It’s easier than ever to publish a book on your own. With marketplaces such as Kindle, you can self-publish for free and not spend months or years on sending your manuscript to publishers and agents. Self-publishing is quite liberating as it allows you, the author, to take control of the process and not depend on others. However, with so many self-published books on the market, competition is increasing. Many authors make mistakes that practically ensure that their books will never get noticed. Here are some of the most common self-publishing mistakes to avoid when publishing your book.
1. Falling for Dishonest Self-publishing Schemes
Long before the internet, authors paid vanity presses to publish their work. In the digital age, these have morphed into all kinds of dubious publishing houses, agents, and book marketing systems. Some unscrupulous people take advantage of writers who are eager to succeed. As a rule, you should be wary of anyone who wants to charge you for publishing.
Beware of publishers that charge a fee and claim to do lots of marketing on your behalf. They may cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in exchange for putting out a few ads or tweets. You could do these things yourself for a lot less money. Similarly, legitimate publishing agents don’t charge authors for their services; they make money by securing publishing deals and earning commissions.
As a self-published author, you will need to invest in specific services such as editing, design, and possibly advertising. There’s nothing wrong with people charging for their services, but that’s not the same as claiming to be a publisher (or agent) and demanding a fee. The latter is misleading and almost never yields the promised results.
2. Not Targeting an Audience
Some authors write mainly for themselves or perhaps a small group of readers. If that describes you, there’s no need to worry about profiling your audience before writing. However, if you want to reach a wide readership, you need to do research the market first.
You don’t need fancy or expensive tools to do so. You can search on Amazon for popular books and topics. If you need to find out which keywords people are searching for, you can use free resources such as the Google Keyword Tool. If you’re writing a nonfiction book, you’ll want to learn about the specific problems the people in your niche are trying to solve. Identify common questions on discussion forums in your niche as well as question-and-answer sites such as Quora.
If you start writing without any thought to your audience, you are putting yourself at a real disadvantage. As large companies do market research before releasing a new product, you should do the same for your book.
3. Waiting Until You Publish to Start Marketing
It makes sense to start marketing is when you have a product to sell. Unfortunately, the new reality is that you need to start promoting your book before you publish it. Some of today’s most successful self-published authors begin marketing before they even write the first page.
Once you do your market research and know what you want to write about, you can begin finding your audience. You don’t even need to know exactly how your book is going to turn out, but you must be clear about the topic and your audience. Then you can begin to build interest and hype on your blog, social media, and other platforms. Create all kinds of teasers and previews of your book in the form of tweets, blog posts, and videos. Create a Facebook page. See if you can get interviewed by podcasters or local journalists. Start an email list dedicated to your book and related topics. You could even start a crowdfunding campaign.
There are several significant advantages to pre-marketing your book. First of all, it’s much easier to sell a book that has a built-in audience. Secondly, once you start building an audience for one book, it will be that much easier to market future books. Finally, even if your book flops or you never even finish it, you’ll have an audience in place. You can always leverage this audience for other purposes, such as selling affiliate products.
4. Insufficient Editing
One of the banes of self-publishing is sloppy editing. Even the best writers make typos and occasional spelling and grammatical errors. Ever read a novel where the author uses the wrong character’s name? These mistakes take away from your professionalism, cause poor reviews, and ultimately harm your sales.
It’s best to hire a professional editor to go over your manuscript. In addition to minor mistakes, editors can point out more substantial problems with your book. If you can’t afford this, make sure you read it through multiple times. You should always let another pair of eyes go over your book as well. Others will see mistakes that you missed. The people you choose to read your book don’t need to be professional writers, but they should be voracious readers.
5. Not Creating a Professional Cover
Despite the cliche, many people do indeed judge a book by its cover. As people browse books on Kindle (or wherever you end up selling your book), the cover and title are the first things they notice. Never use a generic or default cover offered by some self-publishing platforms. Nor do you want your cover to have the kind of stock images found everywhere. It’s worth it to hire an illustrator or graphic designer to design a custom cover for your book.
6. Failing to Optimize Your Title and Description
The title of your book is one of the most critical elements. When you’re an established author with millions of readers, you can call your books whatever you want. If you’re starting out, though, make sure your title tells readers exactly what to expect. If your novel contains vampires, make sure “vampire” is in the title. If it’s a romance, use words like “love” in the title. If you’re writing nonfiction, use keywords that your audience will be seeking.
The subtitle is another area where you can include some additional keywords. Remember, as people browse books on Kindle, they see your subtitle as well as the title. Similarly, when you do publish your book, make sure you optimize it correctly. The book description on Kindle gives you plenty of space to include plenty of keywords and give potential readers a good summary. That is free advertising space so take advantage of it. Finally, make sure you choose the appropriate categories for your book when self-publishing. That is another way to ensure your target audience can easily find you.
7. Not Marketing Creatively
There are many standard ways to promote your book, and you should take advantage of these. For example, you should use your blog and social media to talk about your current and upcoming books. If you can afford it, paid ads on sites such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google can help drive traffic to your book. However, you should also expand and look for other ways to promote as well. The following are just a few possibilities.
- Make your book available in multiple formats. While e-books are the easiest way to publish today, don’t confine yourself to this. If you publish on Kindle, also use CreateSpace so you can sell print books. Amazon also runs ACX, where you can create an audiobook to be sold on Audible and other outlets.
- Many authors overlook the power of videos. A YouTube channel, for example, is a powerful way to promote your book. You don’t have to only talk about your book. You could also make videos on related topics.
- Like videos, you can have a podcast aimed at your audience. Once again, you don’t have to spend all your time talking about your book. Conduct interviews with other authors or experts in your field. Review books and movies in your niche.
- Become a local author. Even if your book isn’t about your town, city, or neighborhood, you can drum up interest in the local community. Send out press releases and see if you can get interviewed by media such as newspapers, radio, and even TV. Look for smaller, independent bookstores in your area and ask if they will sell your book or maybe do a book signing.
I also shared a few affordable ideas before, you can read further at 8 Affordable Marketing Ideas For Indie Authors
If you manage to avoid these mistakes, you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding as a self-published author. As a bonus tip, keep in mind that self-publishing presents you with unlimited opportunities to reach readers. If one book doesn’t take off, don’t give up. Keep writing, strive to improve your craft as well as your marketing skills continually!