Self-publishing essentially means being your own editor, designer, typographer, and marketer – not to mention the fact that you also have to write your book. As such, you’re going to be wearing many hats, most of which you probably haven’t worn before. For a lot of first-time authors, this can feel a bit overwhelming. After all, how can you be sure you’re on the right track? To help ease any potential doubts you may have, we’ve put together a list of 6 common self-publishing mistakes to avoid.
1. “It’s the content of my book that matters”
Well, you’re not wrong. Content is king, and it will be what determines the success of your book in the long term. However, we often see that authors who make this their mantra end up gravely neglecting the more superficial, but vitally important elements like cover design, formatting, and well-written blurbs. The irony is that without putting effort into your book’s exterior, people will never see the interior. It’s a bit like dating really – it’s the inside that matters, but you have to spruce up the outside to make people curious about the important stuff.
Now, the skills required for these things may not all be in your wheelhouse, but it’s definitely possible to make a professional-quality book without necessarily having any experience. We’re linking to a few helpful pages throughout this article, and you can always browse our Help Centre and blog for more tips, tricks, and guides.
2. Ignoring critique and/or feedback
One of the great things about self-publishing a book is that you have the freedom to write about themes and topics that tend to be unexplored by mainstream literature. These can be things that traditional publishing houses won’t touch out of fear that they won’t get a return on their investment, or niche genres with very passionate fan bases. This can at times lead authors to become a bit overprotective of their ideas and brush off any criticism or feedback, constructive or otherwise – usually to the detriment of the final product.
Don’t misunderstand us here – we’re not saying you should be a sellout or compromise your creative identity. If you’re not happy with the book, there’s no point in writing it in the first place. However, self-publishing also means self-editing (for the most part), and that requires a certain perspective. That’s why we always recommend getting at least two people you trust to proofread and comment on your work before publishing.
This is especially true if you’re hoping to sell your books once you’re published. Having people read and review your book before publication can help weed out some of the more elusive mistakes, plot holes, or undesirable story elements that will most likely be spotted by other readers as well. In addition, having your book thoroughly proofread will also up the chances of it scoring well in an official book review, which is something you should try to get sorted as soon as possible.
3. “My target audience is everyone”
We hear this one quite a lot. There seems to be some widespread misunderstanding on the topic of target audiences, what they’re for, and why they’re important.
First off, let’s get the most common misconception out of the way: having a target audience doesn’t mean that said audience is the only one that’s going to buy your book. If you define your target audience as young adults between 15 and 20, it doesn’t mean that you’re actively discouraging people outside that age range from purchasing your book. All it means is that you’re adapting your writing, your themes, and your aesthetics to make it more appealing to your chosen demographic. It’s to ensure thematic focus and aesthetic consistency in your work. This is important because it gives your book its identity.
So why is identity important? Well, there are a few reasons. Firstly, it helps people categorize your book mentally. People usually have a clear idea of what they like to read, and tend to look for similar books based on those preferences. So, when someone who’s looking to fill the void the Harry Potter books left behind, it helps if you’ve defined your book as young adult fantasy. It’s essentially a shortcut to people’s shortlisted purchase options.
Secondly, having your book’s identity and target audience defined helps immensely with your marketing efforts. Ad targeting, copy-writing, and elevator pitches are made much easier if the themes and aesthetics of your book are nailed down. People will have a much easier time finding your book if it fits into categories that match their searches, tastes, and interests.
4. Thinking you don’t need marketing
Marketing is usually what first-time self-publishing authors have the most difficulty with. After all, most writers don’t want to become authors due to a love of marketing. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most vital components for the success of a self-published author.
Unfortunately, we often see writers making only a token effort to promote their books, or worse still, ignoring it completely and thinking that readers who are interested will find it themselves. While that may be the case for some of them, the vast majority of your potential readers won’t be able to find your book amidst all the noise there is on the internet these days. Besides, even if interested readers did find your book on their own, do you really want to miss out on the hundreds of potential book sales that a well-designed marketing campaign can earn you?
If you know nothing at all about book marketing, we suggest you check out our guide on promoting your book. We also have a blog article dedicated specifically to book marketing on social media that you might also be interested in. If you’re interested in reading about book marketing from the perspective of a fellow self-published writer, we’ve also got you covered.
Essentially, you want to start promoting your book before it’s published, do some research on your target audience, and choose your communication channels accordingly. There are a number of different approaches you can take depending on the context, but the three aforementioned articles should get you off to a good start.
5. Assuming people dislike your book
Unless you’ve been doing some serious research and marketing work ahead of publication, chances are that it’s going to take some time for your book sales to pick up steam. A lot of writers wrongly interpret this slow start as an indication that their book is a failure, universally hated by everyone, and then give up on writing.
It’s a real shame when this happens because more often than not a little extra push is all that’s required to see near-instant improvements in sales numbers. That said, it’s easy to see how a lukewarm book launch can make short work of an author’s dreams and aspirations. We’re here to tell you that this is perfectly normal and that you shouldn’t feel defeated by it. Your book is, in all likelihood, not the issue here. Rather, the problem is usually that people simply don’t know your book exists. If you read through the previous points we covered in this article, you should already have a pretty good idea of how that might have happened.
Usually, the answer is that you need to spend more time and effort on marketing. However, it might be worth asking more people to provide you with feedback on your book, both in terms of the content and the cover, to see if there’s something you could change to make it more appealing to a wider audience. Nevertheless, it’s not going to happen overnight, so don’t get disheartened by a slow start. Keep at it, and spread the word.
6. Not ordering a proof copy before publishing
This is something we see quite a lot, and it’s understandable. You’ve just put the finishing touches on your book and you’re eager to get it out there. After all, you’ve spent countless hours working on this book, so you know it like the back of your hand. Right?
Well, we’ve seen time and again that this isn’t the case. It’s incredibly easy to get tunnel vision and miss minor details in the layout or the text itself. Even if you’ve had several people proofread and edit your book, things tend to slip through the cracks.
This is especially true for print books. Computer screens don’t necessarily depict the various aspects of your book as they actually appear in real life. The size of the text may look bigger or smaller depending on your local settings. Similarly, colours may be more saturated or have a slightly different tone depending on which screen you’re looking at. Or perhaps, once you hold the printed book in your hand, you might realize that you actually wanted it to be a bit smaller.
This is why we strongly advise authors to always order a proof copy before publishing their books or placing large orders. It massively decreases the chance of annoying errors making their way into the final version. As a result, both you and you’re readers are much less likely to be disappointed once the book is delivered to your door.
We hope you enjoyed this article, and that it has helped you on the way to becoming a self-published author. Should you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave us a comment below. You can also shoot us an email. Best of luck with your book!