It’s my 2nd MOST FAVORITE time of year. Well, nothing beats spring – but – a harvest moon, flocks of wild turkeys and vivid autumn landscapes make my imagination howl.
This season, though, I’m not sure I can manage an abundance of creativity. Hard to stir up a new story when my newly published book turned up damaged last week. First out of the box. FLAWED. Second out of the box. DEFECTIVE. What happened? What mistakes did I make? How can months of tedious planning and obsessing over every detail end up a nightmare? It did. It CAN. Most independent authors haven’t been self-publishing books for years. It’s inevitable that we make mistakes along the way. Here are the 5 scariest mistakes I made. Fortunately, they’re all preventable.
1. NOT ANTICIPATING POTENTIAL CHALLENGES: PLAN B
Have you seen spreadsheets for indie authors where all publishing tasks and deadlines appear neatly organized – PLAN A? Where it’s possible to believe that a well-planned and executed sequence of events results in a successful book launch? = SALES Truth is, indie authors juggle everything at once, as the graphic illustrates.
Yes, absolutely nail down dates and deadlines, but get comfortable with moving targets because STUFF HAPPENS. The distributor rejects your book. The printer’s equipment breaks down. The fulfillment center has a flood. Some of these things actually happened when I published my first book, Sunbelievable. My mistake was not having a PLAN B for the next book. I conveniently overlooked (or chose to forget) the many obstacles and challenges I had faced.
2. NOT MARKETING WELL IN ADVANCE
I see many new indie authors jump into social media as a way to announce a book launch. Some authors start blogging, then get into social media, podcasting, video, etc., all in the same week, then don’t see immediate results and decide marketing doesn’t work. The problem is marketing into a vacuum. Time spent developing your author platform long before book launch is hard work – but critical to your success as a writer. An author platform describes who you are (brand) and what you are known for (expertise and reputation). It’s how to build exposure and establish personal connections and a community of readers who care about you and the value of your work.
A huge mistake between my first and second book was neglecting my audience. I missed important opportunities to reach out, renew excitement and leverage enthusiasm. I pretty much stopped blogging and ignored social media. This wasn’t intentional, but had predictable consequences, especially because my author platform was in transition with many iterations as it gradually transformed.
- Volumes have been written about marketing. Here’s a great overview by Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer.
3. NOT GETTING A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR
A major criticism of self-published books is that they’re not professional enough. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for writers to have two types of editing – developmental editing and copyediting.
A developmental editor evaluates and critiques your manuscript, suggests and offers revisions, and shapes it into a smooth, flowing, consistent piece. A copy editor checks spelling, punctuation and grammar. I can’t believe how many times I checked my story myself, then a copy editor found two glaring errors that had already been printed into Advance Review Copies.
- A good place to find current rates for both types of editing is the Editorial Freelance Association.
4. NOT GETTING PROFESSIONAL BOOK COVER DESIGN
Though I illustrate my own children’s picture books, cover design requires professional expertise and experience. I mistakenly believed that my Photoshop skills were sufficient for producing a stellar book cover, and I spent countless hours creating one. Then I attended the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) annual Publishing University and met one-on-one with book publishing industry experts. Much to my dismay, I repeatedly was advised to create a better cover.
Fortunately, I met my new book designer – TLC Graphics – at an educational workshop that same day. Their work on both the cover and interior design made all the difference in quality and marketability.
- Here’s a list of book cover designers recommended by Joanna Penn, a highly successful indie fiction writer.
- Another terrific source for advice is, again, The Book Designer.
5. GOING TO PRINT WITHOUT A DISTRIBUTION PLAN
This was definitely one of my worst mistakes, and I still hear about people doing it. When focused on creating your book, it’s easy to postpone setting up distribution. Without a full understanding of what book distribution entails, authors can make costly mistakes bringing their book to market.
A distributor handles title setup, warehousing, fulfillment, billing and collection. There is no “right” way to distribute a book. But there is likely a right way to distribute YOUR book. It can take time to find your optimal distribution system.
- John Kremer has a great list of book distribution companies that work with indie authors. Find it here.
- The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) has a good list here.
My flawed books issue got resolved. To its credit, the printing company took care of the problem promptly and professionally – which I hope reinforces a key point about mistakes. You may not be able to prevent all of them, but you can avoid most. Indie authors can benefit from your experience with mistakes. We’d LOVE to hear from you!