Top 7 Mistakes e-Book Authors Make

Young woman laying on bed reading eBook on digital tablet
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Amazon has revolutionized reading and publishing, much in the same way Apple changed how we listen to music. While e-books and e-readers existed before the Kindle, Amazon took digital reading mainstream. That has opened up publishing opportunities for independent authors to get their works into the world.

Today, while the majority of e-books are sold by Amazon, indie authors can use a variety of platforms to publish and distribute their books, including Barnes and Noble's Nook, iBooks, and more. It's easier, quicker, and more affordable than ever to publish an e-book. Entrepreneurial authors are making anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars per month by publishing and selling e-books online.

But like all entrepreneurial ventures, a few achieve huge success, while most barely make pennies. Why do some authors enjoy more success than others? There are seven key mistakes that most e-book authors make, and, in doing so, they hold themselves back from major success.

They Don't Appeal to a Specific Target Audience

The idea that your book can be on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes sounds thrilling. These are the biggest e-book distributors in the world. The problem is, your book is competing with millions of other books. Getting your book discovered is not easy when there are so many e-books to choose from. The biggest mistake most e-book authors make is they don't clearly define, identify, and visualize who they are selling their e-book to. It doesn't matter what you're trying to a sell—a product, a service, or a book—to be successful, you must appeal to a target group of people who have that specific interest. Even in fiction, authors are expected to define their genre and cater to that audience. 

While many successful self-publishers venture outside the lines of traditional genres, their success comes from finding readers who were yearning for something new and outside the lines. Whatever the topic of your e-book, make sure that you know exactly who will buy your book and where you can find them online. 

They Don't Automate Business Activities

While selling e-books has the potential to be profitable, it's not a business where you make hundreds of dollars per sale. To make money, you need to sustain high sales for months on end. Monitoring and processing these sales can be a time-consuming task unless you use tools to take care of some of the heavy lifting.

A site like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or iTunes takes care of payment processing and delivery. But if you sell your book directly off your website, you'll want to set up an automated system that takes payment and immediately, automatically, sends the book. 

You can also automate much of your marketing, such as having an email list, autoresponder, social media management, and more. 

They Don't Have a Compelling Title or Cover

In a perfect world, people wouldn't judge books by their covers—either literally or figuratively. In the real world, however, covers and titles play a huge role in hooking readers. A generic, boring title can turn off a reader who would otherwise be interested in the subject matter. The same goes for a forgettable or offputting cover.

A cover should look professional. The title should be easy to read, even in the tiny thumbnail shown on retail sites. When creating your e-book titles, use words that convey the benefit of what's in the e-book, and words your audience is familiar with. A solid understanding of copywriting can help with the title creation process.

They Try to Cover Too Much Ground Without Any Depth

The ease of e-book publishing has ushered in a swarm of get-rich schemers flooding the market with books that lack substance. Readers understand that articles will often only skim the topic, but when they buy a book, they expect detail and depth. This is particularly true for non-fiction and how-to books. 

Don't shortchange your readers. Deliver what your title and description promise. While e-books can be used as a promotional tool, you don't want it to simply be an overpriced sales brochure. When people buy books, they expect value, not a pitch. You may make a few sales, but if you shortchange your readers, you won't be able to make a long-term living through e-book writing.

They Are Not Proactive in Marketing Their e-Books

Just because it's online or listed on Amazon doesn't mean people will find it. Many less-than-successful authors have discovered this point the hard way. Like everyone else trying to earn a living, you have to market your product. Even traditional publishers expect their authors to promote their books.

There are many ways to market a book, but it all starts with knowing who the most likely reader is (this is the most important point), where they can be found, and how you can attract them to your book. After you've published your e-book, work on getting reviews and setting up a website (if you don't already have one) to sell it. Promote your book through your email list (start an email list if you don't yet have one), social media pages, and other networks.

If you're selling your book on your website (as opposed to through Amazon or other book retailers), consider setting up an affiliate program that gets others to help sell your book for you in exchange for referral compensation. If you're serious about being an author, develop your author platform to expand your reputation and reach out to your readers regularly.

They Don't Differentiate Their e-Book From its Competitors

When you choose a topic for your e-book, even if there are 100 other books out there on the same general subject, choose an angle that will make it easy to distinguish yours from the others. This is where knowing your target market helps. For example, job-hunting e-books are very popular, but the books that speak to a specific market, such as "Secrets of Breaking Into Pharmaceutical Sales" or "8 Strategies to Help Moms Re-Enter the Workforce," have specific titles that set them apart from general how-to-get-a-job titles. Books that are niched and speak to a specific market or a specific need always sell better than general topic books. The more specific you can get, the better.

They Write and Publish e-Books That Nobody Will Pay For

In the rush to get rich in e-books, many authors have haphazardly slapped together books. The books may be written poorly, use information that readers can get for free, or cover a topic that doesn't have a significant audience. Readers can tell, and they won't want to pay for a book with such obvious flaws. Before you invest weeks or months into the writing and publishing of your e-book, spend time investigating the market to see if similar books are selling on that topic, or if there is an audience willing to buy it.