The first step toward success as an independent author is educating yourself about everything involved with self-publishing. It’s what your book — this project to which you’ve invested so much emotion and time — undoubtedly deserves.
By now you know that self-publishing is not some new or exotic means of getting your book into the marketplace. When you’re browsing for books on Amazon, for example, it’s hard to tell which ones were published traditionally and which were self-published. It’s also true for bestseller lists. Consider the following:
- In 2018, 284 of the top thousand best-selling eBooks were self-published.
- In genres like Romance and Fantasy, roughly 45 percent of 2018’s bestselling books were self-published.
- The ratio of self-published best-sellers jumps to 71 percent in micro-niches like African American Fiction.
There are plenty of interested readers to go around, yet, sadly, many self-published authors miss out on these new market opportunities because they make basic mistakes that sabotage their sales. In a crowded marketplace, that’s something no author can afford to do.
Here are five of the most crucial publishing mistakes — and how you can avoid them.
1. Skimping on editing
At BookBaby, we have a saying we repeat to our clients dozens of times a day: “Edit or regret it.” There’s no quicker way to convey to readers that what they’re reading was not professionally cared for — which is something all readers want and deserve.
A professional edit is the most important investment you can make for your book. Errors in spelling, basic grammar, and sentence structure will doom your book before readers finish the first chapter. Readers will immediately stop reading books that contain basic errors.
2. Designing your book cover yourself
Just as tight, sharp editing conveys an essential professionalism, so, too, does a professionally designed book cover. And as important as they already are, book covers will become even more important as the percentage of books sold online continues to increase. Make no mistake, your first impression is everything, and online, your book cover has to make an impression on your potential readers.
For any of you who fancy yourself a natural cover designer, it’s time to face reality. Book cover design is an art unto itself, and if you want your book to compete in the online marketplace, it is best performed by professionals who understand how to convey your story concept into a single, evocative, encompassing piece of art. Leave this work to the pros so you can stick to what you do best.
3. Short-selling your book metadata
Metadata, for those who don’t know, is the important keyword information for a book. It includes a book description, author bio, title, genre, and other information you can include to entice readers and help them find your title. Readers see it on Amazon, for example, when they click on your book to learn more about it.
It boils down to another opportunity to make an impression on readers — hopefully one meaningful enough to encourage them to buy or start reading — which is why you should take pains to make your book metadata interesting, relevant, clean, and sharp. If your metadata is rambling, incomplete, or ineffective, readers will skip your book for the next in line.
4. Selling your book through a single online distributor
Here’s a little secret: Amazon is not the only place available to distribute your book. By limiting your book to this one location, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of the market.
Consider, for example, outlets like Barnes & Noble and Apple Books. Each platform appeals to a unique set of loyal customers. It’s critical that you don’t ignore them. The key is educating yourself about the variety of options available. No doubt, Amazon is the most dominant player in this space, but millions of books are bought elsewhere.
5. Rushing the process
You can’t rush a masterpiece.
Writing takes time — especially quality writing. The same is true of the book-production process. It takes time to edit well. It takes time to design a stellar cover. It takes time to market your book during your pre-sale period so that readers know who you are. It takes time to build an audience (and often, it takes more than one book).
These are immovable facts. Yet too many writers rush to release their books in time for some contrived deadline and, in the process, release their work before it’s truly ready. It’s always better to take the necessary time to prepare your book and make certain it’s 100 percent ready for release. It’s much easier (and less costly) to fix mistakes in your manuscript, your cover, or your metadata before your book is out in the world.
At the end of the day, being a self-published author is a lot like being a general contractor. You’re responsible for every component of the process, and it pays to make sure you execute on each component thoroughly and carefully. It also pays to enlist professional help — in the form of a professional editor, seasoned cover designer, or a full-service self-publishing company who can guide you through every phase of the process.
The first step, of course, is educating yourself about everything involved with self-publishing before you dive in. At the very least, it’s what your book — this project to which you’ve invested so much emotion and time — undoubtedly deserves.