4 Self-Publishing Mistakes to Avoid

by Lesley-Anne

Published at 2016-06-15

So you've decided to self-publish a book. That's great! Self-publishing a book can be quite the journey, and it can also be incredibly rewarding. Here are a few helpful tips to keep you on the right track during the publishing process.

Know the Purpose of Your Book

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of my book? Do I want to sell lots of books online? Use the book to further my career or enter the seminar/speaking circuit? Leave a legacy for my family? Or just write it for fun?


It is important to figure out what you want to accomplish with the publishing of your book because that will determine the choices you make along the way. For example, if you want to leave a legacy for your family, cover design might not be important to you, but perhaps budgeting to include pictures or photos is. If you want to use the book to further your career or show that you’re an expert in a certain subject, you may want to give more weight to a good editor and a cover designer, to help your book stand out and appear professional.


Note: If your goal is to strike it rich selling your books, keep in mind that most bookstores will not sell self-published books in their stores, whether it be online or in the actual store. This is true even if you go through a self-publishing company or vanity publisher.


Ebooks, however, are fair game. You can sell your self-published ebook at online retailers such as Amazon, Kobo, and iTunes, to name a few. You can even set up a website of your own and sell your ebooks there.

Be Prepared for the Work

If your book was being published by a traditional publisher, each department would be responsible for one element of your book—the cover, the editing, the production, etc. However, as a self-publisher, suddenly, all the responsibility for the creation of your book falls to you. And that can be overwhelming.


But don’t despair! You can do it. There are lots of great resources to help authors self-publish their books online or in print. As well, there are countless websites that give self-publishing authors great tips, guidance, and advice. You can also turn to these sites for referrals to reputable editors/editing services, freelance cover designers, freelance publicists, etc.


Of course, there are those companies that offer all those services, and more, under one roof. A one stop shop, if you will. But that brings us to my next tip….

Avoid the Scams

You may have seen ads online for self-publishing companies that will take your manuscript and turn it into a shiny finished book—for a price. Some of these companies are completely legitimate, and will help you create the book you want for a fair price, and do so transparently (two that seem to be well-vetted are and CreateSpace). However, I’m sure you’ve heard at least one or two stories about authors who paid thousands and thousands of dollars to publish their book and ended up with a book that is priced too high to sell well, were offered unfair royalty agreements, faced issues with copyright, or worse—ended up with no book at all.

Here at TEC, we have worked with authors in the past who have used these self-publishing companies’ services only to find that their book is full of errors when it was supposed to have been carefully edited.


If you’ve come across a company with a deal that sounds too good to be true, make sure you do your homework: do a Google search using the name of the company plus “scam” to see what comes up. Check self-publishing forums or websites, as these places may have lists of disreputable companies to avoid. In the end, it’s often best to go with companies that you have heard about through word-of-mouth. So ask other authors for referrals! And remember, it is possible to self-publish your book yourself. Thanks to tons of Internet resources and how-to books, there are lots of places you can turn for advice if you choose to take this route.


For a handy company comparison, check out this table that compares some of the most well-known self-publishing companies. But even if you go with a well-reviewed company, it might be worth it to you to hire a lawyer to look over your contract, just in case.

Keep Your Expectations Realistic

We’ve all heard the stories about self-published authors becoming celebrity authors seemingly overnight (The Martian, for one example, and, obviously, 50 Shades of Gray for another). So could that happen to you? Nothing is impossible. However, it’s unlikely that your book will take off overnight. Why? Well, it takes time to build up a following, to get a dedicated audience of readers who like your books and want you to write more.


As well, if you’re hoping to use any success you have self-publishing a book to entice a traditional publisher to pick it up, make sure you think it over very carefully. Keep in mind that if you self-publish a book and it sells a couple hundred copies, if you submit it to a traditional publisher, they may see those sales as lost revenue. Normally publishers can count on the family, friends, and coworkers of an author to buy at least some books, but in the case of a previously self-published book, it’s likely all those people have already bought a copy—which means fewer sales the publisher can depend on.


Good luck on this amazing journey! If you’re looking for more assistance, check out TEC’s Resources for Writers, or our free e-book for authors, The Author’s Guide to the Pre-Publishing Editing Process, which can help guide you through the editing and submission of your book.