America's Next Author background
America's Next Author
America's Next Author is the first real social writing contest. Winners will be chosen based on a unique combination of votes from readers and publishing industry experts.

"Every author needs a professional editor and book designer."

Read part two of our interview with jury member Sandy Diaz and learn how to avoid the most common mistakes made by aspiring authors.

Sandy Diaz is the president of Smith Publicity, a book marketing company dedicated to helping authors create awareness about their books through media coverage. Smith Publicity has promoted more than 1,500 authors/publishers since 1997, and as the president of this organization, Sandy knows what it takes to get the word out about a new book or author. (More about Sandy at The Jury.)

What do you think is the most common mistake made by independent authors?

Not calling on professionals when needed to help make their books be the best they can be. Every author needs a professional editor and book designer. No matter how good a story is, if it is filled with typos and grammatical errors, no one will enjoy it.

A book also has to look like a book you’d see in a book store. Bad cover design, no back cover copy, no title/author name on the spine, blurry author photos, amateur illustrations, bad layout/margins/typography etc. turn off readers. People do judge a book by its cover. 

Have you ever participated in a writing contest?

Not since the 4th grade where I won honorable mention for my "Why I Love America" essay.

Which social media outlets do you like/dislike?

MediaBistro is a great outlet for authors and book industry news. I subscribe to PW Daily to get a nice overview of general publishing news. Huffington Post is a fun mish-mash of all kinds of ideas and opinions, but whoever is writing the headlines needs to stop sensationalizing them. 

Which do you prefer: reading ebooks or paper books?

I love the ease of buying ebooks, the ability to look up a word or geographic location (especially when I read aloud to my kids), and bumping up the font size. I love paper books so I can pass on favorites to friends for future discussion and to continue to build my library. Paper is paper and no additional technology is needed to enjoy. I am afraid ebooks today will be the 8 track or beta movies of tomorrow.

Which current author really understands how to maintain a relationship with their readers and fans?

Janet Evanovich does a great job with contests, teasers, consistent release dates and events! 

Which book is on your nightstand at the moment?

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond (ebook for book club)
Divergent by Veronica Roth (reading paper version aloud to my son)
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
LOTS of Advance Reader Copies from BookExpo America waiting for attention
(overflowing nightstand!)

Do you have any writing-related pet peeves?

Too much description like details of food, weather, clothing, etc. If it’s not relevant to the storyline, leave it out! Another HUGE pet peeve is when an author has a great series, and then ruins it with a rushed or bad ending (Twilight and Hunger Games come to mind). 

What is the single most important factor in achieving writing success?

Good writing! 

Do you have any closing advice for people struggling to get published?

Read! So many aspiring authors tell me they have never finished a book. Hmm.

If you are looking for a literary agent, find one in your genre. Go to the book store where you think your book would be and read dedications, which often include a literary agent.

Carefully follow the submission guidelines required.


Self publish your book and use it (and any good press and reviews) to attract the attention of an agent/publisher. We worked with the original publisher of Fifty Shades of Grey. That strategy worked for her!

December 18th, 2012
The winner of America's Next Author 2012 has been announced! [...]
December 7th, 2012
Questions and answers about the Battle Round. [...]
Goodbye For Now!
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Big Breaks and Little Breaks
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How one Facebook message brought me from frustrated and upset to excited and motivated. [...]
The Future Bestsellers
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The wild ride continues ... who will be the first wildcard nominee? Will I learn enough about online promotion to get hired for a job in marketing? ;) [...]
Image Is Everything
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This week I put a lot of effort into improving my ANA author page, and I think it's starting to pay off. [...]
My First Week Experience
Mystery Writer (2)
Voting, reviews, Facebook, Tweets, links ... so busy! [...]
Seven more rounds!
Mystery Writer (1)
When I first got the email notifying me that my story was accepted for America's Next Author, I was really excited and even a little nervous. [...]
America's Next Author

#ANA2012 | What Fans Have To Say


America's Next Author is the first social writing contest. Friends, family, fans and publishing industry experts will read authors' submissions and nominate their favorite to be America's next major author. Everyone can participate!