In 2015, I self-published my first book and since then, I’ve been asked questions about my experience: Am I proud of the book? Did I make any mistakes? Would I self-publish again? Can I get it professionally published?
I’d love to answer all of your questions – so I’m going to start writing articles for you about publishing. It took me years to find myself as a writer and establish writing jobs. I had to spend hours on blogs and Pinterest to learn everything. I hope to share what I’ve learned with you – starting with the top mistakes a self-published author can make.
1. You publish too soon. I spent a little over six months writing my first book. That can be enough time to publish some books, but I could have waited. I got excited. I chose to publish as soon as I had enough content to be considered a book. My advice? Wait. Some of the best books out there have taken years to perfect. I promise it will be worth it. Or you’ll end up like me – planning to eventually re-publish my book with tons of additional content.
2. You don’t have a social media presence. It would be nice if people read your book, right? And it would be even nicer if you got paid because people read your book? Well, you need followers to achieve that. I know that tackling social media engagement is hard work – and I suck at it. But it’s really hard to raise your book ranking number on Amazon if you only have your close friends and family read your work. If your book is already finished, hold off & work on social media for a few months. I promise it’s worth it.
3. You aren’t planning your launch month. The first month your book is launched is CRUCIAL to getting buzz, sales, and online reviews. A book launch timeline is the weeks/months leading up to your release date & then the 30 days that follow. Before and after your release, your goal is to create buzz online. Guest blog, join a podcast, chat with local radio stations, do a book reading/signing, throw a launch party, etc. I’ll be sharing my own book launch timeline in the future, but for now, check out this example.
4. You didn’t put effort into a decent cover. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but let’s be honest, we all do. Don’t settle for a basic cover that the self-publishing company provides. If you have the skills, you can make your own. If you have no budget, you can find groups on Facebook to seek out illustrators or artists that can create a cover for you – in exchange for book acknowledgement. I also like utilizing college students, if you have a little money to work with. They often provide covers just like a seasoned professional could make, for less cost because working for you can add to their blossoming portfolio. Whatever you choose, just take some time to make that cover (and back and sides) perfect.
5. You didn’t get it professionally edited. Thankfully, that was the one thing I did do. I had my grammar police husband edit it & then his co-worker helped finalize any mistakes he missed. Whatever you do, do NOT edit it yourself. You WILL miss something and I think that’s so embarrassing when a published book has an obvious mistake. Find a friend or again, a college student to read your work.
6. You didn’t leave enough time to market your book before launch. I know I talked about launch month & briefly mentioned pre-launch, but I’m mentioning it again because it’s so important. If you have followers, they need to know you are publishing a book. Don’t just suddenly drop the news on your feed, “Hey guys, I published a book…here is the link.”. Create some suspense. Share your writing & publishing process. Pick a release date down the road & if possible, allow for pre-orders. Many professionally published books will pre-launch during the summer & publish in October. It’s a good timeline to follow.
7. You didn’t try to get your book professionally published. I know it’s exciting to finish writing a book & you want to publish it right away. You know that you won’t get great sales, but you secretly pray you’ll become an overnight sensation & ask to be on Good Morning America or something? Yeah. Totally been there. Before you take the self-publish journey, have you looked into finding an agent and getting “actually” published? We all know that takes a lot of time and effort and a lot of rejection – but you should spend a few months on that. Why bother? You could potentially have a best-seller on your hands & you aren’t giving your book the potential it deserves by trying to do it yourself because you lack patience. In later articles, I’ll walk you through the specifics, so be sure to subscribe.
8. You are paying a publishing company to publish your book. No! No! No way! Stop. Right now. Don’t answer those phone calls. Don’t return those emails. Don’t believe that tv commercial. You should NEVER pay someone to publish your own book. Ever! Of course there are fees associated with self-publishing (ie finding an editor, paying for printing/shipping, etc.) but avoid these companies that are asking for hundreds/thousands of dollars to “do everything so you don’t have to”.
9. Size does matter. When you self-publish, you will be given multiple options for how your book is going to look. Will you use white or yellow paper? Font? Font size? And most importantly, size of your book. If you have a 10,000 page thesis on theology, you obviously don’t want to go with a smaller softcover. And if you have an average-sized fiction, you don’t want it to be the size of a magazine. Go to a bookstore or your home bookshelf and browse the book sizes you like. Notice the type of book & really take time to figure out what is the best choice for your work.
10. You’re publishing your book on the wrong platform. For my book, I used CreateSpace – an affilate of Amazon. Your personalized options for paper choices are limited BUT it’s very user friendly, does not cost anything to use, and is connected to Amazon and Kindle. Whatever you choose, do your research and make sure you choose a platform that gets your book out to the most places possible with the best book quality you can find.
Publishing a book takes time and a lot of work, no matter how you do it. Self-publishing is a long road that can be very rewarding, if you do it correctly. I’d love to answer any of your questions, so feel free to ask. I hope I can help you achieve your publishing dreams.