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The six biggest mistakes self-publishers make and how to avoid them


Long known for its music business community, a growing number of Nashville lyricists are taking their poetic wares and shopping them elsewhere—including seeking self-publishing options.

Lyricists are doing everything from publishing books of poetry to writing greeting cards. Even teen sensation Taylor Swift has jumped on the greeting card bandwagon. She has landed her own line of cards under the American Greetings umbrella.
Did you know that country singer Donna Fargo (who made famous the songs “Happiest Girl” (in the whole USA) and “Funny Face”) is now a staff writer for Blue Mountain Arts?
Whether you are a poet or a novelist; a chef turned cookbook writer; or an ordinary citizen with a story to tell, self-publishing is for everybody—everybody that’s willing to get a little ink under their nails, that is.
The decision to write a book is exciting. The actual writing of the book is hard work, but usually a labor of love. What happens after your book is written is critical to its success or failure, and shouldn’t be left to chance.
You’ve decided to self-publish your book—that’s very exciting, too. You’ll get to keep more of the profits. You’ll have more control over the end product—but before you begin the self-publishing process, do your homework!
Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard work, but can be very rewarding. You will want to avoid as many pitfalls as possible along your self-publishing journey. Below is a list of the six most common mistakes self-publishers make. Avoid these errors and have a pleasant trip!
1.    Not knowing your audienceAre you writing a cookbook? Is it just for the family, or do you have greater aspirations for your cookbook?  Is what you are writing of local interest, or is your goal to write a national bestseller? These are all perfectly acceptable goals, but present different obstacles for the business of self-publishing. Yes, that’s right—it’s a business!
2.    Not treating self-publishing as a business—If you are going to be a self-publisher, you must wear several hats. You are no longer just a writer—you are about to become a publisher who wants to produce a profitable book and keep the profits for yourself (imagine that!). In order to plan for future expenses, you will need to put together a business plan. You do not need a formal business plan (don’t run out and buy business plan software), but you should do some research and outline the costs of everything from better computer software to print house fees. Accounting and allocating for future expenses is also paramount.
3.    Not planning for publicity and marketing—Your book is printed—it’s beautiful—now what? Don’t neglect the publicity and marketing part of your self-publishing business. Unless you want stacks of your prized books sitting in your garage collecting dust, you will want to pay very close attention to your marketing and publicity strategies, including latest trends.
4.    Not choosing a subject you feel comfortable with—How are you going to toot your own horn if you can’t write and talk effortlessly about your book. Write about a subject you are very familiar with—a subject that excites and motivates you. This goes for all types of books, but especially anything technical or specialized. If you are writing a book that could establish you as an expert in your field, choosing the right topic is vital. Publicity will be a breeze, as you will feel at ease talking about the content of your book—and beyond.
5.    Not knowing who will buy your book—Everyone is not going buy your book. Everyone doesn’t buy Stephen King’s books.  Researching your intended audience(s) will actually help you with your marketing strategies.
6.    Not thinking beyond bookstore markets—Bookstores are (obviously) an important market for most authors, but there are many more opportunities to sell books—some markets that even buy books in large quantities with no returns. These types of markets allow you to give volume discounts (the books you sell here are actually sold!).
If you take nothing else away from all of this, let it be to plan, plan, plan and keep up with the latest trends in printing and marketing. Your self-publishing journey will be much more profitable and a ton more fun!

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  • Mark Wilburn 5 years ago

    Informative, thanks! We self-pubbers need all the help we can get!

  • Tim Baker - Orlando Writing Examiner 5 years ago


    Great article.

    The self-publishing world is like one of those mazes made out of tall hedges (a la "The Shining") - it can be one of two things...a nice stroll through some beautiful scenery or a terrifying nightmare in a lost world.

    Speaking as one who has already (successfully?)navigated it - your tips will help beginners avoid the latter!!!

    Keep up the good - and helpful work.

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