Expert Round-Up: What are some common mistakes self-published nonfiction authors make during the writing process?


Not marketing soon enough. While the heavy lifting of developing any book is of course writing (and editing) the tome—another round of herculean strength is required: promoting your book.

The promotional efforts must come before, during, and after the publication. Also, it is critical to execute other high-level quality controls in every facet of the manuscript production. And it may even be useful to focus group or screen your work amongst your target audience to maximize fit.


As a 20-time published author of several nonfiction children picture books and as a self-publishing consultant, the biggest mistakes authors make when self-publishing their books is not doing enough research and preparation.

For example, many authors self-publishing their first books do not understand trim size: what it is and why it is important to know before publishing a book. The trim size is the size of the book. Self-published authors who intend to publish through print-on-demand companies, such as
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or Ingram Spark, must be familiar with the trim size options available on the platforms, the costs associated with the trim sizes, and which trim sizes allow for expanded distribution. A lot goes into changing a trim size after publication. So knowing this
information ahead of time saves time, money, and stress.

For another example, many self-published authors fail to realize the importance of the KDP or Ingram Spark back offices. They utilize the back office only to upload their manuscript and publish their book. Self-published authors who want to have a chance to stand out among millions of books must research keywords and categories and conduct a thorough competitor analysis, then use this information to input their intentional metadata and craft a captivating book description.

Social Media Handles @Sugar Cookie Books


  1. Not determining their WHY—What is your purpose? Is it fame, fortune, positioning yourself as an expert? Whatever the reason may be this is the most important step on the journey. Your WHY must be greater than the logistics that go into planning, writing, editing, marketing, launching, and publishing. No matter what genre writing and publishing a book is not easy. Establishing a WHY will keep you going on the days you are not motivated to write or when you’re dealing with writer’s block.
  2. Not defining author brand—In today’s competitive book market an author must know who they are, what sets this apart from other authors, and what genres does their style of writing fit into.
  3. Not creating a business plan for their book—Becoming a published author is a business. An author business plan should include
    * What problem does their book solve?
    * What is the goal of their book?
    * What value does their book bring to the marketplace?
    * What resources do they need to be become a published author?
    * Constraints/and obstacles that may prevent them from publishing a book?
    * Who will benefit from their book?
  4. Not doing a competitive assessment—It’s good for an author to know the market and key book players. Every author should research the top 5 books in their genre. In doing research they should document the title, price, observations of the design of the book, document awards, recognitions, and reviews, and investigate where the book is being marketed.


As a writing coach and author, I have witnessed numerous aspiring writers dive headfirst into self-publishing, only to stumble upon a series of mistakes that cost them both time and money.

In my experience, the first and foremost mistake authors make is tackling the self-publishing process in the wrong order. The eagerness to see their books come to life often leads them to rush through critical stages like thorough editing, revising, and seeking feedback.

Another misstep I often encounter is the tendency to start marketing efforts too late. Authors frequently underestimate the time and effort required to build a solid author platform, establish an online presence, and cultivate an engaged audience. This often leads to the author starting their marketing once the book is published, instead of establishing an audience while they are actually writing their book.



1. If you have any sort of a following, presales are a wonderful way to fund your creation. However, if you go this route double (at minimum) your estimated length of time to publish. It is not easy to repeatedly announce delays, and impatient early supporters requesting refunds while you frantically work to get your book into the world will further impact the process of publication.

2. Invest In Help:

Self-publishing can be amazing. DIY publishing, on the other hand, is a path I would only suggest to the brave, bold, or foolhardy. I attempted to do it all—from design and layout to editing to marketing—on my own. I made more mistakes than I can count and dramatically extended the length of time it took to get the book to publication. Some of the mistakes (designing the book in photoshop instead of In Design) were costly—I am unable to create a
Kindle version without paying for a completely new layout.

3. Boost Your Income With Supplemental Products.

I created a card deck, prints, stickers, etc., to match the branding of my book, and offered bundles. Over time, these have drastically increased my income, many who come to my website or Etsy for the book also purchase additional products.


Nonfiction authors can make various mistakes throughout the writing process. Here are some common ones to be aware of:

Lack of Clarity: One common mistake is failing to communicate ideas. Nonfiction authors should strive for clarity and coherence to ensure readers can easily understand and follow their arguments.

Poor Organization: A lack of organization can make a nonfiction book confusing and difficult to navigate. Authors should structure their work effectively, using logical sequencing, subheadings, and transitions to guide readers through the content.

Overwhelming Amount of Information: Some authors may overload their readers with excessive information, leading to information fatigue. It’s important to strike a balance between providing enough information to support arguments and overwhelming the reader with unnecessary details.

Lack of Engaging Writing Style: Nonfiction books can become dry and unengaging if the writing style is overly formal or monotonous. Authors should strive to make their writing accessible, engaging, and conversational, using storytelling techniques, anecdotes, and examples to captivate the reader’s attention.

Ignoring the Target Audience: Failing to consider the needs and interests of the target audience is a common mistake. Nonfiction authors should understand their readership and tailor their writing to meet their expectations, addressing their concerns and providing valuable insights.

Poor Editing and Proofreading: Neglecting the editing and proofreading process can result in grammar and spelling errors, inconsistent formatting, and overall poor writing quality. Authors should invest time in revising their work or seek professional editing assistance to ensure a polished final product.

Lack of Unique Perspective: Nonfiction authors should bring their unique perspective and insights to the table. Rehashing existing information without adding a fresh perspective can make the book unremarkable. Authors should strive to offer new insights, unique experiences, or alternative viewpoints to make their work stand out.