The 10 Biggest Mistakes That Self Published Authors Make

Mistakes will be made

I now realize this caution sign isn’t about cycling at all. It’s about self publishing down a hill.

I’ll admit it – I like indie publishing…. A LOT!

The fact is that it gives authors a lot of power…in an industry where we have so little power ūüôā

It’s awesome that anyone can put a book out – but many mistakes get made.¬† I see something from this list¬†every single day when working with authors:

  1. Publishing before they’re ready:¬† I’ll let you in on a little secret:¬†Back in 1999, my wife completed her very first book.¬† She thought¬†it was the most awesome book ever.¬† As she wrote more, and learned more about¬†writing, she realized that book wasn’t a great one.¬† Almost 50 books later ūüôā I’ve been left with strict instructions to delete that file if anything ever happens to her – and make sure that book never gets out. ¬†¬†In a self publishing world, that book could have been available for everyone to buy on Amazon.¬† The problem is that if an aspiring author jumps too soon, they may lose¬†fans forever.¬† It’s tough to tell when you’re ready – but take your time, write a ton :), get advice from authors that have been there, and even let a few independent readers (friends and family don’t count)¬†give you their thoughts before taking that next step.
  2. Not doing a good edit:¬†After spending countless hours working on a manuscript, some indies slap a cover on it and start uploading.¬† NEVER do this.¬† You only get one chance to make an impression.¬† If it doesn’t come across as professional, it’s even harder to compete with books from traditionally publishers.¬† I’m not sure if the thought process is “readers will understand what I meant” – but you’ll get 1 star reviews and lose readers forever.¬† If you can’t afford to hire a professional, at least find a couple critique partners that will be open and honest to help make your book even better.
  3. Trying to design their own book cover: No.¬† Just no.¬† Look at the top 10 books in your genre.¬† Your book should look as good (ideally even better).¬† Unless you’re a professional designer, don’t even try.¬† If you can’t afford to have one made,¬† many designers have pre-made designs for less than $50.¬† It’s not ideal, but way better than trying to make something yourself.
  4. Mistaking a vanity press for self publishing: If I had a nickel for every time I said “do your research” ūüôā¬† Ask around, do research, and ask others about these services.¬† I think these days that it’s easy to manage the process of having a cover made, working with an editor, and having the files converted yourself.¬† It will cost you the same (or even less) than hiring a service to do it for you.¬† This way you absolutely¬†get ALL the proceeds of a sale, you can control the¬†pricing, when you do promotions, and that no one is skimming the profits from you.¬† Now, before I get a bunch of hate mail over this one – there are¬†some great companies out there¬†that aren’t¬†vanity presses and will help you for reasonable fees.¬† That’s why I say, do your homework and ask around.
  5. No marketing: I see this one too often.¬† It’s along the lines of “I wrote a book, posted it to Amazon… and in two months I’ve only sold 10 copies (counting the ones my mom bought).”¬† Sad, but true.¬†¬†The book might be awesome,¬†¬†but it looks like white noise¬†on the digital shelves with 50 million other books.¬† Create some buzz!¬† not sure where to start, take a look at my home page ūüôā
  6. Ignoring some sales marketplaces: If you’re not doing KDP Select, make sure your book is everywhere.¬† Some people buy books through Google, some via Kobo, some in iTunes.¬† I suggest a separate upload to Amazon and Barnes and Noble (to take full advantage of longer descriptions and meta data) – then use Smashwords to make sure it gets out to the rest.
  7. Spamming sales links: Recently, an author asked me to like their Facebook page.¬† The page had over 100 status messages that were exactly the same.¬† Every few hours, a sales link was posted to their book.¬† Would I ever what this in my feed?¬† No.¬† It is a page of spammy links, not a real connection with an author.¬† Don’t forget social networks are just that – social.¬† It’s meant to be a two way street where people connect and talk to each other.
  8. Forgetting about taxes: So, you started selling some books ūüôā¬† That’s great!¬† Until you realize that we have something called “self employment tax” here in the US that really hurts.¬† Think about this early and hold back enough to pay taxes.¬† I’ve heard horror stories of new authors having to find a few hundred¬†dollars around tax time.
  9. Forgetting to write the next book:¬† I don’t know how many times I hear genre fiction authors pitching a book they wrote two years ago.¬† Instead of working on a new book, they spent the last two years trying to get more people to buy the one they completed. Don’t fall into this trap.¬† Immediately after writing “The End” on one book, write the words “Chapter One.”¬† Want to sell more books and build a bigger audience?¬† Write more books.¬† If someone reads your book and likes it, there is a good chance they’ll buy your other books.
  10. Frozen in fear:¬† When I lived in Seattle, I knew an author that had 3 finished books that she¬†had not submitted to a publisher.¬† Now, I find authors that publish the book, but are intimidated at the thought of rejection, bad reviews, or feeling overwhelmed at the thought of trying to plug in and interact with so many people.¬† I’m sorry to take a hard line on this, but it’s self sabotage.¬† No one expects you to do everything.¬† Just do something.¬† If all you can do is 5 minutes here and there, that’s what it is.¬† Just don’t stop and don’t be frozen by fear.¬† I’ll leave you with one last thought from… Mary Shelley: ‚ÄúBeware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.‚ÄĚ

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