Why Authors Fail by Derek Doepker is the self-help book on writing that I didn’t know I needed. Yes, it is a little hypocritical in that it has typos, even though it suggests that self-publishers should get an editor. Yes, it places heavy emphasis on getting a mentor or a coach to solve most of your problems. Yes, some of these tips, like replicating the Hero’s Journey (which I’m not a huge fan of) were tips I’ve heard before in other places.
But you know what? That’s okay. Even the best editors in the business can’t catch every word. And even Doepker admits that he’s proud to have one of his best-selling books still have grammar mistakes, showing that he is confident in his communicative and instructional abilities no matter what. Yes, Doepker is a professional coach, but rather than the “curse of knowledge” that plagues so many explanatory-style books these days, his bias enhances the well-crafted arguments he gives. And even if I heard some of those tips before in other places, it doesn’t hurt to hear to hear them twice if I wasn’t listening the first time.
And I will need clear, well-presented tips that I can refer back to when I roll up my sleeves and get down into the deep, hard work of being a self-published author.
In Why Authors Fail, Doepker lists 17 common pitfalls of self-published authors and how to avoid them — 20, if you count the three bonus chapters at the end. With each one, he explains what the problem is, why it’s a problem, and how it’s solvable in a clear, casual voice, as if he was right there, sitting next to you as your coach. For example, in one of the chapters, he explains that struggling authors don’t follow proven success formulas, while successful authors do. One of the concepts he talks about is using hooks to draw readers in, and he lists examples of the types of hooks one can use. But what the best part about it is that he practices what he preaches. This is the very sentence the reader will encounter in the book:
“Do you wish you knew…:
- Why struggling authors sabotage any chance of success before they write a single word… and how to virtually guarantee you’ll have a bestselling book, before you even begin?”
This is a hook. This is really good hook. This made me want to know more about mistakes self-published authors made so I couldn’t make them in the future. And Doepker even says upfront that “the bullet points presented at the start of this book are meant to act as hooks and seeds to engage you to want to continue reading.” It’s one thing to tell me how effective a hook is; it’s a level above to show me exactly how.
And it is precisely for that reason why I enjoyed this book so much. Even though it is a tip book at 81 pages, and won’t cover all of your writing needs (Which book does? Let me know!), it is still one I’ll keep around. I am dead set on self-publishing a novel one of these days, but if I ever publish a self-help book, I’d want to, at the vest least, publish one like his.
Highly recommended for the aspiring non-fiction and fiction author looking to self-publish.