12 Common Self-Publishing Pitfalls
Every author has a different definition of success, but each one strives for it. For many reasons, a stigma still remains around self-published books. By avoiding these far-too-common errors, you can triumph in this crazy and rewarding vocation. If you want to be taken seriously and build a good reputation, you must first take your book seriously. This means creating a quality book, inside and out. Any one of these issues can lock you out of the running as a legitimate publisher. Book buyers, readers, reviewers, and distributors are inundated with new books each day. If you don’t care enough to produce a book that rivals those from the big publishing houses, why should they care about it? Remember, there is always another book that could be purchased instead of yours.
1 Poor cover design
A book’s front cover serves as its billboard, it’s back is like an advertisement. Together they set the tone for what’s inside. The front should attract attention quickly and give at least a hint of the book’s topic or main story line. (It should not, however, try to tell the entire story!) The back needs to showcase a compelling headline and provide a key moment (in a novel or memoir) or important information that will be taught (for non-fiction). If you don’t attract the right kind of attention, your writing may never be discovered. This is not the place to skimp or try to do it yourself, so hire a seasoned professional with a book specialty.
2 Poor interior design
The interior can actually drive the final sale. If the type seems hard to read, the layout is disorganized, or the design doesn’t coordinate with the cover (creating a cohesive and well-thought-out product), your potential reader will likely move on to the next option. Not all book designers will create interiors, so be sure to find one with this skill set.
3 Poor editing/proofreading/indexing
The editor’s job is to make your writing better. Sentences and paragraphs that have been poorly put together inhibit reading. Inconsistency in point of view, lack of proper scene-setting or character development throw a reader off enough to make one stop reading, never to finish. Typos, improper word and punctuation usage, or even errors in the table of contents instantly deem a book second-rate. The lack of an index in certain types of books — or a poorly-created one — will do the same. Self-editing, self-proofing, or self-indexing will not do your readers a favor. Most people don’t get second chances, so don’t mess up on this one!
4 Poor-quality printing
Whether it’s digital or offset printing, this comes down to offering a quality product. While perfection is rare in any field, the following problems are unacceptable (and we’ve seen them all!): Binding that falls apart, scuffs all over the cover, bent pages, bubbled cover lamination, poor ink coverage (faded/vastly inconsistent colors), upside-down segments (signatures) of pages. The bottom line? Choose a reputable company and be sure their specialty is BOOK printing. And be sure to check your printer proofs carefully.
5 Improper pricing of book
Standing out in the crowd can be a good thing, but not when it comes to pricing. If your book’s list price is too low, readers may wonder if it’s even good enough to purchase. If it’s too overpriced, they’ll likely purchase a similar book with a more standard price. Pay attention to the price of books with similar page counts and binding in your book’s genre.
6 No marketing plan
Publishing a book makes it a product. A company like Disney wouldn’t dream of launching a new movie without having a complete marketing plan in place. (Yes, you now have a business. Don’t forget!) Your book may be geared toward a much smaller audience, but it still has one and marketing should not be ignored or treated as an afterthought. Nobody knows how great your book is until someone reads it. That someone first has to know it’s available and be convinced they need it! Working with a PR and/or marketing firm, whether just for a launch or for a longer period of time, is usually a wise move and can pay off greatly.
7 Missing the non-bookstore market
Bookstores are lousy places to sell books. Why? Look at the thousands of choices on those shelves. Unless your budget includes a huge marketing campaign and payment for up-front or face-out placement on those shelves, your book will likely get lost in the masses. Most bookstores won’t touch your book unless you’re with a proper distributor and that can be tough to find and/or costly for an independent publisher. Corporations often purchase books for their managers or employees. Schools and universities need textbooks and supplemental reading. Government and non-profit organizations also purchase books in bulk. Some companies will pay to print special editions of your book customized with their logo. Don’t forget libraries, either. Especially for a self-publisher, you have to work extra hard to sell books, but it can pay off beautifully. Some of the easiest sales you make are in the back of the room after you speak on the topic.
8 Failing to upsell your clients
In most cases, your book will not make you rich, however, selling additional and higher-priced items related to your book can. When people love a book, they’re often very willing to buy more from that author and on that topic. Continue to share your information with devoted readers and increase your profits at the same time. Some examples: eBooks, audio books, DVDs, training programs, speaking/presentations, dolls and toys, workbook systems, etc.
9 Not owning your ISBNs
When you hire a “self-publishing company” or vanity press to publish your book, they generally provide and sometimes own the ISBN. The owner of that number is considered the publisher of your book. When this happens, you are no longer the publisher. This may or may not be a problem for you, but be aware of this, as it may have implications if you want to produce future, revised editions.
10 Poorly-designed or non-existent web site
One of the first places most people go to find any product is the Internet. If you don’t have a web presence, a potential buyer will either give up looking or worse, find someone else who does. Your site doesn’t have to be fancy, but should look professional, be properly branded for your book and/or publishing company, and always offer a way to purchase your book, ideally from you but at least through a link to an online bookstore.
11 Unrealistic expectations
So, you will likely never be a guest on Oprah or Good Morning, America. Having big goals is great, but be realistic with most of them or you’ll be disappointed time and again. Your book’s first run will ideally be set up to help you break even on the production costs. Most authors don’t get rich quickly (if at all) in this business. Working with a publishing development company can help you set proper goals and ensure your success.
12 Not trusting the professionals you hire to do their job
Unless you know a great deal about editing, design, and printing, you’ll need trusted professionals who can help with these aspects of producing your book. While you should absolutely have input into each stage of development, remember that these people know what works and have your best interest in mind. Be a team player, not a micromanager. If you truly do it right, the hard work you put into writing will shine through and your book will be poised to have a major impact on its readers. In the end, isn’t that the main reason you decided to dive into this crazy world of publishing? We’d love to hear about mistakes you’ve made or avoided and other relevant advice. Please share in the comments below. Thanks and blessings to you, Tami Dever PS: Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for more information and encouragement while on your publishing journey.