Writers Speak Up: “My Biggest Author Mistake Was…”

linkedin-groupsThere’s a new conversation going on in an author group I belong to on LinkedIn. And boy is it a doozy!

The group is called “Authors, Writers, Publishers, Editors, & Writing Professionals.” The question? “What is the worst mistake you made in the history of your career as an author, which you will not want a fellow author to make?” Here are some of the responses you won’t want to miss…


On Writing a Manuscript

“I think my biggest mistake was starting and stopping. Several times now. If I had just perservered and pushed through the mental and creative blocks and the ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ stuff, I’d be a lot further ahead.”
Patricia A. Guthrie

“I sent a children’s book manuscript to a publisher. Six months later, Hasbro was advertising toys named like characters in my book. Coincidence? Maybe, but that’s the reason for my decision to copyright everything–first and foremost.”
M.H. Johnson

“One of the worst things I ever did was to accept terms on contracts which I could have challenged and made infinitely better. I did learn more about all of this with time, but, looking back, I let too much get away from me and whenever I teach a class on how to negotiate contracts, I urge writers and illustrators to dig into contract negotiations in every way they can, do research, ask questions BEFORE you sign.”

Deborah Nourse Lattimore


On Getting Published/Self-Publishing

“I self published those first two books that should have been left in the drawer.”
Adrian Collins

“My biggest mistake? Self-publishing my first novel. I had what seemed good reasons at the time, and I’m not really ashamed of the book now; although it could certainly have used an editor, it’s not full of typos, grammar and punctuation errors, etc. But I had NO idea how to market anything, and consequently almost no one has bought or read the book.”
Mary Patterson Thornburg

“My biggest mistake in my career as an author came shortly after selling my first book to Macmillan for a big advance. I thought I could do it all myself, so I turned down an offer from a top-tier NYC literary agent who offered to represent me. Why should I give someone else a percentage for what I could do myself?

“Sure wish I had signed, because once I started writing fiction, I learned what an agent does to earn that percentage.”
Larry Constantine

“For me, it has been choosing publishers. I seem to have a run of back luck with them. I’m not bragging here, but with my third novel I had five publisher’s offer me a contract, and in the end, I ended up choosing the wrong one. Wish I could have that one back. The publisher has an awful editing and formatting team, and they don’t like to pay their authors. I’m finding more and more that you need an agent to make it anywhere in this business. Even though all three of my publisher’s have been traditional, they are small presses, and like the rest of the world they want more money…”
david brown


On Post-Publication Marketing/Outreach

“Being an ass in public to fellow authors, publishing professionals, or even fans can be a career killer. There are still stories circulating about things authors have said during panel discussions at conventions. Rule #1: don’t be a dick.”
Chris Jackson

“My biggest mistake was not educating myself on the norms of traditional publishing. I was fortunate to publish with one of the big six (and some really great things have come from that) but I relied on them to do the marketing, not realising I would have that support for only the month of publication and then it was up to me. I was totally unprepared. I should have had a website, social media presence, my own press releases, marketing plan etc etc. Big learning curve!”
Elly Taylor


So what has been your biggest author mistake so far? What would you want to warn other authors not to do? Share your stories in the comments box below!