Avoid These Common Self-Publishing Mistakes 4

AFTER CONSIDERING THE PROS AND CONS, you’ve decided to self-publish your book. It feels good to have made your decision. And you know I think that’s a great choice. Especially since, in my last post, I gave you 5 reasons why to choose the self-publishing route.

To improve your chances of success, it’s important not to jump directly into publishing. Instead, take the time to educate yourself about what it takes to self-publish and market your book, and avoid making the following common mistakes — almost all of which I have made myself, so I know what I’m talking about!

Common Self-Publishing Mistakes

Writing in a vacuum and not getting critical feedback. Successful authors have a person or group of people who provide critical feedback during the writing and revision of their books. In his book, On Writing, Steven King talks about how his wife Tabitha, also an author, reads and provides important feedback for his stories. I am fortunate enough to belong to a critique group, where we read and provide constructive criticism for one another’s work. Getting critical feedback during the writing process — and by that, I mean having people who can identify where your writing is working and where it’s not, who can point out confusing or incoherent passages and make suggestions for improvement, not an ego-stroking, “Wow, you’re wonderful!” kind of feedback — is the first step toward improving your writing and making sure your book is ready to publish.

Not knowing your reasons or goals for publishing. Other than an irresistible urge to write and get your writing out into the world, do you know why you want to publish your book? And do you know what your publishing goals are? Are you publishing a limited distribution for family and friends? Do you hope to earn a living (money) with your writing or become well known (fame)? Is your book a way for people to get to know you (a business card)? Perhaps you feel that your message will help others (altruism), or that you’d like to build a small passive income.

If you aren’t able to articulate both your reasons and goals for your book, take the time now to get out your journal or notebook and write the answers to these questions:

  • What’s the purpose of my book?
  • Why do I want my book out in the world?
  • To feel successful, how many copies would I need to sell?
  • To feel successful, what do I want my book to accomplish?

Waiting until your book is published to start marketing. As most first-time authors discover the hard way, marketing begins when you begin writing. If you want your book to sell, that is. The competition to get noticed in this world is fierce, and your book needs to make some noise when it hits the market. Otherwise, it will simply and silently slip beneath the surface of notice, like a turtle hiding from a predator.

Before publishing, you need to have a marketing plan, which may include some or all of the following:

  • Starting a website or blog
  • Building an email list
  • Writing book-related articles
  • Socializing in like-minded online and in-person groups
  • Getting endorsements from known authors, celebrities, or subject-matter experts
  • Testing your book market by sending out pre-release copies to focus groups in your target market
  • Scheduling book events and signings
  • Buying targeted book promotion services

While focusing on marketing when you are still writing may seem overwhelming — and can be — it comes down to becoming clear on your purpose and goals for publishing your book, educating yourself about the different options for book marketing, and then picking and choosing the options that work best for you.

Not having the book professionally edited and proofread. Whether or not you have someone to provide critical feedback during the writing process, it’s a huge mistake to skip or skimp on having your book professionally edited and proofread. Nothing will stop your book’s success faster than releasing it into the world riddled with uneven writing, typos, and grammar errors. Even if you are an editor, you will miss mistakes in your own work. So, take my advice on this one — find and hire a good editor. 

Designing your own book cover or interior layout. Unless you are a professional graphic designer, don’t do it. This bit of advice fits together with the importance having your book edited. Before your target readers open your book, they are going to judge it by its cover. If the cover looks amateurish, if there are typos on the back copy, if the graphics are not compelling, or if the cover image doesn’t fit the subject of the book, they won’t even give your book a chance. Why risk it?

Rushing the publishing process. While publishing your own book can take less than three weeks, for all the reasons given above, it’s a mistake to rush the process. Traditional publishers generally take a year from book acceptance to book release. Your publishing timeframe may not be that extended, but in order to produce a quality product, obtain the necessary endorsements and pre-release book reviews, and to execute a solid marketing plan, you need to give it time.

In summary, don’t shortchange your book — or yourself. Make it a point to learn what you need to know it order to succeed in your writing and publishing goals.

And if you have already self-published a book or two, I invite you to share your biggest mistakes and lessons along the way by leaving a comment below.

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4 thoughts on “Avoid These Common Self-Publishing Mistakes

  • Patsy Ann Taylor

    My biggest mistake as an independent publisher was not having a marketing plan in place. But I did make the right choices to have an experienced graphic artist design the cover art and the fresh eyes of a professional editor. Since my middle grade novel Stealing Home has been published, I’ve had bookstore meet and greet events, organized readings, and school visits among other things. All of these ventures take time away from writing, but traditionally published authors must do the same.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Thanks, Patsy. Yes, I did the same thing — not creating a solid marketing plan. I rushed my memoir to market and then played catch-up. I was successful in many of my marketing efforts, as you have been, but I think I could have done much better and created a bigger splash, resulting in more sales and more reviews.

  • Barbara Toboni

    Thanks, Amber. This post is very helpful, especially the marketing list, and the reminder not to rush the process. And it is a relief to know that we don’t need to do everything ourselves like the editing and the graphic design. I wished I would have slowed down with my first chapbook, Undertow. Although I used a local print shop to put the book together, the photograph I used on the front cover I had taken myself. The subject was the ocean and the horizon and I actually shot it a bit lopsided.