Thursday, December 6, 2012

Everything I did wrong: Self-Publishing

"I won't put a scratch on it! I promise!"
Updated 1/2/24

Many first-time authors focus on publishing the way a pregnant woman focuses on birth. The soon-to-be mother thinks, “I'm going to have a baby!” not “I'm going to have a sullen teenager who hates me and bashes up my car.”

Your book won't hate you, but you will hate yourself if you don't prepare for its future.

I made a number of critical mistakes in publishing both my print and eBooks.

If you don't do what I did, your book won't have so many accidents later on.

My first mistake: I didn't prepare.

  • I didn't have a website in place several months before my books were published. 
  • I didn't create “buzz” by announcing my upcoming book to the relevant audience. 
  • I didn't contact reviewers four months in advance of publication (for eBooks). 
  • I didn't have a cover for my eBook ready before the publication date (to send to reviewers). 
  • I didn't schedule talks and appearances to coincide with the publication date.

Instead of doing all these things before the publication date, I did them afterward.

And now my book has bashed up my car.

This is what you should do:

1. Launch your website now. If you don't have a book published, just put your photo and bio on the home page (see Designing an Author's Website). Begin a blog. You are a writer, so take your blog seriously. Write about your area of expertise if you write non-fiction. If you write fiction, you can write about anything, as long as it is entertaining and/or informative. Unless it is a sample chapter of your upcoming book, do not post unpublished work on your website! An author's website is supposed to showcase his or her accomplishments. (And don't forget your "contact us" page. You never know when an agent might be reading your blog.)

2. Five months before the publication date start working on your eBook cover. Don't do this yourself unless you have a flair for design. Hire an eBook designer, not a graphic designer. There are many online. Make sure you look at their portfolios first. You can also contact writers who have eye-catching eBook covers and ask them who the designer was.

3. Four months before your book is published, contact reviewers and send them the galleys. (For eBooks, reviewers may simply request a PDF file.)

4. Two months before the publication date, start scheduling talks and appearances. Don’t limit yourself to bookstores. You can give talks at schools, businesses, in retail stores, to organizations — it all depends on what your subject matter is.

5. Six weeks before the publication date start contacting groups and organizations which might be interested in promoting your upcoming book. They may ignore you at first, but do it anyway. Keep asking. Requests can simply be overlooked if they are only made once.

6. Maintain your blog. Two entries a week is enough. Blogs help keep you writing, even on those “off” days. The more you publish — anywhere — the more visibility you will have. You can blog about everything you did right.

Helpful resources:


  1. Thanks for connecting and writing such an eye opener.
    Best Wishes from a fellow traveller,
    madhavi sood

  2. There's a lot here to consider. I've got so much work to do. A great blog. Keep going. Art Rein.

  3. I tried self-publishing an ebook a few months ago, but I didn't know what to do and when to do it when it came to promotion. I'd had a bad experience with a small publisher (now defunct), so I thought I could do it, myself, and avoid the headache. Your post is good advice. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I love your sense of humor and advice. Beryl

  5. I am not sure that I agree with all the steps suggested in this article, but then again I see where she is coming from. A couple of years ago, I had this wonderful inspiration to self-publish. This came after years of doing the standard submission thing to publishers and getting a draw full of rejection letters with no explanation of what was wrong with the story or why it was rejected. So, with a great deal of optimism, I boldly when to Amazon and uploaded my first story. Train wreck! The first thing I found out was that you can’t use the standard submission formatting, and then spent a week re-formatting my story until it came out the way I wanted. Amazon has a ‘bot’ that takes your manuscript and formats it for Amazon’s Kindle book reader. This centered, not left justified to start with. Anyway, I got it up and sat back expectantly thinking of how I was going to have the next best seller. Then the reviews started appearing and I ran off and hid for about a week. Do not post any story that hasn’t been edited to the nth degree, or the reviewer will slay you. In the end I broke down and spent the money to get the story professionally edited and proofread. Even so, there are still a few odd errors in the manuscript. Thankfully, many of the readers were forgiving enough to write some very encouraging review. To date (eighteen months) I have posted five stories that are selling very well. How well you ask? Let’s just say an embarrassing number of books for an unknown writer, at least for me it is. The best advice I can give to any writer, just go do it. Make the mistakes, learn and do it again.

    Rob Buckman

  6. This is a good blog and very helpful. I do self-publishing through Create Space as my I was rejected by too many publishers. I found the formatting and writing the simple part--it was the research and editing that took all the work. Since I know how to write and edit that saved me a great deal of money. Writing is such a competitive and subjective business--you got to love it and have a thick skin to keep going.


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