5 Mistakes Aspiring Writers Make (And How to Fix Them). So you're thinking about writing that novel. Or you've already published a memoir your partner calls the next Eat, Pray, Love. Copies are stacked in your bedroom, taunting your writing future. What now? While literary agents and publishers of the past did most of the heavy post-publication lifting for authors, today's writers are flying solo, often in the dark, in marketing their books.

How to avoid the pitfalls that leave some books gathering dust while others fly off bookstore shelves? In an age when literary success is one part art and two parts business, here are five common mistakes aspiring authors make. And how to avoid repeating them.

1. No author platform. At the simplest level, an author's platform is your credibility and visibility as a writer. It's how you want to be known, what differentiates you from others, what message you're sending, and what makes you the best messenger—essentially, your brand. With no platform, you'll have neither credibility nor visibility as an author. Remedy: Before publishing anything, distill the core values and beliefs that shape your story into a concise platform your fans can embrace. Build exposure to a marketing mix that optimally includes a website, blog, newsletter, guest posts, speaking appearances, and media interviews, among other outreach options.

2. No target audience insight. Without intimate knowledge of your ideal reader, you won't know how to reach potential audiences, much less sell books. Remedy: Thoroughly research your market niche and genre, ideally before writing or publishing your book. Read your competitors' works and study their marketing methods. Know the demographics of your target audience, including age range, gender, income, education, needs, priorities, and values. Most significantly, learn how to connect with them in the online and offline universe.

3. No online presence. Today's readers might enjoy browsing in bookstores, but they're far more likely to spend significant time browsing the Web. With no online presence, you're can't engage or inspire them to buy your book. Remedy: Build credibility and connect with your target audience with a well-designed, easy-to-navigate website. Boost exposure by commenting on other forums and volunteering to write guest posts. Spread “link love” by sharing relevant stories with your followers. In time, others will return the favor.

4. No marketing arsenal. Marketing in the 21st century is a galactic battle that pits you against literary stars with established brands. Without an arsenal of tools that engage your target audience, you can't compete. Remedy: Develop a marketing arsenal stocked with business cards, a self-hosted website, an email list that facilitates outreach, and a media kit for pitching stories and interviews. Build authority through HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and respond when a journalist needs a quote in your area of expertise. Memorize your “elevator pitch”—a 30-second snapshot of what you're about that you can deliver when you step into an elevator with Oprah Winfrey.

5. No social media engagement. If you're working in a social media vacuum, you might enjoy more satisfaction writing diary entries. Unlike Anne Frank, you're unlikely to find commercial success without a following on such popular platforms as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Remedy: Build a consistent author platform across numerous social media platforms. Learn how to optimize exposure on your favorites. Create a Facebook page for your book that's separate from your Facebook profile. Broadcast your campaigns over multiple networks with a management tool like Hootsuite. Build a LinkedIn Group to connect with other authors, as well as readers.

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