Leave it to the Red Room to come up with such a great topic! If only I'd had the answers back then....
There are so many but they're missteps over which the author usually has no control, especially with a first book. Even though I had written countless articles for magazines and newspapers before I wrote my first book I was at Square One in a new - for me - medium.
The most obvious example is the cover. Most authors have no control over that, especially first-time authors. I learned a huge lesson. Having been around magazines long enough I knew that subject of a cover photos typically is looking into the camera, therefore, looking at the person perusing the magazine rack. Eye contact is important. I did express that opinion to the editor and showed her, as an example, a photo of my dog. I was clear in saying that I thought I photo like that, with a small dog looking off the cover and at the potential book buyer would be good. She later claimed that I said I wanted my dog's photo on the cover which was not true. His picture was on the dedication page which was more than enough.
What did appear on the cover? The editor was excited to tell me that she chose the most wonderful picture of three Papillons. In one more misstep, I didn't see the book until it was in bookstores because my author copies arrived later, meaning that I missed that feeling of holding my first book in my hands before anyone else had seen it. As for the cover, the little dogs were in deep grass. Two of the dogs were looking off to the side while the puppy was almost looking at the potential book buyer but his expression made him look as if he were doing something untoward in the grass. I used to tell colleagues to put their books to the right of mine in stores since it looked like the dogs were looking at the next book with interest.
When the updated, expanded, revised version was done, I asked for - and received - cover approval. I was given my choice of pictures and I have had countless people comment on the dog on the cover. I never heard anything but negative comments about the First Edition's cover.
And, frankly, I'm still learning something new every day. If only there were a Red Room on the East Coast where I might have learned about the pitfalls before I lurched headlong into them.
Causes Darlene Arden Supports
The Marcia Polimer Abrams Fund for Canine Behavior Studies at the AKC Canine Health Foundation