13 Self-Publishing Mistakes to Avoid

I’m willing to bet that I’ve made all known self-publishing mistakes there are — and some that don’t even exist yet! And, that’s because I’ve been writing and selling ebooks online since 2002. To date, I’ve written almost 100; fiction and non-fiction.

Most of my non-fiction is in the “how-to” niche, covering various aspects of freelance writing, online marketing, self-publishing and search engine optimization (SEO). All but one of my fiction are interracial romance novellas. I get so many questions about self-publishing. A common thread runs through the majority of them, which got my brain to ticking.

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Are You Plagued by Any of These Self-Publishing Mistakes?

Following are the top “mistakes,” for lack of a better word, I see wannabe indie publishers making. The first one is definitely the biggest in my opinion.

1. Waiting to Start

I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993. And let me tell you, there is never a “perfect” time to do anything. If you wait until the time is perfect to self-publish a book, you’ll never get around to it. So, stop waiting to start. Put finger to keyboard and get to it!

How to Get Started Tip: Give yourself a word count per day. I’ve held a few “writing tournaments” for aspiring self-published authors, and one of the things I advised participants to do was give themselves a word quota per day. Even if it’s just 100 words, it’ll get you off your writing tush and into a groove. I’d venture to say that 90 percent of the time, once you start writing, you’ll exceed your word count, especially if it’s something low like 500 words.

Promise yourself you’ll write 5 days a week for at least a month. Keep a diary of your progress. You’ll be amazed when you look back at your progress, and hopefully be spurred on to continue / finish your book.

Related Post: Learn how to write every day.

2. Make Excuses for Finding Time to WriteSelf-Publishing Mistakes: 13 of the Biggest Common Ones to Avoid

Piggybacking on the last point, finding time to write can definitely be a pain.

I think one of the reasons is we try to schedule big blocks of uninterrupted time to achieve our goals. But, you never seem to have three, four or five hours a day for weeks or months on end.

Note: Click graphic for larger view.

And this is why breaking it down into smaller chunks can be so effective. This way, you can find a block of time to “squeeze” it in.

FYI, when I held my writing tournaments, those who were most successful tended to get their writing done first thing in the morning.

I’m not a morning person (boy I wish I could be!), and I often found myself at the computer late at night trying to bang out my daily word count. On those days when I got up and got it out of the way first thing in the morning, I felt so accomplished.

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.~Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker

Finding Time to Write Tip: Give yourself a low word count, eg, 500 words, and do it first thing — before you check email, start surfing, etc. Also, try to do it at the same time every morning, eg, getting up an hour earlier than you normally do to just write.

You’re only allowed to do two things during this hour — besides write — and that is get coffee and pee (we all have to do this first thing, no). Shelve everything else, ok?

Who knows, this could even become a routine. According to research, you only have to do something 21 days in order for it to become a routine (this is really a myth; it’s more like 2 months).

How to Find Time to Write: A Series of Tips

Here’s a series I wrote on how I found time to write when I was in the throes of trying to finish 12 books in one year. I knew it was possible, because I’ve written and self-published as many as 50 in a year). I hope these insights help you. Part 1, Part 2, Part, 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Write a Book in Just 10 Minutes a Day?

I absolutely loved this post by a home-schooling mother of five, who explained how she made this work, writing:

I became a 10-minute novelist out of necessity. Years ago when I had five kids under eight years old, I decided that it was time for me to pursue my writing dreams. … because I was a mother, I was used to the game of inches. I knew that a little bit every day makes things happen. … I thought that I could probably spare 10 minutes a day to write. Maybe not much more than that, but that was a start.

One of my favorite quotes from that post was by commentor Peggy Larkin, who wrote, in part, “Finished is better than good. We can fix a bad page; we can’t fix a blank page.

EXACTLY! … If a home-schooling mother with five kids under 8 years old can do it, so can you!

3. Worrying That You Won’t Have Any Readers

This a huge fear – especially for first time writers. I love the way author coach/strategist Jane Friedman describes it. She wrote:

Finally, here is a strange truth with which writers must live: Even if no one likes what I have written, I can’t stop being interested in it. I may be embarrassed, hurt, disappointed, suicidal even, but my curiosity does not actually turn off or change shape because someone else isn’t as interested in what I have written as I am. That curiosity cannot simply vanish …

The bottom line: you must develop somewhat of a thick skin if you’re gonna be a successful writers. Sure, you want readers to like your book. But, what if they don’t? Are you going to let that stop you? Nine times out of 10, yeah, your first novel is probably going to suck. BUT … it probably won’t suck as bad as you think it will.

And remember, writing is like running. You don’t start off running a full marathon (26.2 miles) right out of the gate. You train for it, for weeks, months and years for some. Your breathing gets better; you learn the right kind of shoes for your feet; you learn how to pace yourself so you don’t run out of steam; etc.

The same “training” is needed as a writer. The more you write, ostensibly the better you get. And if you’re not getting better, then you take a class, read more, solicit feedback, etc. The point is, you’re in training as a writer with your first novel, just like any athlete who wants to reach the top of their game. So be patient with yourself and cut yourself some slack. Oftentimes, we’re our own worst critics.

Getting over having “no readers” tip: Use a pen name. Nobody has to ever know a particular book is written by you. This allows you to write freely, and make all the mistakes you want, without anyone ever knowing. This way, when (and if) you’re ever ready to reveal your identity, you can step on the big stage as a “professional.”

4. Waiting for Your Story to be “Perfect” (One of the Biggest Self-Publishing Mistakes)

This is another stumbling block for aspiring self-publishers. While we all want our stories to be perfect, really, what does that even mean?

There will always, always, always be something you can change, correct, do better, etc. in a novel. Writing is a creative venture. It’s not an absolute like math, where 1+1 will always equal 2 no matter what. So again, what does “perfect” mean when it comes to writing. It’s a figment of your imagination.

Make it as perfect as you can for the story you want to tell, then publish that sucker! And, get on to the next one. Money is made in self-publishing by volume for most writers. It’s rare that you’ll have a breakout hit like Fifty Shades of Grey with your first book, or your second, or third, or fourth, etc., for that matter.

But guess what, the more you write, the more you increase your chance of that happening. And, in the meantime, with each new book you publish, you grow your readership — making a nice little living in the meantime.

One of the things I love about self-publishing is that you don’t need a breakout hit to make good money. One month, I earned almost $4,000 — just from my romance novellas.

I think I had like 15 or 20 short romance novellas out by that time. I was selling 50 or 60 copies of some, and 100, 200, and 300+ copies of others. My point? I wasn’t selling thousands of copies of any book. A little of this one; a little of that one; a few more of another one; etc. It all adds up.

Getting over “writing perfection” tip: Keep this thought front and center – if you want to make a full-time living self-publishing your own books, remember that money is made in volume of books produced. Therefore, your best marketing weapon is your next book – not constantly fretting over making your current one “perfect.”

5. Avoiding Amazon

Once your book is done, it’s time to distribute it. For all the pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon, the fact remains, it’s the best place to distribute your book to get some immediate sales. It’s the largest marketplace for self-published authors, and that’s not going to change any time soon. You simply can’t ignore it – not if you’re in it to make money.

Now, I wouldn’t go in KDP select, mainly because that means you can’t distribute your book via other outlets — even your own website. But I definitely advise publishing with Amazon.

Ebook Distribution Tip:  Use Draft2Digital (D2D) to distribute your book. It’s fast and easy, and you can use their conversion software to create all different versions of your file (mobi, epub, pdf) and upload it to other outlets. Before I signed on with them, converting files on Barnes & Noble and sometimes Amazon was a pain. Now, I use D2D to convert my files. It’s takes just a minute or two and it’s always flawless. No more conversion errors.

6. Comparing Yourself to Other Writers

Just. Don’t. Go. There.

Yeah, there are better writers than you. But guess what? There are worse writers than you too. So don’t go comparing yourself to others. This is one of those self-publishing mistakes that should be filed under self-doubt and fear.

The creator put YOU here for a reason. No one is like you. No one has your outlook, your way of seeing things, your way of expressing themselves. You’re unique for a reason. Embrace that. Wrap yourself in your essence and never let the feeling of it go. Do you. You’re enough. Your voice is important. So write … write on.

7. Waiting to Get a Website

Once you realize that you’re serious about your self-publishing career. Get a website. You’re going to need one. It’s your home on the web; where readers will look for you; where you’ll communicate with them.

So suck it up and get a website/blog. Make it WordPress. Get it hosted on your own domain (no free sites — that is, if you’re serious about making money online). Getting one is cheap and easy to do these days, so there’s no excuse for not having one.

And don’t worry about making it perfect. BTW, “perfectionism is one of those self-publishing “mistakes” you’re gonna have to learn to deal with on a lot of levels — from the actual writing to tech problems. So, get comfortable with being the perfectly imperfect being you are (all of us). Now, back to your website.

Get one with a nice, clean theme. Don’t like it? It’s going to go through many changes over the years anyway. The important thing is to get one and start building your readership.

As an aside, I’ve seen some of the ugliest websites by authors – self-published and traditionally published – who sell tens of thousands of dollars worth of books per month. So don’t obsess about making your site all slick and nice and looking like a million bucks.

Yeah, that’d be nice if you can pull it off the first time (which is why I recommend a nice, clean, unfussy theme). But what’s more important at this point is that you have a writing home on the web, which brings me to my next point.

8. Waiting to Start an Email List

As soon as you get your author site up and going, sign up with an email list management service (I use and recommend AWeber). Why? Because you want to start collecting the email addresses of site visitors.

The money truly is in the list. Consider this. Let’s say you have an email list of 2,000 subscribers and you release a new book. If only 5% (100) of them bought your $2.99 novel on Amazon, you’d earn just over $200 (amazon pricing explained below). Not bad for sending out a single email, right?

Some self-published authors report earning thousands of dollars in one day from a new release – just by notifying subscribers on their list. Proof?

Many of the biggest sellers of nonfiction online — Brendon Burchard, John Reese, Steve Pavlina — rarely use social media, preferring to opt for email. Brendon Burchard got his new book The Charge to appear briefly in the # 1 position on Amazon.com through an email marketing campaign.

Previously, Brendon has also used email campaigns to sell over 50,000 copies of his book The Millionaire Messenger and get it on the NYT bestseller list. But fiction writers too report success in building a readership over time with email marketing.” Source:

So no matter matter what kind of material you write – fiction or non-fiction – building a mailing list is ESSENTIAL to your indie-publishing success.

FYI, here’s how to set up your AWeber account. Note: Be sure to see the sub-section entitled “Contact Address.” It’s under “Section 1: Basic Settings.” It tells you how to protect your privacy online. Many don’t realize that their (home/person) contact info is this visible online – if you set your account up the wrong way.

How Amazon Ebook Pricing Works

You earn 70% of the cover price for all books priced between $2.99 and $9.99. So if your ebook is priced at a (pretty common) price of $2.99, you’d earn $2.06 for each book sold. Outside of these price parameters, and you earn 35 percent of each unit sold (eg, on a 99 cent book, you only hear 35 cents, and on a $15.99 book, you earn $5.59).

9. Not Learning SEO

In case you don’t know, SEO is the acronym for search engine optimization. All this fancy wording means is how stuff is found online. Learn more here.

If I hadn’t learned how to write SEO content, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and that’s because, once you understand the intricacies of web writing, it’s like being handed the keys to the online marketing kingdom.

If you’re marketing on the web and you don’t understand SEO, you might as well be marketing in the dark. Its’ that critical. You need to know things like how to do keyword research, how and when to use title tags, how to SEO images, blackhat tactics to avoid, etc.

Once I started using SEO in my writings and marketing efforts online, I went from selling a few copies of my books per week, to a few per day. Then, I developed additional products — that I knew would sell. How did I know? Because I conducted keyword research to learn what online surfers wanted to know. Then, I produced ebooks with them in mind.

It doesn’t mean that you get it right all of the time, but I’ve had a few ebooks and one ecourse that I’ve been selling online from as far back as 2009 – that still bring in good sales to this day.

That’s the power of SEO. It gives you a leg up in the crowded online marketing space — and you can make money using this skill to write for others.

10. Pricing Your Book Too High

Some self-publishing mistakes can only be fixed by trial and error. This is one of them. Pricing an ebook to sell is a prickly conundrum that a lot of indie authors struggle with. Even though I’ve been self-publishing since 2002, I still struggle with this to some degree.

Pricing Romance Novels: My System

For my fiction (romance) novellas, I’ve pretty much got it down to an exact science though. I price my “shorties” at $2.99 for the most part. If it’s a longer (for me) work, eg, 30,000+ words, or a more erotic title, I might go to $3.99. But for the most part I stick to $2.99.

If it’s a series, I’ll often go to 99 cents or $1.99 for the first book in the series (to entice readers into the series), then $2.99 for the rest of the books in the series. Why $2.99? Because after doing extensive research, that’s where many of the titles in my genre were priced. Also, again, mine are short works, so I don’t feel comfortable charging more (even though many self-published authors in this genre do). 

For my non-fiction works – my prices are all over the map. I kind of go with a gut feeling on these. Since I’ve been self-publishing for so long now and know my target audience pretty well, I have a sense of what they’ll pay for a given topic.

Again, my best advice is to do your research. Be sure to compare apples to apples (eg, genre, length of book, cover art, etc.).

Ebook Pricing Tip: Start higher and go lower if you’re not pleased with sales. It’s always easier to drop a price than raise it without losing readers.

11. Not Planning Your Second Novel

The best form of marketing for an author – your next book. See #3 in this post for more detail.

12. Waiting Until You Have the Money to _____.

You fill in the blank. This is “one day” syndrome, ie, one day when I have enough money I’m going to get a great cover designed for my book, get a website, start my email list, quit my job to write full-time, etc.

Self-Publishing Costs

It’s free to self-publish. Yep, you can self-publish without spending any money at all; I did it that way for years. So not having money is no excuse. And “one day” is TO-DAY. Don’t waste it.

13. Not Following Your Heart

To me, this is the saddest mistake of all. If you know deep down in your soul that you were meant to be a writer, there’s never been a better time to follow that dream. You don’t have to wait for some big publisher to come knocking on your door, or go seeking one out — you can publish your book yourself. All the self-publishing support you’ll ever need you can find online.

You’ll never know what coulda been until you try. So come on, what are you waiting for? You can follow your heart and make your self-publishing dreams a reality. All it takes is … starting.

Your Take

What self-publishing mistakes have you made on your  journey? Do any of these resonate with you? Share in the comments section below.

Is Self-Publishing for You?

Making money ebook-publishing-packselling ebooks and ecourses online is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for lazy people. It’s not for those who need others to motivate them.

The Ultimate Self-Publishing Package: 4 Ebooks. 1 Low Price.

But if you are the anti-thesis of this, ie, courageous, hard-working and self-motivated, you really can make a lot of money selling ebooks and ecourses online (I’m proof of this) – if you don’t forget that last ingredient – perseverance.

Share Your Ebook Selling Tips and Questions?

Have any ebook selling tips you can share? Have a question about how to make money selling ebooks online? Please share in the comments section below.

P.S.: Serious about Starting a Self-Publishing Career? Then You Need a Blog. Learn why and how to start one.

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