Writing Your First Book? How to Avoid Self-Publishing Regrets

Writing Your First Book? How to Avoid Self-Publishing Regrets

Have you written a story you’re eager for the world to see? If you just typed the words “The End” you’re probably anxious to see your book in print stat.

Then you might consider self-publishing. It’s a simple and fast publishing route that can help you see your book in print.

But slow down!

I was once as eager as you are. I wrote my first novella, Where the Darkness Ends, in August of 2013. By September, I already had the book in hand.

And now I completely regret it.

Why I regret rushing into self-publishing

I’m not afraid to admit the first book I ever published wasn’t very good. I hadn’t done much longform writing before, and I didn’t even let anyone read it before publishing it.

Sure, people have told me they liked the book, but I could have done so much more with it if I took my time.

The problem is even though you can make updates to a book, you can’t get rid of it once you publish it. Amazon and Goodreads will not remove books from your profile even if they’re out of print.

So you have the choice to put out a book that will need future changes, or you can do it right the first time and stand proud of your accomplishments.

I wish I had taken the time and money to produce a higher-quality book the first time.

How to avoid the regret

If you only want your best work out there for the public, I suggest following these tips to launch your book with confidence:

1. Take a breather

Between every self-edit, give yourself at least two weeks to clear your mind before going back to the story. This helps you spot grammatical errors and plot holes easier.

By the way, if you haven’t edited your book, you’re not ready to publish it. Edit for story elements like plot and characters, not just grammar and spelling.

2. Get feedback on your book

Take your time and let other people read and critique your work before you publish. That way, you can fix major plot holes, inconsistencies, character arcs, and other issues paying customers might have a problem with.

You might consider working with a professional editor, too.

3. Hire a proofreader

One thing I’ve learned that’s true of all authors is we simply are too close to our work to look at it objectively. It’s too easy to skim over errors like “your” vs. “you’re” because you’ll read your book the way you intended to write it.

Someone else can easily catch those errors, but if you don’t ask someone to do it, you’ll end up with reviewers pointing out your mistakes for you.

4. Pay for a professional cover

You’ve probably heard this a million times, but it needs repeating. Your book cover is your #1 marketing tool. It’s the first thing people will see, and it will either push them away from your book or draw them into the blurb, reviews, and excerpts to decide whether it’s worth buying or not.

This was the first cover for my novelette, In My Head. I created it myself using a stock image and Photoshop.

In My Head

Eventually, I purchased a professional cover from the designers at TheCoverCollection.com, and I have seen a lot more downloads after uploading the new cover to Amazon and other platforms.

In My Head Complete

Do yourself a favor and don’t try to create your own cover unless you’re also a designer. Most authors aren’t very good at this. With the exception of my current Where the Darkness Ends cover, all of my covers were professionally designed, and all my future books will have professionally designed covers.

WTDE EBook Cover

I put this one together using a stock image and Photoshop, but that was only after taking several graphic design classes. I still wouldn’t recommend it and no longer try to make my own covers. There are plenty of professional designers out there who can do a much better job and create unique artwork at an affordable price.

Designers are all over the place. Search on Facebook or Google, or ask around for recommendations from author friends, and you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a quality designer.

5. Have your marketing plan ready

With my first book, I thought if I put it out there, all my friends and family would be eager to buy it.

They weren’t.

Now when I publish books, I know which day it will go live, what types of promotions I’ll run and when, which promotional sites I’ll submit to, etc. I also set up blog tours and launch parties, and I design social media images before the book launches. Without a plan on how to get the word out, it’s unlikely you’ll get much exposure — if any — for your book.

You can be successful

None of this is to discount the credibility of self-publishing. I’m still an independent author. With my first full-length novel, Fire in Frost, I slowed down and put more time and money into the book. As a result, it’s earned several awards and dozens of favorable reviews.

A friend of mine once pointed out there’s a difference in mindset between self-publishing and independent publishing. Self-publishing implies you’re doing everything on your own. Independent publishing is more about building your own team, and that’s the route I’ve taken with all my full-length novels.

You can become a successful independent author, but it takes time, hard work, and sometimes a little bit of money.

Or you can rush into things and regret it. The choice is yours.

What have you learned about the challenges of self publishing? How have you adjusted your methods?

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

Traveler and blogger Chris Guillebeau

Featured resource

Unconventional Guide to Publishing

Chris Guillebeau introduces the plan you need to finally share your book with the world. Make this your year of becoming an author.

29 comments

  • Beks says:

    Wow. That’s like reading my own publishing story.I did the EXACT same things you did, and now I’m completely embarrassed (well, not completely, but I’m definitely more cautious about what I want to send into the world). All great tips. 🙂

  • “[Y]ou’ll read your book the way you intended to write it.”

    Exactly! This is why we all need editors, and why editing is a profession in its own right.

    Let’s face it: If your book is edited only by amateurs, it is going to sound like it was written by an amateur.

    Every author starts out unpaid, but that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise professionalism. By the time you ask someone to pay money for your work, it is essential that you put yourself forward as a professional. That includes working with other professionals.

    I suggest that early in the project, every author should check out the suggested rate sheet of the Editorial Freelancers Association and budget accordingly: http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php This will help you avoid sticker shock when you later approach professional editors.

    I wish you success with all your literary endeavors!

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Freelance Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources
    http://www.epiclesisconsulting.com
    http://www.epiclesisconsulting.etsy.com

  • Thanks for the great post, Alicia. Recently self-published my first children’s book and the one mistake I think I really fell headlong into was no. 5. I thought I had a plan, but sticking things on social media alone isn’t going to sell books. Am now working through a much more focussed and clearer plan (which will involve a bit of money, but this is a long game and I see it as an investment in myself as well as my books). Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Alicia Rades says:

      I think one thing that’s hard about going the indie route is that we aren’t all talented at every aspect of the process, yet we’re responsible for it. Most of us aren’t designers. Some of us aren’t marketers. I recently hired a PA to help me with marketing, and I’m already starting to recoup the costs of hiring her.

  • Alexis Kaye says:

    What do you suggest for people who currently have no income, who just finished writing an inspirational novel (cannot afford an agent or to pay anyone prior to partial royalties after the book is published)? I am interested in going the traditional route but do not know if there are any traditional Christian publishing companies who will view unsolicited manuscripts. My other thought was either Amazon or digging deeper to find out how to get the greatest percentage of royalties, and free to publish and market.

    • I would suggest that you go to your local public library and look up two books from Writer’s Digest:

      Writer’s Market
      and
      Writer’s Guide to Literary Agents

      Read all the articles before you start digging around in the listings for publishers and agents who deal in your kind of work. When you decide to whom you would like to submit, follow their directions to the letter; they have worked hard to specify what works for them. Don’t send a manuscript if they ask for a query letter.

      Expect it to take time, and try to be patient.

      Best of luck!

      Trish O’Connor
      Epiclesis Consulting LLC
      Freelance Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources
      “Enhancing Spiritual Communication”
      epiclesisconsulting.com
      epiclesisconsulting.etsy.com

      • Alexis Kaye says:

        Thanks for your reply Trish. So there are agents who exist that do not cost any money? I was not aware of that. I already subscribe to Writers Digest emails, and will look for the two books you suggested at my local libraries. Are there any books you could recommend for trying to publish without an agent, with a traditional publishing company?

        Sincerely,

        Alexis

        • Alexis,

          Yes, there are agents who do not charge a fee until the book sells. In fact, the last I heard, the AAR, the Association for Authors’ Representatives, did not permit their members to charge upfront fees to clients. There is too much potential for abuse. If someone claiming to be a literary agent wants to charge you substantial fees before shopping your book to publishers, you should move on to query another agent. An agent should be paid a percentage of what the publisher pays you (usually 15%).

          It is also considered improper for an agent to charge you for editorial services or to accept money for referring you to a specific freelance editor. An agent may tell you that your manuscript needs work beyond the suggestions they are able to make as part of earning their own fee and recommend that you hire a freelance editor to help you, but they should make their money from selling your book, not editing it. Again, this is to prevent a serious conflict of interest that can result in the exploitation of authors.

          For the same reason, I have never added “agent” to the list of roles I will play for clients. Editor, proofreader, indexer, even ghostwriter, yes, but an agent should be a different person.

          It can be as hard to find an agent as to find a publisher, in some fields. Many small presses, especially in your niche, will consider authors without an agent. Writers Market will help you find some of them.

          Again, best of luck to you! I hope if you do end up deciding to budget for editing or at least a critique you will think of me, but no matter what, I wish you success with your book.

          Trish O’Connor
          Epiclesis Consulting LLC
          Freelance Editorial Services
          epiclesisconsulting.com
          epiclesisconsulting.etsy.com

    • Alicia Rades says:

      Alexis, the traditional Christian publishers are out there. I just don’t know of any off the top of my head. You’ll likely be working with a very small publishing house, but they should pay for the production for you. Here’s a list you could start with: http://www.westbowpress.com/Christian-Publishing-Companies-List-Directory.aspx

      Otherwise, if you want to go the self-publishing route, I have seen people crowdfund for their first book.

      • Alexis Kaye says:

        Dear Alicia,

        Thanks for taking time to read and respond, and for the link. Self-publishing is a last resort kind of thing. I will search through the list of Christian publishing companies on the list associated with the link you gave me.

        Sincerely,

        Alexis

  • Deanna says:

    Alicia, I’m on the brink of self-publishing my first middle-grade novel. I’ve actually done everything you’ve listed (all great ideas, by the way). And I’m formulating my marketing plan. However, I need to ask… what exactly is a “blog tour”?

    • Alicia Rades says:

      No problem! It’s a promo technique where you get bloggers to post about your book during a scheduled time frame. They usually post a synopsis with other promo material like excerpts, early reviews, or things like that, and they’ll all post during the same week (usually).

      • Deanna says:

        Thanks, Alicia! I imagine you have to network over a period of time to make connections with the right bloggers, huh? That might be something I can plan for my NEXT book! (Although, more information on that process would make an awesome post. Just saying!)

        • Alicia Rades says:

          Deanna,

          On my first books, I hired a tour company to manage it because they had a lot of connections already. There are plenty of people out there who offer this service. I personally used YA Bound Book tours. Now I have a PA who helps set that up. But it can definitely be done on your own, too.

          Hope this helps!

          Alicia Rades

          • Deanna says:

            Seriously? A tour company? I had no idea they existed! I knew I had a learning curve with this first book, but wow! I will definitely check that out. Thank you so much for the information. 🙂

          • Deanna says:

            Thank you, Alicia! You have been a huge help!

            Blog book tour, here I come!

          • Joy Timmons says:

            Alicia,

            I am Joy Timmons. I am an entrepreneur in dance, design and education and I want to design, write, publish and see my books about my careers. I have written the books already, but I want to make sure I did not leave anything out from my books. I can give my book content tomorrow and receive feedback from you before I move further in my books. Thank you so much and a great night.

          • Alicia Rades says:

            Hi Joy,

            I suggest hiring an editor to help you out since they’ll be able to give your book more attention.

  • Alicia, I hear these regrets all the time!

    Thst is why I have limited my editing services to proofreading and copyediting… and added an additional service: author assistant aide.

    As an English teacher-turned-freelancer, I am helping more and more people improve their books and their writing!

    Wording Well aims to please by offering stellar swervices at superb rates!

  • This is a great resource for new authors. The key takeaway here is that you really shouldn’t do it ALL by yourself. You need to invest in professional editing, cover design, etc. in order to have the best possible product.

  • good tips! thanks Alicia.

  • Kary Fontaine says:

    I’m thinking about using Smashword to self publish. They have lists for suggested editors, proofreaders and book designers thatalready do a lot of work for Smashword authors at low prices. It seems like a good place to start. What do you know about their services?

  • Danny J. Mashaw says:

    Here’s a little poem. With Only a Look There’s people among us who don’t haveto speak, their eyes can teach much like a book, they hld our attention, then tickle our souls, and do it with only a look. Now I’m not describing reactions like fear – not malice,not fury, nor hate, for these are emotions which most of us have, a fact which is hard to debate. I speak of a power not normally seen, which very few people possess, magnetic attraction, hypnotic allure,enchanting encounters at best. We’ve all met these people, yet few people know, awareness is sometimes concealed, a strong sense of focus, and truth must exist, an honest conviction revealed. So next time you notice an uncanny stare, or realize something mistook,then try to convey theemotions you feel – but try it with only a look. By: Danny J. Mashaw

  • Danny J. Mashaw says:

    I have been writing, and hording poetry for more than 30 years and I’ve accumulated quite a collection. I am seriously looking for someone to help me get these poems published. I am financially insecure at the moment and hoping to find a way to make some money. If anyone is seriously interested, please contact me. Thank You. Danny J. Mashaw P.O. Box 57 Morristown, N.Y. 13664 Phone: (315) 375 – 3076

  • Great content. It’s one year that I have started to write my first book which is related to PSC education.

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *