Five Big mistakes self-published authors make

I’ve spent a lot of time with self-published authors—the good and the bad—and I’ve noticed a lot of trends over the last five years. Some of these trends are good and are marks of successful authors, others… not so good. Today I want to address those “not so good” trends I’ve seen in self-published authors.

1) Not paying for professional services.
You have no idea how many authors make this mistake. They think they can do everything on their own without paying for services and that their books won’t suffer for it because as self-publishers they can do everything alone. As I’ve said in other blogs, the real difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing is, primarily, who foots the bill to have the book produced.

Writers, on the whole, aren’t rich folks. Most of us are “starving artists” who write because we need to but have a job we hate in order to survive. Why? Because that’s just how the world works. Paying for a professional service is often measured in the thousands of dollars. A single run through on a novel by a substantive editor can easily hit $1,200 or more. Paying for that when we aren’t confident our book will break even? It requires a significant amount of faith in your writing as well as faith in your bank account.

In Dan Poynter’s book, “Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual”, he quoted that publishing a book costs something in the vicinity of $6,000 to $10,000 to produce.

For a book like the one described here, you should budget about $10,000 to get started (cover and page production, printing, and initial marketing and promotion). If you print 500 according to the New Book Model, you should budget $6,000 for production, printing, and initial marketing.

Page 106. Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, Sixteenth Edition

2) Publishing their first draft.
Yes, this is something that happens more often than I’d like to say. Many newbie writers make the mistake of thinking that the writing process ends after the first time you write—literally or metaphorically—“The End”. Finishing the first draft is just the beginning of the process that takes you from manuscript to book. Chances are you’ll rewrite your book two to three times before you start having beta readers and critique. Then editing!

Your first draft isn’t something anyone but you should see. First drafts always suck for everyone. That includes masters like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. Don’t feel bad that I’m saying your first draft of your baby is terrible; all of us go through that. The good news is everyone has this experience. Don’t be in such a rush to share your work with the world that you neglect to make sure it’s properly treated before release.

3) Spamming their social media with their offers.
How many authors do you know who do drive-through spamming to every writing groups to drop an advertisement for their book or flood all their social media with their cover image and hashtagged posts about how you should purchase their book. That kind of so-called “marketing” doesn’t work. Don’t do it.

Marketing your book is a difficult, complicated process. We all struggle to be seen, but spamming people isn’t the way you get attention. People will roll their eyes and move on with their life. It also damages your credibility and capacity to reach people who want to buy your book. Marketing is a big mess that I’m not qualified to give you huge detail on, but I suggest following Kristin Lamb’s blog—she’s fantastic at what she does.

4) Responding to critique or criticism with hostility.
So someone writes a review or comment about your book that points out errors. Or maybe they just plain didn’t like it. What do you do? Do you jump on your account and write a scathing response to them to tell them just how wrong they are about your masterpiece? Or do you grit your teeth, pour yourself a glass of wine, and have some chocolate?

Reviews, good or bad, are important to authors because they’re exposure. Also, these critiques or comments sometimes contain valuable information. If one person says you have an issue with something it’s probably opinion. If five say it? Well, you might have an issue. The best way to respond to criticism is… don’t. At all. If you have to reply, just thank them for their thoughts and opinions. That’s all you’re going to say.

5) Developing an ego and assuming they know everything about publishing.
You’ve published your first book! I’ll be the first to congratulate you. You’ve published your second or third? Awesome! If you did it right you probably know something by then. If you did it right. If you didn’t you probably know about the same amount you knew when you uploaded your first book to Amazon.

The best way you can learn about writing and about publishing is accepting that you don’t know everything. There are a lot of moving pieces to the publishing industry. One of the first things we learn when we enter this world is we can’t go it alone, and we don’t know everything. We learn from those who are better than us, and we move forward in concert with other authors who are also learning. We all work together.

These five mistakes aren’t the end of the world. You can fix all of them with time, energy, and effort. So they aren’t a death knell to your writing career. Just make sure you learn from these errors. Move forward. Get better. That’s all we can do.

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