If you are a professional writer, you’re probably aware of the increasing number of success stories in self-publishing, but it’s useful to be aware of the common pitfalls that can stop good writers in their tracks and contribute to the shaky reputation of self-publishing. Here are some of the common errors that self-publishers make and how to avoid making the same ones yourself.
1. Publishing too soon
Because self-publishing has become relatively quick and easy in recent years, it can be tempting to just sit down, pound out your manuscript, and send it into the world without taking the time to learn about how to write a novel, establish your market, or evaluate your story for its strengths and weaknesses. Make sure your book has been thoroughly proofread and edited by a professional editor before you self-publish. And if you have a great idea but find the task of researching and writing too much, you may even consider hiring a ghostwriter.
2. Thinking you can do all the work yourself
One of the benefits of self-publishing is that there is such easy access to it. It’s tempting to research, write, edit, package, and market your own work, saving on costs and time. Not only will this drive you mad, but it can leave you with a mess of a product. Make sure you hire professional editors and book packagers, or you will end up with a sloppy book that no-one will want to read.
3. Forgetting about the nitty gritty
The converse of the above mistake is forgetting to do all of these things, or convincing yourself they are unimportant. The thing about self-publishing is that, while you are not tied to a publishing house’s way of doing things, which can mean more freedom, you also have to figure out how to do all the things a publisher would do for you. So you’ll need to figure out your market, try to sell your book to them; you’ll need to get the book reviewed, effectively package and distribute it, etc. By self-publishing, you’re essentially starting your own small business, and you need to be prepared for what that means.
4. Skimping on book design
It might sound petty, but little elements like typeface, margin size, and line-spacing can make a real difference to how people read and receive your book. If you don’t have an eye for design or don’t know much about layout, do yourself and your book a favor and hire professional help. It will make a big difference in making your book look the part. On that note, you should also carefully consider your cover art. As this is the first thing people will usually see of your book, it is best to spend more rather than less, and get it looking really professional and eye-catching.
5. Expecting instant success
Even if you do everything exactly as the experts suggest, you are still unlikely to bask in the glow of immediate success after your first book. Be prepared to do everything you need to do for book one, and then be prepared to move on. Nothing helps a writer gain traction more than writing and publishing more books. This gives you more legitimacy and allows you to use your titles to market each other, which can expand your readership and your following. Once you start gaining that interest with your audience, it should be easy to keep their attention, as you have more than one title to offer them.
Robin Field holds a BA in English and Linguistics from the University of Cape Town where she is currently working toward her Master’s degree in Linguistics with a focus on gender and game studies.