Don’t Make These Mistakes that First-Time Self-Published Authors Make

I have been working with authors for almost ten years. Every day I receive emails from authors requesting self-publishing or book marketing advice. Sometimes authors have arrived to me at too late in the process or too early. Here are some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen.  I’m hoping that by listing them out for you, you will avoid making some of these mistakes.

 1) Having Vague Goals

The first thing you need to do as an author is define your goals. Are you looking to get more readers? Publish a family history? Looking to sell 1000 books? It’s easy to get more readers if you’re a first-time author, but it’s harder to sell books. Are you looking to build your leads to an existing business? It’s super important to define your goals. 

2) Not Hiring a Professional Editor

I once asked an author if her book had been edited. 

She replied, “Yes, many times. By me.”

Why should you hire a professional editor for your book? When a reader purchases your book, the expectation is that it reads well, flows, has a great plot, without typos and without errors. I’ve known authors who have published books on Amazon and were upset by the negative reviews pointing out all the typos and errors in their books. 

The right editor can help you shape it into something that flows well and is easy to read without typos and grammatical errors. 

(I will go into the different types of editors in another newsletter.) 

 3) Not Having a Professional Cover Design

Readers judge books by their covers. And they judge harshly.Especially online in a world where ebook online sales are growing exponentially. When someone is looking for their next read, the author usually has a few seconds to make an impression. If your book doesn’t look good on a black and white Kindle, or a tiny iPhone screen, they will move on. 

It’s important that your cover design catch the reader at first sight. Do NOT design the cover yourself. Trust me, readers can tell immediately. They can tell if you designed it in Word and if you chose the fonts yourself. 

4) Not Having a Stellar Amazon Description Page

Just like someone might judge your book by it’s over, they will most likely judge your book based on its Amazon description page. 

Make sure your Amazon Description page for your book hooks in the reader, looks pretty and quickly makes the reader feel the NEED to buy your book right now. 

Your page should:

  • Include a hook to entice the reader to buy

  • Introduce the protagonists (fiction) and subject (non-fiction)

  • A little synopsis/cliffhanger to make buyers want more (fiction)

  • The transformation or what the person will learn if it’s non-fiction

(More on what SHOULD go on in an Amazon Description page in another newsletter.)

5) Not Doing Your Research On Vendors 

I’ve come across way too many authors who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on services that might not be right for them. Just because someone has edited a biography, they might not be the best person to work on your indie romance novel. Or they might be really successful in the traditional publishing space, but don’t assume they will know the tips and tricks that would help you as a self published author.

  Before you choose a vendor or agree to work with someone, make sure you Google “[Name of Vendor] Reviews” and then “[Name of Vendor] Bad Reviews.”  That will tell you what you need to know about the contractor or vendor before you sign up to work with them.

 6) Not Proofing Your Book

Once you have the final digital or print version of your book, you should give it a thorough read to make sure it’s free of errors. Vendors do make mistakes. It’s your book, you want to make sure it’s perfect. Any errors should be caught pre-publication. 

 7) Not Having Clear Expectations in Your Contract

You found an editor? Great! Make sure you have a contract. Make sure the contract states clearly the terms of the work you are doing.  You want to make sure that you decide up front how many rounds of revisions and feedback with your editor or designer. Also, if you’re getting illustrations or a cover designed, you want to make sure you decide how many concepts and revisions are included within your budget. If you are getting a cover designed, make sure your designer includes the purchase of rights to the images in the cover he/she/they designed for you. 

 8) Pre-printing Books Without A Distribution Deal

I had an author come to me who spent most of his money on print runs for his poorly designed and poorly edited book. Currently, he has 1000 copies of his book sitting in his garage. Unless you have already found someone to distribute your books for you, you might want to opt for a print-on-demand service like KDP Print, or Ingram Spark where the book is printed and sent to the reader when they buy it. 

 9) Lack Of A Marketing Plan

It’s essential to have a marketing plan around your book. Books don’t just sell themselves. Marketing your book is probably where you’ll spend most of your time and a good chunk of your money.

Include timelines and goals in your marketing plan. 

10)Not Enabling Pre-Orders

Pre-orders are a great way to build buzz and let potential readers and reviewers BUY your book before the actual launch date. They are a also a great way to boost confidence in your book with pre-order sales. 

Now, you can have your book available for pre-launch on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks and other retailers. 

11) Not Being Courteous

Don’t get ugly with your chosen pro or freelancer because we all pretty much know each other and talk. AND don’t get mad that your book isn’t an overnight success. 

(More on that in another post!)

As an indie or self published author it’s really important to do your research before making any vendor, retail, or editorial services decisions. It’s a lot of work, but thinking through all the pieces will prevent you from wasting money, time and effort and save you from a launch disaster.

Stay tuned! In my next newsletter I’ll talk about why it’s an incredible time to be a self published author and who should consider self publishing.