The 5 Biggest Self-Publishing Mistakes I Have Made

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The Dumbest Mistakes I Have Made As A Self-Published Author

I have made a lot of dumb self-publishing mistakes

But I prefer to call them, experience.

There was no rulebook to follow, so when I began self-publishing, way back when, there was no choice other than to use trial and error.

Lots of trials, and even more errors later, perhaps my experience can help you avoid a few very common self- publishing mistakes when you write and publish a book.

For authors new to self-publishing, there is still no rulebook. But at least now there is a mountain of advice available online from established authors, technical blogs, Facebook groups and social media writing forums.

Before publishing a print on demand paperback or ebook, I would always advise a new author to do a lot of research about the publishing process first.

But to give you a quick shortcut, here is a list of the worst mistakes I have made over the years. Hopefully, they will be ones new authors will avoid making.


1. Oh look, I made my own book covers.

I have kept copies on file of some of the cringe-worthy covers I created when I first started publishing ebooks because they are a reminder of how dreadfully awful they were.

One look at them would drive readers away in droves, which probably happened back then. It took a couple of years for me to realise my mistake before I finally understood that paying for a book cover designed by a professional designer was money well spent.

Strangely enough, it was soon after I shelled out some money on my book covers that my book sales increased. Odd, huh?

There is another angle to this, though. I know a few authors, who because they publish a lot of titles, have invested in learning how to use Photoshop so they can design and produce their own covers.

As covers often need updating or refreshing, spending some time and money on learning how to produce top quality book cover design can be a wise investment in the long-term.


2. Oh dear, I thought I could proofread.

Hey, I’m an English teacher, so, of course, I know how to proofread.

How wrong I was. It only took a few bad reviews, and a lot of embarrassment, for me to realise the errors of my ways.

There is absolutely no way that a writer can accurately proofread their on writing, no matter their ability or qualification.

Sure, you can find some grammatical errors, typos and make notes for revision, but a writer’s brain is an odd beast.

It can so easily ignore the obvious. Even in a short text such as a book description, which is a real disaster.

Proofreading is hard work. You can ask friends and family to help you.

Never publish a book until it has been proofread by as many sets of eyes as you can get. If you can afford a professional editor, so much the better.

But the rush to publish is a sales killer, so wait, wait and wait until your manuscript is error and typo-free.


3. Oh, it’s easy. Book promotion and marketing is only about using social media.

Like many authors, after publishing my first ebook, I popped it on Facebook and Twitter and thought that book sales would roll in.

They didn’t, so I increased the regularity of posting my brilliant new ebook on Facebook and Twitter. In desperation, I started blasting out my brilliant new ebook every hour.

It had to work because there are millions of potential readers on social media, aren’t there?

Twitter was very new back then, and a nice guy I was following gave me some sage advice. “Blasting your book won’t work, Derek. Unless your aim is to be unfollowed by 1,000s.” 

He was right, but luckily, I was only unfollowed by 100s, because my Twitter account was very small.

It took me a while to understand that social media is about interacting, engaging, informing, entertaining and making friends and contacts, and not about screaming, “buy my book, or else!”

Book marketing is a broad term, but generally, it is about blogging, commenting, interacting, informing, participating, using metadata, reading, learning, knowing your target audience and yes, paying for some advertising.

I found out that a book marketing plan involves spending – both time and a little bit of money.


4. Oh, I think I’ll pop my ebook back on KDP Select for a while.

Amazon exclusive or open publish?

This choice was not even a consideration when I first started. But when Amazon introduced KDP Select and demanded ebook exclusivity, it created a dilemma.

For quite a few years, I was trying to get the best of both worlds by having some titles in KDP Select, and some not. And then switching them around every few months or so.

It wasn’t until Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited that I sat down and had a long think, and did some research.

What I learned was that by continuously moving my ebooks in and out of retailers, it meant that my titles never had time to gain traction.

For example, each time I removed a title from iBooks to move it back into KDP Select, all my sales data was lost on iBooks. So the next time I returned the title, it started from scratch.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both Amazon exclusive and open publishing, but chopping and changing is not a good idea.

Make up your mind as to which is the best solution for you in the long-term, and then stay exclusive to Amazon, or remain open published.

The only exception to this is a new title, which can often gain traction on Amazon in its first few months by being exclusive and available on Kindle Unlimited.

But after one or two KDP Select terms, it can then be open-published. You can try to find new readers and perhaps price your book differently on some retailers to see if certain price points work.


5. Oh, how I love writing in different genres.

I have a big admission here. This is my most serious mistake, and I am still making it and paying for it.

Readers like to know what to expect when they buy a book and have very decided genre preferences. Successful self-published authors, and particularly romance authors, really, really, understand this.

I can give the example of a very famous author who wrote some books about a wizard called Harry. After all her success and money, she had the insatiable urge to write in a different genre.

Alas, the detective novels didn’t go so well, and Harry has made an unsurprising return.

Readers love what they love to read. Think Ian Rankin and Rebus. Today, series ebooks do very well and offer many marketing advantages.

Sure, writing in different genres is challenging and fun, but it is not necessarily a great recipe for financial success.

My best selling books, which you should notice here that I have not classified as bestselling in one word, are a four book series of science fiction farce. I should write a fifth, I know, but I haven’t.

I only picked five of my dumbest mistakes, because if I had listed all of them, this blog post would have extended to book length.

However, by avoiding these big five mistakes, I hope you will make headway much faster than I did. Even if you have already published your book, you can improve it.

If you want to write books and then sell your books, know that book buyers only buy top quality books and will settle for nothing less.

They don’t differentiate between books by traditional publishers and self-publishers. They just want a great book to read.


More reading: How To Find Amazon Keywords For Kindle Ebooks And Books


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Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

15 thoughts on “The 5 Biggest Self-Publishing Mistakes I Have Made

  • April 25, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing… some of these mistakes are my greatest lessons learned.


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