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

by | May 11, 2016 | Self-Publishing, Publishing | 38 comments

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.

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.

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!