Join my weekly Radio Show

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ten Deadly Pitfalls Authors Step Into

By Jackie Perseghetti

Part 1

I was once asked, “What are the biggest things you struggle with as an author?” And thoughts immediately flooded my mind! Ever have one of those moments where you just have to write something down? That was one of them. As I checked my heart and waded through the mind clutter that so often trips me up, I came up with Ten Deadly Pitfalls Authors Step Into.

These aren’t made up; they are real – at least personally real to me as an author. I wrote these down to enable you to sidestep these pitfalls if at all possible, or at least to be mindful of what you stepped into if you did fall into them.

Please feel free to leave a comment on the blog – we all grow and learn from each other. I’d love to hear from you!

Ready? Here we go:

Pitfall #1: The Pitfall of “Social Status.” This isn’t so much the seeking of it, but the automatic response others give you when they learn you are a published author. The pitfall is when people esteem you as if you are more significant than they are because of what you somehow achieved. The deadly part of it is when you believe it.

I’m guilty of this one myself! I find authors who are more prolific and put them on a pedestal. I ask them to autograph my copy of their book, and glow in the fact that they wrote my name in their own handwriting when addressing the book to me. What’s up with that?!

As an author, I wrestle with others doing that to me, and it is a pitfall—when I allow myself to believe the lie that my life is more significant than another’s. It’s not anymore significant than the janitor who cleans bathrooms in the local elementary school.

Pitfall #2: “The need to promote yourself, yet the struggle of trying to remain humble.” This is a biggie for me. It’s not because I think more highly of myself than I ought to, it’s the problem that in order to promote myself as an author, I have to brand myself an “expert” in an area. At least that is the conventional wisdom for authors that is out there right now.

I struggle with this due to the genre of my writing. Since I am a writer of devotional books (most recently ones that take the reader through the entire Bible in a life applicational way) does that mean I brand myself a Bible expert? Yipes! While I minored in Bible, I’d never consider myself an expert. And I really can’t take credit for what comes naturally and easily for me—for how the Lord uses my life. I secretly struggle with branding myself an inspirational writer, when my inspiration comes from the Lord. Before I lose you on that point, there are some genres easy to brand. They fall in the topics of health, nutrition, organization, finances… So, this pitfall may be one you won’t wrestle with as much as I do. I hope not!

Pitfall #3: “Connecting your worth with your work.” As an author, it is so easy to think that if my book is doing well, my life is worthwhile. If it isn’t selling well, who am I kidding? Listen to me on this point (and repeat after me): “What I do has nothing to do with who I am.” Did you get that? It is so tempting to go onto Amazon and read the ratings of your book(s). I remember one time dancing for joy when my devotionals surpassed a very famous author’s work. Then, a few months later, my books got passed up and I was glum. Why? Because I fell into this pitfall. Watch out for this one! It can drain you dry emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually.

Pitfall #4: “Being cornered into a specific role or writing genre.” As I look at my writings I tend to fall into typical categories because that is where I am comfortable writing – it is sheer joy, fun, and release for me to write in those areas. With the need for a “brand” or “expert status” however, I need to be careful not to pigeon hole myself as able to write on only one narrow topic. Perhaps a way I can explain this best is by thinking of the actor Jackie Chan. You can find him mainly in Kung-Fu action type movies. I can’t even fathom him playing a lead role in a Victorian style movie such as Pride and Prejudice! Watch out for this particular pitfall; it can be tricky!

Pitfall #5: “Laziness!” How easy it is to sit back and think (hope) your book will sell itself! You were excited about it; surely everyone else is, right? Wrong! An author really needs to network to promote his / her title! Traditional publishing houses only offer a temporary publicity push and they are on to the next title. The general public generally doesn’t know about your work, nor do they care – until you connect them with your message. A great way to do this is through social networking. There are great articles out there about this whole idea. Look in to them – even if you are just dreaming about writing a book and haven’t begun yet.

For me, my blog ACupofCoolWater is my beginning attempts at getting my work out there and accessible on the internet. My books are the “bread and butter” for my publisher, David C. Cook, which basically means they are not having to pour money into promoting them. That is good for them, but not so hot for me! I need to have a web presence so people will become familiar with my work. When their hearts are encouraged and/or their lives are touched, they will be interested in finding out more about my books. (OK, so here’s a shameful plug: check out my blog and tell your friends! -- I thank you in advance!)

Jackie Perseghetti is a prolific author who has written a best-selling devotional book and its sequel, followed by another devotional series (Faith Factor O.T. and Faith Factor N.T.). In between, she has contributed articles and stories to Clubhouse, Single Parent, Godly Businesswoman, Evangelizing Today’s Child, Hearts at Home, and Kids Pray magazines, as well as developing curriculum Bible lessons, primary church and vacation Bible school units.


  1. I find many of these true for me as well, Jackie. Another one for me is struggling with the image of expert in two other areas. I author and speak on the subject of effective communication skills so many of my readers or Facebook friends think I'm the Grammar Police or something. They are intimidated to write me. I've had a morning show DJ nervous about contacting me via email to ask me to be on his show and then nervous about me coming on because I might also be the Conversation Correction Patrol. If they only knew I spelled the word pretty...P R I T T Y...til I was 14!

    The I struggle with feeling like everything I write has to be perfect to live up to other people's image. What if Something I post on Facebook has an error or typo? You can't get an editor to follow behind you 24/7 on the blogs and social networks. lol

  2. Thanks for the insightful thoughts. I look forward to seeing the second half of your list.

    If you think telling people you're an author intimidates them, try telling them you're an editor! I get all kinds of comments about not editing their emails, FB posts, or whatever. And, I don't usually do that, so those comments make me feel guilty. Sigh.

  3. Jackie is an author and has edited for me as well. I am intimidated by both! I think we all have insecurities and weaknesses in some areas! These are great reminders as to what our priorities should be. :)

  4. JoJo and momishome2: I fully understand what you are feeling! When people hear I'm an author (I don't tell them I also edit) (wink) I feel a "climate change." There's an unspoken expectation--either from my own perfectionistic tendencies, or their fears/inadequacies that their communication doesn't measure up. I think it's a universal problem on both ends of the spectrum. Unfortunately, as much as we try to make someone feel comfortable (or as much as we tell them we don't edit their FB posts or emails) they don't believe us. Why? Pitfall #1! Oh, if only we could be less human!

  5. Felice: You hit the nail on the head! Our priorities are not to please and win the approval / live up to the expectations / gain the esteem of others, but find our sole worth in the One Who created us and Who values us not because of our performance, but because He made us to be His. A favorite verse I call to mind often is Proverbs 29:25 -- "The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted." (NASB) I keep that in mind when feeling the "climate change" I commented on a moment ago -- either self-induced, or imposed by others. It's helped a lot. =)

  6. Thank you so much for your insight. I look forward to more. Each new pitfall made me think...been there. One new revelation for me is that while I'm a not-yet-published writer, I am a writer. I've always looked up to the written inspirational of many well-known writers, Donna Partow, Beth Moore, Carol Kent...the list goes on. How do they do what they do? Through God's grace...same as me. If that is truly who we're serving. Now, off to A Cup of Cool've inspired me. Thanks, Tammie