The 5 Biggest Mistakes I made in Self Publishing

Michelle Massie

2/2/20235 min read

It took me a couple of tries to get a good book out there. My first self-published book (I'm not even going to give you the title) was a complete disaster. I ended up unpublishing about a month after I put it on Amazon, and reworked that same manuscript.

Let the mistakes begin!

(I mean, besides publishing that first one. Too many mistakes to keep track of, really.)

Mistake #1!

Not using Editing/Proofreading Services. Anyone else been here? You’re brand new to the game, you’re broke, and I don’t know if you’ve checked around, but some Editors can cost upwards of $1500! Don’t know about you-I can’t afford that.

Nope, I decided I would Edit/Proofread on my own. Read a bunch of pins, and articles—got some great tips on how to proofread and edit my own work.

I even read the whole 74,000-word manuscript BACKWARDS to catch errors. Downloaded ProWritingAid. Totally can do it on my own, right?

WRONG. As my first buyer of the eBook, my husband pointed out a glaring error, on the Dedication page. Yup, before I even got to the book I had screwed up and not noticed it.

Editing your own work can be done, but remember, it is extremely difficult to catch 100% of your own errors. I’d say close to impossible. I found errors that my software didn’t pick up on. Like intermixing the words ‘from’ and ‘form’. The software is not infallible. (Though it is definitely helpful.)

Editing and Proofreading are essential for a professional-looking book. Shop around, look for freelancers, and compare costs.

At the very least, get your smart sister or best friend to go over it with a microscope. I use Fiverr religiously for these services, and you can find proofreaders and editors for various costs. Do your research.

Mistake #2!

Patience. Or lack thereof. PATIENCE. This should probably be mistake # 1--oh well. I published my first book on Kindle without being ready. Besides not having it edited or proofread, I had an iffy cover and had no idea how Amazon worked.

My book was not ready. The biggest sign it was not ready? I was too scared to market it.

That’s right folks--too scared to market it. It wasn’t quality work and I wasn’t ready to admit it. The only people who had read it were my mother and father-in-law. Not the best critics. My father-in-law pointed out a scene to me that didn’t even make sense. He said it seemed “rushed.”

I said, "Yup, it probably was."

BAD sign, folks.

Does a scene feel rushed? Something you don’t feel 100% sure about? Then wait. Figure it out. Get another opinion. Do not send something to publish you don’t absolutely love.

You have already spent that much time on it, why mess it up now?

I was absolutely horrified to see that book on Goodreads a couple of weeks ago. I don’t want people to read the first version. I don’t even want my name associated with it!

(It has since been unpublished. Whew.)

Mistake #3

Not nailing down my target audience. I knew who I wanted my target audience to be. Young adult! Teenagers! So, why, why, WHY did I insist on making my book cover for an adult reader?

I know why now. Because I wanted my friends and family to read it. I wanted it to look awesome. But what teenager would have thought my book looked engaging to read? Not a one.

I went through 3 book covers and 3 different designers before I finally nailed down my cover. The first 2 looked great, gave the designers great reviews, and was so excited—but what tween thought a compass and a journal looked cool?

I finally took the advice I had been reading all over the Internet. Go on Amazon, and look up books comparable to your category and age group.

When I finally did, I could have slapped myself in the face. Do your research. Compare your book cover, title, synopsis—all the good stuff—to what’s out there. See what keywords they use in descriptions and titles, what they use on book covers, etc. They are who you are competing with.

Mistake #4

Wasting money I did not have. Like I said, 3 different cover designers. Granted, the first two weren’t terribly expensive, but it was still my hard-earned mula that went down the toilet. RESEARCH.

I also hired the wrong type of editor first. She was awesome, gave great tips, and even did some proofreading. I thought, “Hey, proofreading and editing! I’d be all done!”

But . . . I hired the wrong editor.

Related Article Here: Are Editors Necessary for A Great Novel?

She was a LINE editor. She made sure sentence structure worked, words were right, etc, etc. I first needed a DEVELOPMENTAL editor, to examine my story overall, and tell me how the plot was structured well and if the characters made sense. You know, the BIG stuff.

So, I had to hire one of those next! More wasted time and wasted money. Soooo much wasted time and money.

Hire the right editor first. Developmental editors focus on the story’s theme, plot, characters, and structure. Kind of the big picture. Does your book make sense? Do you have a nice character arc? Any plot holes?

Line editors focus on the language, sentences, etc. There are also Copy editors, whose main job is to catch errors, spacing, formatting, word tense, that sort of thing.

Proofreading should be the last thing done! You’ve got your book exactly how you love it, polished and practically perfect, now hire a Proofreader to find those missing commas, or that teeny tiny spelling error. In my opinion, 100% necessary.

Mistake #5

Integrating too many different programs into one project. This one may seem kind of weird-but it caused me mega troubles so I’m going to let you know what I did wrong. I started in Scrivener, a software program especially for writing books. I absolutely love it.

Why? I could keep everything in one place. All my notes, research, outlines, pictures--everything. I take a lot of notes, do a lot of character journals, back stories, you name it. Scrivener keeps everything beautiful and organized. Easy!

Toward the end of my book, (or what I thought was the end-ahem) I read a great article on a new program, Atticus. I was excited about it, especially when I heard how easy it was to publish your book on Amazon with it. It sold me. I transferred my almost-finished book to Atticus and picked up where I left off.

Whoa-big problems. Atticus (while it is awesome) is not the best for the writing portion of your book. It is what you use when formatting your book for publishing. Like, you are 150% done with proofreading, editing, rereading, every single thing.

I jumped into Atticus, made edits, took out stuff, and added stuff. Then decided to get back into Scrivener. Didn’t work. Copying and pasting into Scrivener from Atticus is iffy, and actually deleted a whole chapter out of Atticus. (Backup often!)

I couldn’t compile it directly into Scrivener, and putting it into Word did not keep all the formatting changes. Could it be done? Possibly. But with as much time as my husband and I researched and our multiple attempts, finally I stuck it out with Atticus.

In conclusion, I used Atticus too soon. RESEARCH. My recommendation is to use a program like Scrivener, Word, or Google Docs (and there is a ton more) to write and polish your manuscript.

When you are ready to publish, hit the Atticus button. It made publishing a breeze, and I loved how easy it was to format how I wanted. You can even preview how it looks on the phone to make sure everything comes out perfectly. Very worth it.

I hope anyone reading this finds it helpful. I hope I put the brakes on some future mistakes, and I truly hope this helps make the process of Self Publishing a teeny bit easier!

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