7 Self-Published Authors Share Their Biggest Mistakes

Self-publishing your book has more than a handful of advantages over traditional publishing. 

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You can follow your own timeline, control your story and the platform, and the royalties are usually higher — which is a big bonus.

But just like any newbie, there's plenty of ways to make mistakes 

From editing to book printing to marketing to PR, below are tips by 7 successful self-published authors on how to avoid the most common self-publishing mistakes.

Betty Kelly Sargent: Make marketing your first step

Betty Kelly Sargent is the Executive Editor of Harper Collins and Delacorte Press, and a book reviewer for CNN. 

Sargent points out that one of the biggest pitfalls for self-published authors is not marketing their book early enough.

Your book might be revolutionary, but if you don't have a strategic marketing plan mapped out before you even cross the last "t" in your story, it won't get the hype and attention it deserves once it's ready for the public. 

You need to create a buzz around your book well before the publishing date. Start with the basics:

  • Make sure you have an amazing author website and social media platforms for your book.
  • Stoke your fan's flame by holding a Twitter launch party for your book, post first-reveal pictures of your book's cover design, giving followers exclusive offers, and cross-promoting your book through other authors. 
  • Reach out to other self-published bloggers who would be willing to review and showcase your book to their audience (but you better be ready to do the same for them!). 
  • Arrange a book tour and readings at local bookstores and libraries at least 6 months before you book is released. 

Stephanie Bond: Know the business

Stephanie Bond, author of the book Stop The Wedding, has had her work published independently and traditionally through Harper Collins and Random House.

Bond's advice to self-published authors is to learn the business side of publishing and book printing. 

She emphasizes the necessity for authors to understand how to make important business decisions in a writing career — like how to effectively promote your book, how to find an agent, and how to manage your budget. 

If necessary, take a business course. Check out an online workshop for writers looking to learn more about the biz. You can also get business advice from other self-published authors you admire, and from active writer advice forums.

Nick Spalding: Don't let bad reviews get to you

Nick Spalding is a best-selling self-published author from the UK. His biggest advice? Don't get bummed out by bad reviews.

As sad as it is, not everyone is going to like your book. And although constructive criticism can be helpful, some people just like to make noise and troll your hard work.

Even J.K. Rowling has haters, so don't let negative reviews hold you back from moving forward in your career.

Spalding points out that it's not the 1 or 2 (or 10) negative reviews that count, it's the type of reviews you're getting on average that matter. So ignore the haters and keep on writing.

If your book is regularly getting poor reviews, it might be attracting the wrong readers. Make sure your book cover design is suitable for the genre and tone of the book, and that the back-cover copy is enticing to the right readers.

Mark Dawson: Get a proofreader

Self-published author Mark Dawson warns against trying to proofread your own manuscripts.

Dawson notes that you don't want to fall into the newbie trap of publishing your first draft. But no matter what draft you're on, you could be too close to your book to see slip-ups like clunky sentences or vague wording.

Dawson champions the benefits of hiring a professional editor. Not only does a professional editor afford you a fresh, objective pair of eyes, it ensures you send the best possible manuscript off to print.

Even if you're on a tight budget, you can join a writers' network where bloggers and self-published authors are willing to exchange manuscripts. Other skilled writers should pick up on grammatical or technical errors you may have missed.  

Don't send your book to print until it's been thoroughly combed through and revised — down to every comma and period.

Carter Niemeyer: Social media matters

Indie author Carter Niemeyer of Wolf Land and Wolfer uses his Facebook page as a springboard for his book sales. 

Make more fans and sell more copies of your book on Facebook >

Connecting with your readers and building a strong following on social media can be one of the strongest tools for selling more copies of your book. 

Post event dates, major milestones and snippets from your book to engage your readers. Make sure you regularly post engaging content, and that you're taking time to reply to readers' comments and questions.

Stay consistent and present on your social platforms, but don't overdo it. Oversharing with too many posts (or too personal of posts — readers don't need to know what you had for breakfast) will turn your followers away.

Discover how to sell more copies of your book on social media >

Liani Giles: Don't publish without planning

Liani Giles author of The Forgotten Flapper says that to successfully self-publish at a high caliber, you need to have a plan. 

Proper planning is important to achieving any dream. You've spent hours upon hours fine-tuning your manuscript, so now you need to plan your marketing strategies before your book goes to press so you can expect good results once it's released.

Create a book launch plan that includes the following elements:

  • Writing an engaging back cover description
  • Preparing a landing page on your author site for your book
  • Writing a press release
  • Drawing up a step by step process for each day of your launch - for example, day one, guest blog, day two, author interview etc.

Bethany Cadman: Don't give up

Bethany Cadman, author of Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers, advises indie authors to be patient with the process. 

Self-publishing, book printing, and marketing are complex processes with results that don't happen overnight. Even if your book's been out for a while, you can still sharpen your marketing skills to get more sales. 

When it comes to being a successful self-published author, taking your time and being consistent will help bring the best results. This means preparing and editing your manuscript fully before you publish, making sure you have the right book cover design, and following the same procedures of quality control for all of your books. Once you've got it right, stick to it.

Chances are, you're going to make mistakes when you're new to the game. But with the wise words of successful self-published authors as the wind in your sails, you've got a better shot at avoiding maelstroms and steering a true path toward publication.

With hard work and a little fairy dust, you might just find yourself landing a publishing deal with an interested publishing house when you least expect it. That's what happened to Steuben Press' very own self-published author, Al Arnold > 

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.


When I was looking for a printer for my first book I put the project on a nationwide search site. The very first applicant was Steuben Press. Their estimate remained competitive as more than thirty others flooded in. Since then, through two more books and multiple printings, Steuben Press has proved themselves efficient, timely, responsive, and when I call, it's like in "Cheers," a place they know your name. I recommend them without reservation.

– John McReynolds, California

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