What are the Biggest Pitfalls to Avoid When Self-Publishing a Book?

How to Self-Publish a Book Without Pitfalls

As a book publishing coach for nearly a decade, one of the most frequently asked questions by writers is, “What are pitfalls to avoid when self-publishing a book?” Dream to Publish offers various levels of book coaching. Therefore, I recommend clients assess their skill level first, to avoid an unsuccessful book project. 

9 Major Pitfalls in Self-Publishing a Book

1. Knowledge—You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

This pitfall involves the concept: You don’t know what you don’t know. Many writers do not realize that as the publisher of their book, more time and effort are required than printing the book. Publishing a book involves extensive pre-production services, which may be expensive, time-consuming, and technical. If the skill level is not present, a writer can find themselves disappointed, and frustrated beyond repair. Counseling may be necessary! 

2. Printing—Print on Demand for Self-Publishing

Since the advent of print on demand, self-publishing is affordable and doable for the normal person. However, many so-called self-publishing companies are less than honest. To start with, these companies are misrepresenting themselves as self-publishers. As an aspiring self-published author, you are the publisher, not them. These misleading companies advertise “free” self-publishing knowing that most people do not realize the full scope of publishing a book. Once you send them your manuscript, your book becomes hostage to high price points and low quality provided by unscrupulous companies. 

3. Subcontractors—Hire Book Publishing Specialists

During the process of publishing a book, you will need to hire subcontractors to complete elements of your book such as book cover design, content editing, copy editing, proofreading, interior design, sales copy, finding reviews, and more. Unless you are connected in this field, these contractors may charge too much and know too little about book publishing. They may be a graphic designer but have never designed a book cover. They may be a layout artist with no experience in book interiors. This part is tricky and pricey. Often, subcontractors don’t know what they don’t know, and your book quality and budget may suffer. 

4. Too Many Cooks—Maintain a Vision for Your Book

Most first-time self-publishers cannot resist the temptation to ask others for their opinion of their manuscript, book cover, and interior design. This is a big mistake because everyone is an expert and they all disagree—causing you more confusion than ever! Resist the temptation for approval and support during this process from friends and family. Check with professionals and research online the way books, title pages, back covers, and other components are designed. Do not ask your brother, mother, or some random designer who knows nothing about designing books. Too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the broth. 

5. Chronology—Follow a Publishing Timeline

This pitfall involves the lack of making a production schedule, following a timeline, and keeping the work in order. If the work is done in the wrong order, you will waste time, receive inferior results, plus, of course, cost yourself more money. The work must flow in a particular order. To start, self-publishers must create a production schedule and timeline, plus stay on track. 

6. Falling in Love with Your Writing—Don’t Do it

Since you are the writer and the publisher, you will find it challenging to maintain objectivity. You may think that your writing is a certain style when in reality, that style is in error. More than one of my clients fell in love with using the word “it” repeatedly to start a sentence, and this is not a style—good writers and editors call “this style” weak writing. However, as the publisher, you are the boss. Although falling in love with your writing is natural, this practice is also risky without the guidance of professional subcontractors who provide honest, high-quality feedback. 

7. Perfectionism—Stop it!

Oh, this is a good one! The book is never going to be perfect. Most books published by traditional publishing companies contain errors—I see them all the time. Yet, these errors can be corrected in the 2nd edition, so resist perfectionism on the 1st edition. Hire a professional proofreader and be done with it! Each change you make begets another. Once you reach a good point, publish and print. Perfectionism can drag you into a black hole of endless corrections. Remember, corrections are not done in a vacuum and are certain to cause a ripple effect going forward. Many people are perfectionists because they are afraid to push the publish button. This is the most heartbreaking pitfall of self-publishing a book. A person makes so much progress and at the bitter end is unable to publish, making all kinds of excuses as momentum dies. 

8. Author Branding—Part of the Process

Technically, author branding is needed after self-publishing to sell books. However, in all reality, one must start this process before approaching a publishing date. Most books are sold online now. Therefore, an author’s website and social media are key to author branding and to make books available through the author. Your author brand is often developed from book concept artwork, so as you go through the publishing steps, be sure to include author branding in the process. Once your book goes to press, your website will be ready and able to sell books or, at least link to your distribution network.  

9. Review Copy—Easily Forgotten When Self-Publishing

As you go through the publishing process you will reach a point where the manuscript and book cover has been proofread. Although not yet in book form, in your hands is a final copy. This is the time to create a PDF of the book cover and interior. Once you do this, you may send this copy through email to solicit reviews. Reviews are necessary to sell books. Additionally, many books include a page at the beginning with review comments. These reviews help sell the book, plus you may include these reviews in your online book description. Once the book is published online, you have lost your chance to include these reviews in the description area of the book. Yes, that can be done later, but not easily. 

How Publishable Are You? Take the Quiz!

Try our quiz, HOW PUBLISHABLE ARE YOU? to determine the level of your publishing skills and decide if self-publishing is the right fit for you! 

About Deborah S. Nelson

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