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12 Mistakes That Self-Published Authors Make

FEATURED IMAGE New York Book Editors 1 18 2021 X Mistakes That Self Publ

It may be a magical experience, but finding success as a self-published author doesn’t happen by chance. It takes hard work and intention. Beyond sweat and willpower, you must also be careful to avoid common self-publishing pitfalls.

In this post, we look at the notorious missteps and how to course-correct before it’s too late.

Let’s get started.

Self-Published Author Mistake #1: Not Getting Beta Readers

Self-Publishing Mistakes

Before publishing your book for the entire world to see, share it with a small, select group of readers. This is a group of everyday readers who are interested in your topic or genre. They are not people who you know personally. You’ll find beta readers in online forums, social media, and even your local library. Beta readers can help you spot developmental problems in your story so that you can correct those issues before sharing your work with a larger audience.

Don’t skip this step. Beta readers play a pivotal role in your book’s success. To learn more about beta readers and how to find them, check out this post.

Self-Published Author Mistake #2: Not Getting a Professional Edit

Beta readers don’t replace editors.

You need a professional set of eyes to scour through your manuscript and give you honest and informed advice. Your beta reader can give you a visceral impression of your work, but your editor will give you a line-by-line critique and show you opportunities to polish your work.

Editing goes beyond correcting typos and grammar snafus. It helps you to tighten your prose and tell the best story. As a writer, you’ll benefit from the help of an editor who’s trained in storytelling. Check out our professional editing services here.

Self-Published Author Mistake #3: Trying to Design Your Cover

You can design your cover, but should you?

Unless you have a good eye for graphic design, the answer to that question is probably “no.” If you’re an unknown author, your book’s cover is your strongest marketing tool. You don’t want your cover to communicate “low quality,” and that can easily happen if you’re designing it yourself.

This is why you should consider hiring a professional book cover designer. It may be an added cost, but consider it part of your marketing budget for your book. To learn more about what goes into a quality book design (along with our recommendations for book cover designers), check out this post.

Self-Published Author Mistake #4: Not Building a Professional Team

You may be self-publishing, but you're not in this alone—or you don't have to be. Every self-published writer should build a small but mighty team of three that includes an editor, a cover designer, and a PR professional.

Every self-published writer should build a small but mighty team of three that includes an editor, a cover designer, and a PR professional.

If writing books isn’t just a hobby, if you want your book to sell, and if you’re planning to write more books, then you need to build a team that you can trust starting now. By doing so, you’ll create a consistent and reliable outcome, which is an excellent foundation for your author brand.

Not sure if you need your own publicist? Click here to find out why this is an important move for every author.

Self-Published Author Mistake #5: Not Properly Formatting Your Manuscript

Before sharing your manuscript with beta readers, editors, literary agents, or the world, you must properly format your manuscript. Different groups may have different formatting requirements, which can be maddening. However, each group usually offers an easy-to-follow formatting guide, as Amazon Kindle does here.

However, you can't go wrong if you follow these standard practices:

  • Print of 8.5 x 11 paper (U.S. standard)
  • Use 12-point font
  • Choose a serif font (like Times New Roman)
  • Use black text on a white background
  • Double-space the manuscript
  • Single-space only after periods
  • Use-one inch margins
  • Indent paragraphs by .5 inches
  • Don't use the default tab to indent
  • Number your pages from chapter 1 onward

Self-Published Author Mistake #6: Not Writing the Metadata

Meta means “about.” Metadata is the information about your book. It’s your book’s title, description, genre, keywords, and ISBN. In short, it’s everything that your target audience would use to discover your book. After your cover, your metadata is your most important marketing element. You must ensure that you’re using keywords and phrases that reflect how your target audience thinks about and searches for books.

Self-Published Author Mistake #7: Not Understanding Your Target Audience

Who are your readers? Who is most likely to pick up your book and enjoy it?

Don’t say “anyone.” That’s not the case. In order to be successful in marketing your book, you must get clear on who you’re marketing to.

Self-Published Author Mistake #8: Not Marketing Effectively

Self-Publishing Mistakes

Writing is the easy part, especially because you're a writer. The hard part is selling your book to the masses. Just writing the book is not enough. Your target audience has not met you, so you must introduce yourself.

Here’s the good news: If you know your target audience, marketing becomes easier. Simply go where your audience hangs out and market your book there. For example, create book trailers on Instagram (with a healthy dose of hashtags), get active in GoodReads groups, and create an author platform on YouTube. You can start building a fanbase via social media that can then translate to readers.

Self-Published Author Mistake #9: Not Launching Your Book Correctly

Before publishing your book, stoke the flames of excitement and anticipation. The goal is to hype up your audience before the launch of your book so that they’re primed and ready to purchase when the big day arrives.

In this post, we covered 8 steps to the perfect book launch. Follow those tips to ensure that your book becomes a sure success.

Self-Published Author Mistake #10: Not Sharing With Your Network

It’s astounding how many authors publish quietly without telling their own social circles about it.

When launching your book, your masterpiece, your magnum opus, don’t forget to tell your friends and family.

Get past the worry that you may be bothering them by selling your book. How many times will you write and publish a book? Most people won’t even write one book in their lifetime, so every time you do publish, it’s an accomplishment worth sharing with loved ones. They’ll be proud of you, and hopefully, they’ll buy a book as a show of support. That’s what they’re supposed to do (if they can).

Self-Published Author Mistake #11: Only Writing One Book

You’ve written one book, but don’t stop there. You’re building momentum and a fanbase. Now, it’s time to write even more. The secret to success as a professional author is to be prolific. Write multiple books, and with each book, you’ll earn more money (assuming you’re following the other tips on this list).

Think “book series” because that’s one of the best strategies to keep your fanbase excited.

Self-Published Author Mistake #12: Stopping With Amazon

Amazon is amazing, but it's not the only place to sell your book. You can also use Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google Play, and others. And that’s just for ebooks. For print books, you should also consider Ingram Content Group, the largest distributor to online and brick and mortar bookstores.

Final Thoughts

Self-publishing your book can be nerve-wracking, confusing, and lonely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Use the above tips to avoid common self-publishing mistakes and enjoy the journey.

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