Self publishing is becoming more popular than ever before and rightfully so. The profit potential is high, you can work at your own pace, and it means you have complete control of your book...
...but that also means you have complete control of your book. So you have to become an expert in, well, EVERYTHING!
But there's so much to know and researching can get overwhelming. (Trust me, I've been there) Which is why there are five self publishing mistakes that are super common - and often costly - that authors fall victim to.
But the good news is that they're easy to avoid, once you know what they are! And that's exactly what I'm sharing with you in this blog post.
The 5 Biggest and Most Common Self Publishing Mistakes:
Mistake #1: Skipping professional editing
It's easy to think that you can edit your book yourself or that a friend or loved one can do it for you. But that's not the only feedback you should get.
You should be self-editing. You should be sending it to trusted people in your circle for their opinions. But after that, you should be hiring a professional.
Many new authors try to skip this part because they falsely assume it’s not important in picture books. Not the case. In fact, I'd argue that it's MORE important in picture books than other genres but I may be a bit biased. 😅
But here's a fact: editing is so much more than correcting grammar and punctuation—it’s a crucial process and will make a difference in your story’s success and marketability.
First, an editor will look at the developmental components of the story like your plot, story arc, character development, language, vocabulary, etc.
They'll tell you when your introduction isn't strong and give suggestions on how to improve it. They'll point out that one of your characters doesn't serve a purpose or that your dialogue feels clunky. And they'll give you the boost you need when they identify the shining moments in your story - and help you make the whole book amplify those moments.
And that's just phase one!
After several rounds of developmental editing, you'll get the book copyedited and eventually, proofread. Check out the video below for more details! ⬇️
Mistake #2: Hiring an illustrator before editing
Editing comes BEFORE illustrations when you're publishing a children's book. Wait, let me say that again. Editing comes before illustrations.
Unfortunately, I see this mistake all the time: a new author will finish their first draft and go hire an illustrator. And once the art is done, they send it to an editor...
...only to find out that their book needs a lot of work still. The story is riddled with plot holes, unnecessary characters or scenes, and other small things that make a big difference.
So the author gets to work, revising, revising, revising but then...
...the book doesn't match the art anymore. So now, they're faced with a choice: try to shoehorn the story around the art, knowing the book won't be as good as it can be, or get the whole book re-illustrated. 😫
I can’t emphasize this enough: a first draft is NOT ready for illustrations, no matter who you are. Even the most famous picture book authors on your bookshelf use professional editors and have an editing process. So you should too!
Mistake #3: Trying to spend little to no money
Speaking of illustrations, don‘t cut corners on cost because quality costs money. Self publishing is expensive so if finances are a concern, pursue traditional publishing instead.
In picture books, the illustrations make up half the story so they need to be captivating! Plus, illustrators deserve fair pay. One illustration can take 12-35+ hours (depending on the style and the illustrator) which means that if they charge $100 per illustration, they’re only making $2-8+ per hour.
Imagine being in their shoes and be respectful of their rates and their time. And if you really can’t afford them, stop for a while to save up or run a Kickstarter. (Or see if traditional publishing is a better fit!)
Be honest with yourself. If you were in a bookstore and a cheaply made book sat beside professional quality ones, you’d have one of several reactions. Perhaps you’d make a joke about how the book was low budget and move on, or not notice it at all. Or maybe you’d buy it as a gag gift. My point is that you need to think like a buyer. If your book looks cheap, it will get ignored or criticized.
If you need recommendations for professional editors and illustrators, check out our list.
Mistake #4: Publishing prior to marketing
Another mistake I see all the time is waiting to market until after publication. But to be successful, marketing needs to start BEFORE publishing your book. I have this interaction on a regular basis:
Author: “I need marketing help!”
Me: ”Sure thing! What does your current marketing plan look like? Let’s start by figuring out what’s working and what’s not so we can optimize and expand your strategies.”
Me: “So that’s something you’ll need. We’ll get to that in a bit. What marketing strategies have you tried?”
Author: “I’ve posted on social media.”
Me: “Great! What kinds of groups have you posted in?”
Author: “…author groups…”
***insert conversation about how authors are not your target audience***
Author: “Wow, I had no idea about any of this…”
Here’s the thing: it’s okay to not know what you’re doing. That’s where we all start out! But it’s not okay to never learn and expect amazing results. If you want to make money as an author, you need to treat this like a business.
Don’t release your book the moment you have the files. Everything you do needs a strategy, especially a book release. Give yourself a minimum of 6-8 weeks (preferably more!) to market like crazy before your book is published. Trust me, you will see the difference.
Mistake #5: Looking for a "self-publisher"
When you choose to self-publish, YOU are the publisher. There are two main ways: you can print your book in bulk (offset printing) and then get a Seller Central account to sell them on Amazon. You can also sell them on your own website.
The second way is by using a print-on-demand company like KDP or IngramSpark. These companies act as a printer and distributor, making your book available on sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. When a customer orders your book from one of those sites, the POD company prints it, ships it to them, and sends you money.
But whatever you do, don’t pay a “self-publisher” because they’ll just self-publish YOUR book under THEIR name—which isn’t a good thing for you. Read this post to learn more about the different types of "publishing companies" out there.
Publishing isn’t an industry where you can easily learn as you go. Often, that’s how new authors get in trouble, make expensive mistakes, and fail to themselves up for success. The good news is that you can do this! Take it one step at a time and learn everything you can upfront.
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