Lack of Editing – Hands down, one of the biggest mistakes self-published authors make is cutting corners on editing. Unfortunately, just because your cousin is a high school English teacher, it doesn’t mean she’s qualified to edit your manuscript.
Professional editing is essential to the success of your book. Not only can editors make your manuscript better, they follow industry standard style guides that most average people don’t even know about. There are also several different types of editing:
- Developmental Editing – The editor suggests changes to the storyline, character development, and other areas that need improvement, and then the author incorporates changes.
- Substantive Editing – The editor rewrites portions of the manuscript to improve the flow, clarify points, and generally make the work better.
- Copy Editing – The editor focuses on sentence structure, removing redundancies, improving word usage and providing alternative words that strengthen the work.
- Proofreading – The final phase of editing to check for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.
While not all writers need developmental or even substantive editing, every manuscript will benefit from copy editing and proofreading. Because editing is a human function and no editor is perfect, ideally you should have three to five professional editors (people who edit manuscripts for a living) review your work before it goes press.
Unprofessional Cover Design – The old adage that we judge a book by its cover is completely true. One of the best ways to overcome some of the stigma that exists around self-publishing is to have an experienced book cover designer create a dazzling cover.
Ultimately, your cover should look like it was produced by a big New York publishing house. Please, please, please do not let your cousin, sister, friend’s aunt, or an inexpensive overseas contractor design the part of your book that is going to make the first impression with potential readers.
Wrong Publishing Company Name – If you are publishing your book with a “big box” publisher, like CreateSpace or IngramSpark, be sure to establish your own publishing company name. Allowing your brand to be associated with self-publishing services instantly tells media pros and potential readers that you’re self-published.
When deciding on a publishing company name, try to choose something that sounds like a legitimate publishing company. If your name is Annie Author, avoid using something like “Annie’s Publishing Co.” Remember, the goal is to create a professionally-produced book that doesn’t look like it was self-published.
Problematic Typesetting – The interior pages of your book should be professionally laid out (typeset) by a graphic designer work works with book formatting on a daily basis. Typesetting a book for printing is usually done in graphic design software, and pagination is a big part of the process. Chapters need to start on the right, chapter headings need to be consistent throughout and fonts need to be consistent. If you’re a big do-it-yourselfer, you may be able to do this on your own, but we suggest that this is a function better left to the pros.
Also, note that fonts should be in the serif family for easier reading—and to ensure the book looks professional. Readers don’t want to spend hours reading books typeset in Arial fonts or Comic Sans.
Weak Jacket Copy – The description of your book that goes on the jacket is typically the same sales copy that will be published on Amazon, BN.com, etc. This description is often your only chance to convince a reader to buy the book, which means that it must sizzle and convince a potential reader to fork over some cash.
For nonfiction, jacket copy should explain the benefits for the reader. For memoir and fiction, the copy should summarize a compelling story. If you’re not experienced with copywriting, this is an important element that you may want to outsource to a freelancer.
Erroneous Book Pricing – A sure sign of a self-published book is when its price doesn’t align with others in the genre. For example, if you’ve authored a short, 100-page self-development book, don’t price the paperback at $24.99. When you do a little research into the genre, you’ll find that a short nonfiction book will more likely land in the $14.99 price range.
You also need to make sure you allow for enough margin to make a profit. Using the same example, your 100-page trade paperback will likely have a wholesale cost between $3 to $5, depending on your printer. When you set the retail price at $14.99, Amazon and other retailers will typically take around 50% off the cover price, thus paying you $7.50 for the book. If your wholesale price is $4.00, you will earn $3.50 per book. Make sure to run these calculations before setting your retail price.
Forgotten Marketing – Waiting until the book is published is the worst time to think about marketing! Ideally, your marketing plans should begin as far in advance as possible. This can mean months or years before the book is released. Do yourself a favor and start establishing a marketing plan long before your next book becomes available.