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10 Self-Publishing Mistakes Every New Author Makes

Avoid these biggest self-publishing mistakes and you’ll be ready to make money on your first book

There are nearly two million books available on Amazon and I bet twice that number of books started but never finished. Even among the self-published books finished and for sale on the world’s largest ecommerce platform, the majority make less than $50 a month.

The tragedy in this is that self-publishing is EASY!

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to write a book and make money on Amazon. The problem is the misconceptions and the self-publishing mistakes new authors make that dooms their book from day one.

Besides the ten books I’ve self-published, I’ve consulted and helped more than a hundred authors get started. Within that number, ten mistakes have emerged as almost universal and the biggest challenges you’ll face writing your book.

self publishing mistakes for beginners

Self-Publishing Mistakes Getting Started

The first mistakes most new authors keep them from getting started or keeping the momentum to get their book done. As bad as some of the other mistakes are, these are the worst because they keep you from finishing and keep you from learning from your mistakes.

1) One of the simplest things you can do to help finish your book is to set a detailed schedule and deadline. The problem most authors face is they don’t understand the entire process that goes into developing, writing and publishing a book. Fair enough but once you know the process, you can create a schedule that hits each point.

Reading through the book, list out each step and make notes under each for what goes into it. Starting from today’s date, add a deadline date for the first step then days to complete that step and a deadline. You might have to adjust some of the dates a little as you go and understand better how much time it takes to complete but this kind of strict scheduling is going to help you stay on track.

Steps in the Book Publishing Process

2) One thing that almost nobody does but will give you the support and motivation you need is to share your self-publishing goals with friends. Tell them about your deadline and ask them about their goals. Then keep each other accountable by asking about progress every couple of weeks.

Better yet, connect with a few other self-publishers for a weekly mastermind group. This is just a group of three to five people that meet online every week or two. You exchange ideas, talk about your progress and ask questions to overcome challenges. It’s a great way to get the support and answers you need to stay on track and be successful.

3) Part of that scheduling mistake new authors make is not outlining your chapters and breaking the work into chunks. Just sitting down to the computer to write your book is a fast route to writer’s block. Even the experienced authors don’t set out that way.

Taking each chapter one at a time not only makes for a great marketing strategy through your blog, it’ll also make each chapter easier to write. Instead of struggling with the big book idea, you’ll be focused on the smaller chapter idea and know exactly what you need to write about.

4) Beating this next mistake is a bummer for most new authors…but here it is. You have to treat your self-publishing like a job. Set yourself goals and responsibilities for every week. Set aside time to write every day and don’t make excuses.

You see, a lot of self-publishers approach it as something they’d like to do. They’ve always wanted to write a book and it would be nice to make a little extra money. Why not give it a try?

I’m all for enjoying your side hustle and the last thing you want is another ‘job’ but you have to set that must-finish mentality with your book. You need to make it a commitment or your book will end up in the bottomless pile of unfinished projects.

New Author Mistakes that Ruin Your Book

It might surprise you that only two of the ten mistakes is around creating a quality book. That’s not to say that you can produce a crap book and make sales.

The fact is that most people spend plenty of time researching their book. It starts from an area of experience and really drives a transformation in the readers. The reality is that most books, if they ever get written are good reads. It’s the parts of the process that authors don’t fully understand like marketing and being a professional author that trips people up.

There are two mistakes on the content-side that you will need to avoid though.

5) Many non-fiction authors fall into the trap of just writing out their book in a straight-forward, how-to style. The work backwards from the transformation and check every box in the steps someone needs to take to get there.

And the book ends up being SOOOO boring!

Bring your book to life with personal stories, anecdotes and examples. This not only shows readers how the ideas are applied in real life but gives them something to relate to and inspire their transformation. It’s best if these stories come out naturally as you’re writing but go back through after writing to make sure you have at least an example or two in each chapter.

6) Another big mistake I see a lot of new self-publishing authors make is trying to edit their own book. I know what you’re thinking. Editing can be a big expense, easily the biggest. You’re not ready to put down a few hundred dollars or more on something you don’t will even make any money.

The problem is, you’re just too close to the material. You’ve spent the last 12 weeks writing this book and countless hours. You know what you wrote and you know the process from start to finish. What happens when you sit down to edit, you just want to get it done and move on to publish.

The result, you’ll end up skipping over sections. You’ll zone out and not really check the reading. You’ll also fall into all the assumptions someone makes when they already know the material.

You need a fresh set of eyes on your book for editing, preferably someone that doesn’t know much about the subject of the book.

You don’t need to spend a lot on editing but you will need to spend something. Start on Craigslist or on the job board at the local community college. You’re not looking for an English major, just someone that can tell you where the story doesn’t flow and parts they don’t understand. In self-publishing, it’s the story and readability much more than the grammar.

Start your editing by checking the content on Grammarly, a grammar and readability checker. This is going to do most of the work and your paid editor won’t spend as much valuable time on little stuff.

Try Grammarly free as a browser plugin

Self-Publishing Mistakes to Sell More Books

The dirty little secret of self-publishing is that it’s not your book that sells, it’s your marketing.

Really this is the tragic truth in any business. It sucks that you can’t just create a great product. You still won’t make a dime unless you put together a great marketing strategy to get that product in front of the right people, at the right time.

Since most new authors don’t realize this, there are a lot of mistakes made.

7) The first mistake here is just not using a blog or some other distribution resource strategically. You’re already writing content and making notes from your research, it takes almost no time to turn that time into a blog or YouTube channel.

Posting your book chapters on a blog or turning them into videos will help to keep you on schedule and get your book finished. More than that however, a blog will be one of your best marketing resources. Without a blog or some other channel, you’re stuck trying to advertise your book for the sales you need to keep your book ranked.

It costs very little to start a blog, less than $3 a month with this special deal from Bluehost. Your blog will do most of the work in your marketing plan and can even become an asset by itself, bringing in sponsorships and affiliate commissions.

8) Another mistake I see even the experienced authors make is not being more direct with friends and family. The mistake goes like this, everything is ready to launch the book and the author puts out a post on Facebook. The post asks everyone to help out by sharing the book launch, buying a copy at the discounted price and leaving a review.

Then nothing happens!

Not only is the book launch a total failure but the author comes out hurt and rejected thinking even their friends and family don’t support them.

Your friends and family DO want to support you, but it takes more than just a generic social media post to get them to do anything. Think about it. How many Facebook and Twitter posts do you see each day? How many do you remember three seconds after seeing them and how many do you even take the time to ‘like’ or share?

We have ‘social media blindness’ and even the pleas for help rarely break it.

Instead, you need to personally reach out through a direct message or even a phone call to people for your launch. Even an email might not be enough to get a real commitment.

  • Send out a direct message to each social media contact asking if they’ll help out by buying a copy during the launch day and leaving a review.
  • Reach out by phone to the people that don’t reply to your direct message.
  • Send a direct message the first day of the launch asking again for their support.
  • Send a reminder message on the third day of your launch with the urgency that the launch is almost over.

Remember, you need at least 10 reviews during your launch and as many sales as you can get. Remind people that it’s not really about the money. You’ll be launching at $0.99 so nobody is paying or making a lot of money, it’s just about the support and getting that momentum.

9) Part of making as much money as possible on your self-published book is offering it to as many people as possible. It always surprises me how many people still buy paperback books, despite the fact the price is about twice that of an ebook, but some people are just physical book people.

Fortunately, it takes almost no effort to format your ebook for a print copy. You can do it from the same file you upload to Amazon Kindle with just a few changes. Creating a print-on-demand format for your book will double your sales and help keep both formats ranked.

It takes more work but I would also recommend creating an audio format for sale on Audible. This might be more expensive for fiction authors since you’ll need to hire actors for the characters but non-fiction writers can read their own book. Besides being listed on audiobook site Audible, you’ll also have your audiobook listing on the main Amazon page. This gives your book maximum reach for any type of customer.

10) The final mistake most new authors make is quitting after writing one book. I know you’re hoping that this first book hits and you make thousands a month…but sometimes it just doesn’t work like that.

Of the ten books I’ve published, I make as much as $500 a month on a couple but there are a few than make $100 or less some months. Sometimes a book just isn’t as popular as you thought it would be.

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Create a library of at least a few books though and your monthly sales will average out. You’ll make around two or three hundred per book each month and will have the start of a very nice passive income stream.

Don’t get discouraged if a book isn’t the lottery ticket you thought it would be. Move on to the next book, try to understand why the last one didn’t hit and build your online income!

Self-publishing a book isn’t difficult. Thousands of people start on their book idea every month only to give up or never finish. It’s these ten self-publishing mistakes that account for the vast majority of that failure. Learn how to avoid these mistakes and you’ll be ready to create the book you always wanted to write.

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