gold Mine Manuscript” rejection that will change your outlook completely, if you are open enough to their suggestions.

Is self-publishing okay?  Sure.  For some authors.

Just Please Please Please make sure you are ready.  I have read quite a few self-published novels that were not ready.  It’s a shame, because I would be hesitant to take a chance on another novel by any of these authors.

If you do self-publish, AND YOU HAVE TAKEN THE STEPS TO BE SURE YOU ARE READY, check out Daniel Ottalini’s blog for a great checklist to make sure you follow through to give your novel a chance.

Jonathan Maberry:

Mike McPhail:

Danielle Ackley-McPhail:

Jon Gibbs:

Jennifer R. Hubbard:

Kristin Battestella:


32 responses to “Biggest Mistakes New Writers Make #5 Giving up too soon

  1. Brilliant advice.

  2. Robert Gregory

    You always have such great information. This gives me hope, honestly lol. I’m not psychic, but can almost predict a mountain of rejection in my mailbox initially! When I finally have something novel length and publishable, I will keep your guidance in mind! 🙂

  3. This is so true! Especially if more than one person has told you the same thing is wrong with your story! Listen to them! I’m reworking one of my short stories right now because I had two publishers tell me the same thing. I’m working on making it better!

    And it’s so sad when you try to tell someone that part of their writing isn’t working and they self-publish it anyway.
    This post is full of great advice! Thank you!

    • I do understand the author’s creative integrity, and that is fine if you just want your worl “out there” … but if you want to write commercial fiction, it has to sound as good to others as it sounds to you.

  4. Kourtney Heintz

    Great moral to the story. If I’ve heard the same feedback 3+ times, I know I have to work on something.

  5. Thanks so much for the advice.

  6. Such good points. I have learned the hard way about jumping in before I was really ready, and book publishing is NOT for the faint of heart, instant gratification type of person. After recently receiving the same news from 2 beta readers, a NY agent, and the senior editor of Candlewick Press about my middle grade novel, I shed some tears, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work. The result is SO much better and worth the criticism. 🙂

  7. wise words – hope writers listen

  8. Very nice, Jennifer. I had the same issue with a friend when she asked me to look over the story. While she found a publisher, they obviously did no editing rounds because when I bought it to support her, I found the same mistakes I pointed out in the manuscript. I checked because I never cleared out my recycle bin. In fact, the friend didn’t want me to look over anymore of her work because I was brutually honest. Her sales tanked and I think the book is down to 99¢ on Amazon now.

    Someday, people will realize we don’t look things over as a friend. That’s the worse thing we can do.

    • I hate when people tell me how wonderful I am. I have a husband for that. 🙂 I only keep betas that I “get something” from.

      I want the best help I can get from a beta, and I do the best I can for them. They don’t have to take my advice… I only ask that they consider it.

      • Yep. An editor will chew you up and spit you out quick. We’re like the Olympic Trials. We’re hard but if you can make through us, you can handle the rest.

  9. My experience is that finding someone who will read the whole thing and give useful advice is challenging… I need to check out some author groups in real life or on the net.

    • Really? Sounds like you need a good beta partner. What do you write?
      I would hop over to Nathan Bransford’s site. He has a place for beta-readers to connect in the forumns

  10. Excellent advice, Jennifer! In many ways, “writing the book” is the easy part. And I don’t mean that facetiously. But often that first draft comes out so easily. What we need to remember is that it is a first draft. The hardest and longest part is the revision process—getting those beta readers, sucking it up and recognizing the validity in their critiques, killing our darlings, revising, editing, revising again….

    But the revision stage is what makes a good and well-written book that readers will recommend to their friends and family—the best marketing possible. E-publishing is easy. But getting readers to buy the book is hard. And if it’s not as good as it should be, no one will touch a second.

    I hope you get through to some writers who need to see this!

  11. Excellent advice! Thank you.

  12. Another great post.

    I agree with getting publish first. I’m thinking once you’ve hit their benchmark, you can always self-publish. I also realize you maintain that strict standard of quality.

    • Yes, I would agree that you would need to have a means to adhere to quality. If I ever get there, I would want a professional publishing person to take a look to make sure I’m not slipping

  13. Loved this post! Awesome advice full of great wisdom and I found it really encouraging, too! Thanks for reminding us to be professional, dilligent and patient! Our chance will come if we don’t give up. 🙂

  14. Reblogged this on J. Keller Ford (The Dreamweaver's Cottage) and commented:
    This is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve read recently about taking the dive into self-publishing. I reiterate Ms. Eaton’s comments with passion and fortitude. Take it, Jennifer.

  15. Great advice. I, too, am reblogging this because everyone needs to understand the importance of self-publishing. I think too many people rush in without getting their manuscript properly edited, which can kill their books. I know 3 authors whose books are doing very, very well after being self-published, but they’ve taken the proper steps to ensure their book is the best it can be. I also know some authors who don’t care if they make money at this writing business. They only wanted to see their name in print and their story published. For me…I’m going to beat my story with a dead horse if I have to before it’s published. My name is on it for the world to see. It better be good.

  16. Here! Here! I have been struggling with the query process for a number of years. I keep revising my novel when things in Query Land are too quiet, or if an agent actually responds with something more useful than “Sorry, not for me.”

    Sure, I could just take my book and go self-publish, but because I have had my heart set on the real deal it’s extremely hard for me to do it a different way.

    I don’t generally read self-published books. I have won a couple of them through blogging contests, but I have never willingly gone out and purchased one on my own.

    Now, we do have to admit that there plenty of traditionally published books that are sub-standard as well. Publishers and lit agents don’t always make the right choice. This makes it doubly hard for authors to be 100% objective about their work. I am willing to bet that most, if not all, authors who self-publish did so because they truly thought their book was ready. It would surprise me that any of them self-published thinking they knew it could be better, but they can’t wait anymore, they just want to see their name in print. Even if that is the case, such authors probably delude themselves into thinking the book is ready.

    Beta readers and writing groups and even building a blogging community in which writers can share their work and receive feedback is an extremely important step in the process. Then it is probably a wise idea to have it professionally edited (esp. if author in questions lacks those skills). But if we’re just giving our books to friends and family to read and comment, relying on someone who doesn’t know how to put together a story, then we’re not going to hear the raw truth.

    Great post, Jennifer. I really liked the force behind your words. 🙂