There is an immense freedom that comes with self-publishing your work. You can write whatever the hell you want and publish whenever the hell you like. You don’t have to wait for the approval of an agent or a publisher. You are in control of your own writing career!
To paraphrase a quote from a certain arachnid-themed superhero film, with great freedom comes great responsibility.
I repeat – You are in control of your writing career. You are also capable of ruining it before it begins. Here are some ways you may be sabotaging your chances of success:
1. Editing the Book Yourself – I don’t care how well you write, you are incapable of seeing all the errors in your own work. You know what you meant to write – readers will see what you actually wrote. It’s so easy to omit simple words in a sentence because your writing brain mentally fills them in when you’re reading your own work. As for grammar and punctuation rules, there are millions of them and you’re likely to get lots of them wrong. I know I do! I would be terrified to publish a book that hadn’t been professionally edited.
2. Improperly formatting the manuscript– Formatting is something you may be able to do yourself. I can’t. I am utterly techno-phobic and wouldn’t even attempt it. It is possible to teach yourself how to properly format your manuscript for eBook and/or paperback, but don’t do it unless you’re sure you can do it 100% correctly. Don’t kid yourself by saying things like “Ah, the formatting’s only slightly off, nobody will notice.” Yes. Yes they will. It’s the first thing I look for in a self-published book. If it looks unprofessional, I won’t download it, even if it’s free.
3. Ignoring page and word count guidelines – If your book is fewer than 150 pages, it’s not a novel (at least not an adult one). I don’t care if it’s a free giveaway. If a reader settles down with a book you’ve marketed as a novel and finds it’s only 100 pages, he’s going to be disappointed. Angry, even. Angry enough to give you a bad review on Amazon. Writing shorter works is great! Just market them honestly as short stories or novellas, whatever the case might be. You also may want to price the story accordingly, perhaps .99 or 1.99.
4. Having a Bad Cover – This doesn’t just refer to the professionalism of the cover, though of course that’s critical. If you’re not good at art and graphic design (I’m not. As you can tell, there’s a long list of stuff I suck at…) don’t attempt it yourself. Whether you do it yourself or not, make sure you do your homework. An attention-getting design isn’t always better, believe it or not. Your number one goal is to attract the right readers –those who read your genre. If you’re marketing a romance, it’s important that your cover screams – this is a romantic book! That way, it will catch the eye of readers looking for a romantic read. If your cover grabs attention but doesn’t make the genre clear, readers will pass on it. Likewise, you want to make sure the cover matches the story. If the cover is pink and bright but the story is tragic and violent, your reader will be the one who’s dark and stormy.
I hear lots of self-publishers making excuses for not following these common sense rules of professional writing.
But I got good reviews! – If you have only a handful of reviews, enjoy them. You won’t be getting many more. When your book first came out, you may have had a few readers willing to overlook your errors, but this good fortune won’t work long-term. Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and most readers will not recommend poorly written or badly formatted books. Also, no professional book blogger is going to bother to review a book that is incorrectly formatted. Sure, you’re not getting bad reviews that complain about that badly written book – that’s because most people won’t buy or read the book in the first place.
I can’t afford an editor, a formatter, and a cover artist! I filed for bankruptcy the year I published my first book .Guess what I did first? Paid the editor, the formatter, and the cover artist. I worked too damn hard on that book to make it look unprofessional. Times are tough, no question about it. But you’re tougher. Sell your blood, have a lemonade stand, I don’t care what you do. You owe it to yourself to do right by your book. Don’t sabotage yourself by taking shortcuts.
I know some of my Wannabe Pride articles sound harsh sometimes, but it really is because I care about indie writers. I WANT YOU TO SUCCEED.
I’ve dreamed for twenty years of being a published writer, and I finally made it happen with my debut novel in 2014. So far, I’ve gotten a positive review on the front page of an LGBT newspaper as well as several great book blogger reviews, been invited to give two public talks about the book, sold about three times the number of books that I had expected, and got my novel accepted into my local public library system.
I teared up as I wrote that last paragraph, because I still can’t believe that all that happened.
No, I’m not a huge success and I’m not ready to quit my day job, but this whole experience has been a dream come true. I want all this and more to happen for you.
None of this would have happened if my formatting had been even a touch off the mark or if my book contained grammatical errors. The library would have rejected it, no professional would have reviewed it, and I would have only gotten a handful of book sales.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Push yourself to be the very best you can be.
I believe in you.
You need to believe in yourself.
– Linda Fausnet