6 Self-Publishing Missteps You Should Avoid

Welcome British author and blogger Terry Tyler! She’s here to point out self-publishing missteps she’s made. Can you relate?

Regrets, I Have a Few

Image by Philippa Willitts

Firstly I’d like to thank Molly for inviting me to guest on her blog. I’m writing about my self-publishing regrets, as when I first started I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing! I’d like to pinpoint a random selection of mistakes I’ve made along the way, in the hope that readers can avoid them.

1. Research the self-publishing industry before you dive in
I wish I’d thought to research self-publishing before I plunged in! Back in 2010 I’d written this novel (not my first), and my sister showed me an article about John Locke and suggested I try Amazon KDP, too – so I did, without having a clue about how to promote it. (Incidentally, I wonder how many other people have self-published after reading an article about John Locke?!) So, anyway, You Wish got bunged up on Amazon, and I got my friends who’d read and liked it to write me reviews – which takes me to my first mistake…

2. Use restraint with book reviews from friends
… don’t get all your friends to write reviews for your book on the week it comes out, even if they’ve genuinely read and liked it, and especially not if they’ve never reviewed anything else. I can see now how pathetic it looked – they were real reviews from people who’d enjoyed it, but it still looked as though I was just getting anyone who’d got an Amazon account to shove some words on for me! There’s no reason why your friends can’t review your books – but do intersperse them with ones from the reading public and book bloggers!

3. Pay a professional proofreader
I wish I’d understood the importance of proper proofreading. My first three novels did not have this, and, thus, had mistakes in them. I’m not talking anything horrendous, just missed words and typos, but I think now that any more than five mistakes is not acceptable. I think I had some minor grammatical errors in them; not anything that would be picked out by the majority of people, but maybe enough for some of the nine thousand people who downloaded it in my first free promotion to think, hmm, good story, but needs an edit. I won’t buy another by her. Having said that, they’ve all got wonderful reviews (no, not all from my friends!), and one of them won an award, but they could be so much better, and might have secured more success for me with my second three – which are far more professionally finished but have sold less.

4. Don’t rush to publish
I wish I hadn’t been in so much hurry to publish my second book, Nobody’s Fault – for the first five months of its Amazon life it had a really rubbish cover, because I couldn’t wait for it to be done properly! That’s rectified now, and the cover is excellent and in line with my three other contemporary dramas; but I still regret that mistake. With its first free promotion it got to #2 in the UK free chart (my first book, You Wish, was at #1 at the time!) and afterwards it got as high as #96 in the paid chart, but I think it might have done as well as You Wish (which got as high as #24 paid) if I’d waited for the decent cover. It only sold half as many. Whether it means giving your book that final edit to make each sentence as tight as possible, or getting the best cover you can afford, it always pays not to be in a hurry to publish!

5. Build your author’s platform
I wish I’d understood the meaning of ‘building your online presence’; it’s only in the last year that I’ve been doing that, really. It doesn’t just mean signing up for all the social networking sites, making a few fellow writer chums and churning out tweets and Facebook author page posts about your books twice a week; it’s about interaction with all sorts of people, blogging, commenting on other blogs, being interviewed, helping others with their promotion – and writing about things other than self-publishing! Now, I have two blogs; one is on the UK Arts Directory (I was asked to do this after establishing the aforementioned online presence – hurrah, it works!!!), on which I write about the industry and give book recommendations, but my own blog I keep mostly for anything but my books. A blog solely about your ‘self-publishing journey’ is only of interest to your mum and a few other writers – and you want your potential reading public to read your posts as well!

6. Use Twitter wisely
Another regret is that I may have put off some potential readers by using Twitter unwisely – i.e., by doing three hundred retweets per day, and little else! This makes you very popular with your fellow authors, but, alas, you run the risk of getting unfollowed by all those non-writers who only follow about two hundred people and don’t want to see the endless stream of book retweets from writers they haven’t chosen to follow. Yes, we all need retweets, but nothing but book posts puts off the rest of the world – big style. I do about seventy a day now, and try not to do them all at once. I’m sure I used to get unfollowed by lots of people, simply because I was too busy retweeting to look at the news feed and see what other people were talking about. It’s impossible to get the balance exactly right – but I’m trying! Note: Need help? Twitter Tips (not just) For Newbies.

Thanks again to Molly for allowing me into her blogspace, and if I have stopped even one person from making some of the blunders I’ve made, then my work is done – thank you for reading!

Terry TylerTerry Tyler has written six novels in the genre of contemporary fiction/drama/romance, and two lighter rock romances, which can be found by visiting Terry’s Amazon Author page: Amazon UK, Amazon.com. Her short story collection, Nine Lives, is now available.

Readers, can you relate? The self-publishing learning curve can be rough. What have you done that you wish you could do over? What have you learned that you can share with other readers?

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44 Responses to 6 Self-Publishing Missteps You Should Avoid

  1. Debbie Young November 11, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    What a generous, frank account, Terry – so selfless of you to help others learn by your mistakes. Thank you so much for sharing, and well done Molly for inviting her!

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      I agree, Debbie, thanks! And thanks so much to Terry for sharing her experiences!

    • Terry Tyler November 12, 2013 at 2:00 am #

      Thank you, Debbie! I see people doing all these, and worse….. thank you for your comment, by the way! x

  2. Anne R. Allen November 11, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    So true! I’ve watched so many newbies follow this path exactly. John Locke has a lot to answer for, especially since his success came partly from cheating with purchased reviews.

    And all those tweets! Authors are always asking other authors to tweet their books, with no idea that it can seriously damage the other author’s Twitter presence. I only Tweet books I’ve read, that are in a genre my Tweeps might like, and are on sale or just got a great review.

    Thanks for the frank piece, full of good advice.

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      I agree! Two years ago all I tweeted was book sale links. Now I tweet them out very sparingly – and instead, I try to share blog post links that add value, in hopes they will lead readers to authors’ websites that way. Will the learning curve never end???

    • Terry Tyler November 12, 2013 at 2:03 am #

      I think John’s success also came from having contacts in the industry, Anne, and also, quite simply, from being the one to drive the bandwagon. Oh, yes, I so agree about those authors-tweeting-authors churned out scheduled tweets; I hate them! They’re so obviously not from anyone who has read the books. I DO do RTs, and will very occasionally give a tweet boost to a friend’s new book, but yes, like you, I’ll only tweet books or blogs that I can personally recommend.

  3. Pamela Beason November 11, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Thanks, Terry (and Molly). I particularly agree with the professional proofreader comment. I have started many self-published ebooks that I never finished because they contained so many grammar and spelling errors. There was probably a good story in there somewhere, but I wasn’t willing to wade through the tangled mess to find it.

    If you’re going to be a professional writer, you need to master the craft or find someone to help you polish your work before you publish it. After all, you wouldn’t hire a plumber who thought a few leaks were acceptable, would you?

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      LOL! Perfect example. Thanks, Pam!

    • Terry Tyler November 12, 2013 at 2:07 am #

      Pamela, no, absolutely not! The problem is that I thought they WERE error free, as I didn’t realise about those missing words that you never see yourself. Luckily my grammar and punctuation is spot on, and indeed I wouldn’t have begun to write a novel if it wasn’t; it’s just the odd errors (and I don’t mean they were full of them, by any means – only a couple of reviews have ever mentioned them). The thing that always amazes me is when people start to write a novel without knowing how to write proper English; like you with your plumber analogy, I always say that it’s like trying to build a house without knowing how to lay bricks….

      • Derrick R Bickley November 12, 2013 at 2:25 am #

        I’m reading a 600-page hardback Tom Clancy novel at the moment and have come across four or five typos, so it happens at the highest level. That in no way devalues your comments. They shouldn’t be happening at any level.

        • Molly Greene November 12, 2013 at 9:03 am #

          I know Derrick, I once came across a POV change mid-scene in a well-known authors’ book. Two reactions: 1) I was glad I knew enough to “see” it, and 2) It was good to know even the top sellers’ proofreaders miss a few things! … and yes, we strive for 0.

  4. Pamela November 11, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Yes, I can relate. However, on the other side of the see saw, sometimes I think I wait and read/research too much instead of just going ahead and publishing. However, it did help a lot that I got my blog established first, and a Facebook presence. I still can’t figure out if Twitter helps at all. I do NOT like the fact that most of the people I follow just market their own books. Not interesting. I do retweet a neat blog post I’ve read, or a good quote. I’ve published 2 e-books in the past year and love my reviews, even though I wish I had more of them. I’m about to now publish one of those books as a softback, and will try to market it better (but not nauseatingly!!). 🙂 Thanks for a great post.

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

      Exactly, Pamela. We need to find that happy medium! Best to you on your softcover launch!

    • Terry Tyler November 12, 2013 at 2:09 am #

      I can see how you can read and research too much, yes. As for people who only promote themselves – well, they’re the ones for whom Twitter doesn’t ‘work’, no. For me, it’s been marvellous – it’s where I’ve found nearly all of my regular readers.

  5. Kelly O'Callan November 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Thank you ever so much for these helpful tidbits. I am not a salesman by nature, so I have a lot to learn! 🙂

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      Thanks, Kelly. We all have a lot to learn, so we’re in it together!

  6. D.G. Kaye November 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Thanks Terry and Molly for sharing this honest advice. I will up my game! I will still be tweeting all Molly’s great advice. 🙂

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

      Hahaha! Thanks, D.G.

  7. Elizabeth Ducie November 11, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    Thanks Molly for inviting Terry in, and thanks Terry for a great post. We’re all learning about this relatively new world of indie publishing and especially epublishing, and I guess we all have to find out what works for each of us – but it certainly helps to have someone highlight what doesn’t work.

    • Terry Tyler November 12, 2013 at 2:12 am #

      Thanks, Kelly, DG and Elizabeth for reading and commenting! I’m glad to have been of help. I do have another blog on the UK Arts Directory (@ukartsdirectory) which features a lot of posts about self-publishing.

      • Molly Greene November 12, 2013 at 9:04 am #

        Of course! Leave the link in a comment.

  8. D.J Bowman-Smith November 12, 2013 at 1:54 am #

    Thanks for this,
    Yes I think not being in a rush is most important. There is no deadline (only the one in your head) so take your time.

    • Terry Tyler November 12, 2013 at 9:44 am #

      You’re welcome, Kimberly and DJ – I’m just glad it’s been a help to some people! Link to my UK Arts Directory blog in the ‘website’ bit, Molly

  9. kimberly wenzler November 12, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Thank you for this!

  10. Abbey Romney November 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Great advice! Thanks!

  11. Patti Greene November 12, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    Great article.

    I wish more people would review books on Amazon though! It is so helpful for the readers and the authors.

    After reading your article, I felt pretty good about how I handled writing my first book, but I was a librarian for a long time, and I think that gave me a head start in that area.
    I would suggest that anyone who wants to write,to just write a little every day, even if it is only a sentence or two. When the time is “write”, go for it. Have a great day.


    • Terry Tyler November 13, 2013 at 5:08 am #

      Patti, I wish that, too! When people tell me they’ve loved one of my books I always want to say, please can you write me a review, then? But I don’t like to – I used to at first but I don’t anymore.

      I get that your librarian experience was a help – I was quite happy with the content of my first book and indeed it’s done very well for me, but I could have presented that and my second one slightly better. I didn’t even have a blog for the first six months!

  12. Sammy November 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    Thanks for the awesome advice! You’ve given me a lot to think about. I personally think building an author platform is one of the most difficult things. Sigh.

    • Terry Tyler November 13, 2013 at 5:09 am #

      You’re welcome, Sammy! Yes, it is hard – it also takes TIME, time you’d often rather spend doing other things. But it’s worth it – good luck! xx

  13. Jenny Lloyd November 12, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

    I’ve made all of the above mistakes and more. I remember feeling so relieved when I finally published my first novel, mistakenly thinking I could sit back, relax and get on with writing the sequel. I never imagined how much of my time I would spend from then on just trying to get the thing noticed! I also didn’t anticipate how many marvelous people I would meet through social media. I’m still trying to get the balance right in how to divide my limited time between writing and being online. Advice like this is always helpful.

    The only thing on Terry’s list I didn’t do was to ask friends for reviews. I was ‘proving myself’ with that first novel. I had no idea if people would like my writing or not. If you ask friends to review for you then they are likely to give you a good review whatever, so how can you know if they’re genuine? It would be self defeating.

    One thing I’d like to ask. If someone retweets you, do you always retweet them back? I do and this makes it very hard to limit the number of tweets I send out in a day. How do you limit your tweets without risking offending anyone?
    Someone tell me, please!

    • Molly Greene November 13, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

      Thanks, Jenny. I am no longer able to RT everyone who tweets on my behalf. One way to thank people for RTs is to tweet a sinlge tweet with multiple @mentions in it — “TY 4 RTS! @zzzz, @zzzz, @zzzz … and so on. Hope this helps!

      • Terry Tyler November 15, 2013 at 3:24 am #

        I wouldn’t thank people who RT me because they want one back; that’s just taking the piss. That ‘thank you’ could have been a returned RT. I do, however, thank in bulk (as Molly suggested) the people who RT because they’re just being helpful, not because they want one back. 🙂

    • Terry Tyler November 15, 2013 at 3:20 am #

      Jenny – the only friends I asked to review the book were those who had already read it in manuscript form and volunteered the information that they loved it. I sent the manuscript out to about 12 friends. 10 read it, 8 came back saying they really enjoyed it, in a sincere way (you can always tell!). When I published it on Amazon, nearly a year later, 6 bought the Kindle version and read again. Thus, these were genuine reviews from people who genuinely liked the book. They’ve also all bought my subsequent ones; there is no reason why friends can’t like your books; surely if they are good, this will follow? Of my, say, 4 best friends, one doesn’t read me because she hasn’t got a Kindle, two read everything of mine and love, and one doesn’t read me because she doesn’t like my type of book. I have one friend who I made via Facebook (friend of a friend) who LOVES all my books except one – and that one she didn’t review. Also, some people have become online friends because they’ve started to read my books; so they are now friends too.

      Re RTs, I get more than twice as many as I return every day. I used to try and return them all, now I don’t. I return those from all UK people, US people with whom I have contact, anyone who’s doing a free promotion, and things I think will be of interest to a lot of people. There are many who RT me on a regular basis that I don’t RT back – they can always stop if they don’t like it! I write a list every day, and just tick them off as I do them.

      Comment as long as the article syndrome….!!!

      • Terry Tyler November 15, 2013 at 3:45 am #

        …. Jenny, I just want to add to this that You Wish was the first novel that I published on Amazon, but I had written loads before – about 10 novels and several articles/funny bits for which I was quite well known on MySpace and Facebook, so some of these friends I knew liked the way I write. It wasn’t like I had just written a novel out of the blue and foisted it on a load of friends who felt honour bound to tell me they liked it!

  14. elaine pinkerton coleman November 14, 2013 at 5:43 am #

    Excellent reminders, Terry. Just one of my five books has been independently published, but with that one I’ve made mistakes even beyond those you’ve enumerated. Advice from the outside is sometimes not the best (I’ve been influenced by well-meaning but off-the-mark friends). Your advice is rock solid. After all, you’ve been there, done that – and come out triumphant. As I embark on the new edition of a nonfiction guidebook I’ve written for years and a novel to which I’m returning (started in 2006, simmering on the back burner since then), your suggestions are timely and extremely helpful. Thanks so much, to you, and to Molly. You both ROCK!

    • Molly Greene November 14, 2013 at 8:52 am #

      Thanks, Elaine! Sometimes even “paid” help tells authors to over-tweet (and offer various and sundry bad advice) so we all have to pay attention. Best to you on your upcoming projects!

    • Terry Tyler November 15, 2013 at 3:24 am #

      Thanks, Elaine! Yes – I think often the ‘book marketing experts’ are anything but….!

  15. Cindy November 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Well, since I’m a fan of both of you, I just have one comment: please keep writing (blogs, tweets, and books) because I am your reader:)

    • Terry Tyler November 15, 2013 at 3:25 am #

      Cynthia, always and just for you!!!!! xxxx

  16. Annie Harrower-Gray November 21, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    Thanks Terry for some really useful advice. People keep telling me promote your book on Twitter (I’m far too long-winded for tweeting) and Facebook. Turning things around and looking at this sort of promotion as a reader (at least three books a week), I’ve never bought or even borrowed a book plugged in this way. A lot of your gentler type of marketing ideas appeal to me as a reader. If I’m interested in what you have to say as a person, then I’m very likely to be curious about what you write, and like this too.

    This marketing sure is a steep learning curve and not just for authors who self-publish. I’ve just brought out a book ‘Suspicion and Superstition’ a dark social history of the Fife coast, with Create Space and Kindle. This book was commissioned by a publisher who was then taken over by another who lost all the material. I was compensated but was so worn out by the struggle, I decided to self-publish it. I have another book, ‘Scotland’s Hidden Harlots and Heroines’ coming out with Pen and Sword for International Women’s Day in March. Guess what? The amount of marketing I have to do is only a little less than what I’ll have to do what the self-published book. So your advice is good advice for both self-published and traditionally published. Thanks Terry

    • Terry Tyler November 25, 2013 at 6:02 am #

      Thank you for reading, Annie. I think there are so many different ways to promote, yes, and some sites don’t work for some people. Twitter does for me because I really like it, but I see Facebook more as a social thing. What makes people buy a book varies, too; for me, it’s nothing to do with whether or not I like the person, and all to do with the subject matter, which is why I include that in most tweets. I have bought a LOT of books via Twitter, but then I like the site, so I browse it with interest. Have you tried Goodreads? IN some ways I like that best of all, as there is no way of shoving things in people’s faces; it’s all about the reviews and the recommendations. It sounds as though that would suit you!

  17. Olivia Mungal December 14, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Terry. I’ll be publishing my first book in the next three months, so your advice is really helpful. Especially for those of us who don’t know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into!

  18. Daniel F Bowman March 4, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    It is amazing how helpful–and hard–it is to wait until the book is ready. But it is better to have one well done than many 3 stars.
    How do you balance the cost of potential sales vs the immediate costs of a cover and editing? How much is it worth spending up front?

    • Molly Greene March 4, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      Hey there, Daniel. You must have a professional book cover and a good content edit and proofread. My best advice is to interview and vet candidates and choose the one that fits your budget!