The 8 worst mistakes self-publishers make

  • Don’t cut corners. From book cover design to editing, cutting corners is a fast way to make your book appear unprofessional.
  • Writing your book is less than half the battle. You also need to devote considerable time to proofreading, editing, and promoting your book.
  • Self-publishing can be tough, but it’s worth it. You’ll have greater control over the finished book, as well as creating your own promotion strategy and custom artwork.

Any writer will tell you that getting published can be as much of a hassle as writing the book itself. So, with today’s technology and social media at your disposal, cutting out the middleman seems like a reasonable choice.

Especially when you’re on a shoestring budget, you can create, publish and promote a book all on your own.

Well, almost on your own.

But while you do have plenty of options, there is a lot that can go wrong when going down the self-publishing route.

See what mistakes other beginner authors make and learn from them.

1. Diving into self-publishing head first

If you do not try to familiarise yourself with the process of self-publishing before you make up your mind, then you’re setting yourself for a failure.

Yes, it’s exciting. You’re eager to start. But even if your book is 99% done, there is still a lot of work to be completed. Slow down and make sure you know what the next step is. And the next.  Consider who will edit your book, who’ll design your book cover, how are you going to market your book. Consideration which come with their own variables – costs, quality, who will do it and who can you trust.

Find someone with self-publishing experience and interrogate them until you fully understand what it will take to reach the end and get your book in people’s hands.  

2. Cutting corners with your cover design

When you work with a publisher, you have professional designers by your side. If they are worth their salt, they closely follow the industry trends and know well what works, and what doesn’t. This is also the case with specialised book cover designers and agencies.

That’s why it’s very dangerous giving your cover design project to someone outside of the industry (e.g. graphic designer who has no experience in book covers), or someone cheap.

Think about how much goes into a book cover. Great book covers give hints on the genre, mood, plot. Working in a tandem with the title, each much compliment the other and add something of their own.

So, once you get going and go through a few design revisions, send the cover to friends, or people who are likely to read your story. It’s important to find people who are actually into the genre, because they’ll give better feedback.

You simply cannot take lightly the matter of your cover design.

3. Not investing in quality images and photos

On the same note, think about the images, or the graphics you will put in the book. Remember the little icon-like graphics which appear at the start of each chapter? Yes, those. When formatting your book, you have to take into account their quality.

Pictures on a screen look a whole lot different when they are printed out. If you plan to use any kind of images in your book, pay a professional for extra quality photos (at the very least 300 dpi or vectors) or at least get an online stock photo website subscription.

Even then, you must seek professional advice on how to put all those images, photos, and graphs together.

4. Moving forward without considering the legal issues

Here’s a thing, most of us don’t really understand legal intricacies, nor are we interested in that. It’s OK when you are writing a high school essay, but not when you are about to publish a book.

Every quote you include, every claim, and every promise - they all matter. In your book and during the book promotion.

Getting sued for copyright infringement is not fun. And it can cost you a fortune. Much more than you will pay to get thorough legal help. This doesn’t just involve the use of images and graphics, but also when quoting music lyrics and text from other works.

If you’ve included a real-world brand name in your, you’re walking on thin ice. If you’ve presented it in a negative light, then you’re asking for it. The safest way of dealing with brands is to either not include them and come up with your own fictional company names, or simply neutral/objective. Also, it's often good to browse through existing print design for more information.

5. Falling for over-hyped promises

You can’t become a self-published author all on your own. As we mentioned, you’ll need editors (we’ll get to that). But, on the other hand, there are a lot of low-quality self-publishing experts trying to hook you with their over-hyped offers.

Falling for one of these scams can be an extremely costly mistake.

If you are going to use a self-publishing brand to help you, your best choice is to find one of their previous clients and ask them about their experience. You might also learn valuable tips in the process.  

6. Proofreading and editing

Or a lack thereof. You need a professional editor to point out the mistakes in your writing.

But we’ve all been there. You have seen your sentences for so many times, that you’re not really reading anymore. More like reciting from memory while scanning the text. Which makes noticing mistakes nearly impossible.

So, get someone to read your stuff. Not a sister, or a spouse. A professional.

7. You need a promotional strategy

Location and timing can be key to your publishing success. You’ve probably spend 100+ hours writing your book. Are you willing to let fate decide if you are going to be successful?

How’re you going to promote your book? Who is going to help you? Can you get a stand in your local book shop? Do you have marketing budget to spend on social media? Do you have a lot of friends who can recommend your book?

Can you do any marketing activity the months, or weeks, leading up to the release?

Plan everything in advance. EVERYTHING.  

8. Poor formatting

Last mistake, at least in this list today, is one of most frequent blunders self-publishing writers make. Formatting may not seem like a fatal mistake, but it very much is.

You are not writing an online article, where you can be much more liberal with your formatting and spacing. But books have their own standards and book sizes. Failure to follow them may easily result in many roadblocks for your book and prolong the publishing process.

Self-publishing is long and difficult but it’s totally worth it. You’ll grow immensely as a writer and as a businessperson.

Advice from a published writer
This article is always evolving and being updated regularly by our expert writers. Information featured in it has been fact-checked and verified.
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