Self-Publishing Mistakes – What You Need to Know and How to Avoid It

Self-publishing can seem like a great way to gain traction for a new novel, manuscript, ebook, or magazine. And it can be! Self-publishing has become extremely popular in the last 10 years, responsible for 1.68 million print and ebooks in 2018 alone.

Many individual authors have become highly successful by publishing their own work, such as E.L. James’ well-known series, Fifty Shades of GreyHowever, the self-publishing process is not as simple as it may seem to be.

This article outlines the most common self-publishing mistakes and what to do to avoid them.

Have you done your research?

You’ve finished your book, and now you’re ready for the world to read it. Traditional publishing is time-consuming and can be complex, so you decide to self-publish it. You’ve done all of the hard work of producing the piece and want to make the publishing process as easy as you can on yourself. However, getting to the step of deciding whether to self-publish without doing any research before you’ve written your project could be a big mistake.

Performing market research and due diligence before putting pen to paper or your fingers to the keys is vital to uncover what potential readers are currently interested in. Whether it be the length, style, genre – this research will help you create and launch a successful project. Without it, you are leaving the success of your project up to chance. This is why it is necessary to develop a proper strategy before starting, including a marketing plan, and performing proper market research.

Self-publishing mistakes that self-published authors make

Know your audience

Maybe you plan to write a book for yourself, for a friend, or a class. However, if you’re planning to self-publish, you need to write with a specific audience in mind. To become a successful professional writer, you have to ask yourself who you are writing for, how do they enjoy reading (print, ebook, etc), and what marketing platforms are best suited for your content and readers. It would be a mistake not to have a specific audience in mind before you begin writing.

Self-publishing platforms

While conducting your research, many authors have found success by finding the right platforms and formats. While some platforms are best for new authors, others are best for ebooks, while some are better for poetry.

When choosing a platform, it’s important to know what you want beforehand as most platforms can help publish your content but don’t necessarily cover other aspects such as marketing, etc. Choose the right format for the genre and audience you’re writing for.

Timing your release date

Assuming you have now done sufficient research and written your book, you’re thrilled to release your work into the world. However, you may have forgotten to research one thing – the release date. Depending on the subject matter of your work, you may find that there are certain times you’re more likely to sell books on certain subjects. During those times, you’re more likely to reach your target audience.

Creating a timeline

When considering mistakes to avoid, it’s necessary to discuss how easy it is to forget to create a timeline. When you’re working by yourself, it’s easy to think that the timeline in your head is enough. Consider opening a Microsoft Word document and outlining a timeline for yourself. When will you write the book description? Who will do the line editing? Will your book appear on Apple books or Amazon? The power of having a written timeline cannot be understated.

Requesting feedback

Being a self-published author means receiving less feedback on your work as you’re writing and potentially editing. It may be helpful to ask a colleague to write a book description to see if the message comes across well to them. While it could be helpful to ask other self-published authors in your network, you may achieve a better first impression by hiring a professional editor through the editing process, not just at the end.

Hiring an editor

One of the most attractive aspects of the self-publishing process is that you don’t have to work with a team. However, the publishing process can be challenging if you do not hire a professional editor. Without a second set of eyes, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and poor writing can go unnoticed until it’s too late.

Since you are an independent author, you may have connections to an editor who would help read your writing and discuss plot points. This is helpful as it encourages you not to rush the editing process in an attempt to wake up soon with a published book. You could also hire a freelance editor on a platform such as Upwork.

Formatting

If you are new to publishing, specifically self-publishing, there are a number of common mistakes that can trip you up. One of which being that the success of your writing depends on how it is formatted. This may not seem obvious, but once again, proper research in your niche and the type of writing you’re planning on doing will help you avoid making a mistake.

Common self-publishing mistakes that occur during the self-processing process

Cover design

To old and new writers alike, book cover design can be an extremely appealing opportunity to project an idea to your readers. Many self-published authors have had the desire to design their own book cover. Unfortunately, editing is not the only place you may require professional help during this process. Readers know what they are looking for when they search for a new cover to grab their attention.

While you may have written a great book, every great book requires a great cover. The traditional publishing industry is highly successful because they spend significant money on professionally designed book covers.

Even though you may save money by avoiding routes that traditional publishers take, your book’s success may pay the price. Whether it’s for an ebook cover or a hardcover book, as a self-published author, it’s best to stick to what you know, which is writing. Leave the creative design to someone with expertise in design and hopefully experience designing successful book covers.

Acquiring reviews

The book’s cover is important, but so are the reviews. Many readers prefer to read a review before diving into a book they’ve stumbled upon. To give your book a boost and generate interest, ask as many people to read and review your book as possible; this is usually done after publishing. One great place to do this is GoodReads. Putting yourself on platforms like this will also make your name more likely to appear in search engines, attached to your glowing reviews. This also makes sure that there is a following for your book online. As the internet becomes more and more part of everyone’s lives, not having a presence online could limit your book’s reach.

Pricing

Pricing is always a tricky subject when applying it to your own work. On the one hand, you don’t want to sell yourself short. On the other hand, you want the price of your book to be reasonable enough to appeal to people to make sales and gain a following. To avoid mistakes here, be sure to review the prices of similar works. This will ensure that you do not think too lowly of yourself or price your project too high for readers.

Providing accurate content

While proofreading and fact-checking can sound tedious, they are necessary to gain your readers’ trust. Since you are not part of a traditional publishing team, it is easier to let small mistakes and white lies fall under the radar. However, after your work is published, you may receive a fair amount of backlash if you have missed even some of the smallest details. Avoid potential backlash from readers by doing substantial research on the topic you’re writing about. Also, sticking to your knowledge base could be helpful.

Organization

Poor organization can make writing difficult to read. Make sure that your content is organized in a way that makes sense to both you and the reader, whether this be through section breaks or content timelines. One way to avoid this altogether is to create an incredibly detailed outline before starting the writing process. While this isn’t always possible, maybe try a reverse outline once you’ve finished the work to make sure that it makes sense.

Efficiently using money

One of the reasons people choose to self-publish is because they get to keep a larger portion of the profits from their books. But as you’re managing the process yourself there are also costs involved that are usually covered by traditional publishing houses. It’s important to budget at the beginning of your project so you know the project’s total cost. This will ensure you don’t run out of money or have to scrimp on editing or the book’s cover at the end of the project. 

Online distribution

In the new age of technology, one of the most common publishing mistakes is not considering distributing your book online. Many writers, especially new authors, envision themselves selling a plethora of hardcover books. However, as ebooks and online reading platforms become more accessible, it may be helpful to consider online distribution as a means for publication. In this case, creating book metadata will help reach a broader internet and global audience.

Book description

Writing an exciting book description will be extremely helpful in making your book successful. It may also be worth having a professional edit your book description after reading your book to maximize the impact of the description. It will be helpful to look at other authors’ descriptions in your genre. That way, you can see their sentence structure and how exactly you are expected to format your description.

Categories and keywords

Your book metadata will be necessary for attracting more buyers to websites such as Amazon. Be sure to put your book into several categories to maximize its reach. Be sure to do your research on which keywords are best for reaching larger audiences within your genre. Make sure to do this process slowly, as some websites only allow a certain number of keywords. Choosing these wisely will make sure that your book is discovered.

Take your time!

Finishing your first or second book is an exciting feeling. You may feel like everybody needs to read it right away, or it may somehow delete itself. Self-publishing may seem like an easy way to avoid the wait. But, traditional publishers take months at a time for a reason. Editing and formatting take time. Designing a cover takes time. All of the steps previously mentioned take time and patience. Don’t rush any aspect of your book; doing so could undermine all the investment in the other aspects of the book and could determine its overall success.

You don’t need to do this alone

With all of this information in mind, it is fair to say that one of the most common self-publishing mistakes is thinking that you need to do this without any help. This isn’t true! While this is a great way to save money, it is also a great way to make new connections to others in the self-publishing community. At the very least, ask a friend to read over your work for you. Ask around if any graphic designers are looking for work. There are many people who would be willing to help you, and there are also articles and resources such as this one available to answer your questions.

So, is it worth it?

If, after reading all of this, you think that attempting to publish your own work is too difficult. Yes, there are a lot of aspects to being successful as a self-published author, but it’s just like anything in life. It takes effort, but it’s also something that once you’ve done it once or twice, you build on your knowledge, and it becomes second nature. Hundreds of thousands of people self-publish every year, but doing it successfully takes more effort.

Self-publishing can be very rewarding, not only from a financial perspective and a sense of accomplishment but it’s a great way to build your profile and a community of like-minded readers.

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