04/08/2013 01:38 pm ET Updated Jun 08, 2013

5 More Things I Wish I Knew About Being an Author That I Learned the Hard Way

Reflecting on the first 10 lessons I learned about being an author published in my previous post, I noted that I had learned more about what not to do than what to do. So, once again, with the upcoming release of a new book, I am attempting to integrate additional lessons into my author knowledge base:

1. There is a difference between book publicity and book advertising. Duh! I knew that... but not really. It took awhile for it to dawn on me that publicity focuses on the author or the topic or themes that are represented in the book, and advertising focuses on selling the book. Which is better? It depends on the book promotion goals and the marketing strategy. I have purchased books due to appealing advertisements and I have purchased books because of an intriguing radio, print or television interview with the author or reference to the book by a speaker. I tend to remember the latter more and generally cannot remember the book title for very long; but I will latch on to something about the author or the topic that makes a web search a bit easier when I have time to finally purchase the book.

2. Thus, it follows that book promotion goals are critical. Setting the number of books you wish to sell can be one goal; however, other goals such as triggering a conversation on an important topic, introducing a new theme in a particular genre, or even just getting that debut novel published are goals that are just as good as book sales... well, almost.

3. Having a strategy to achieve those goals is also critical. And there is a difference between a strategy and a plan. As the saying goes, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." A plan is knowing where you are going; a strategy is having a road map. It is a unique chain of activities that will get you to the desired outcome. For example, a strategy might be to give talks on every college campus on the related topic for your book that will allow you to sell a million copies. Yes, a dream can be a strategy. Strategies that are rooted in reality tend to have better results; however, the important thing is to have a strategy.

4. The best book publicity is publishing more books. Most people read across an author's publications. After reading and thoroughly enjoying Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, I impulsively purchased three more titles by him and didn't like any of the books. However, those purchases were influenced by reading one book that I liked. More often than not, it works the opposite way. I continually read and enjoy books by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Anne Patchett, Jennifer Weiner, John Grisham... the list goes on and on.

5. Word of mouth sells books more than any other medium. Survey after survey yields "recommendation from a friend" as the top reason why someone purchases a book. Yet, that first friend somehow has to somehow get introduced to the book and that is where good book publicity comes in...

What goes around, comes around.

Subscribe to the Culture Shift email.
Get your weekly dose of books, film and culture.