5 Self Publishing Mistakes That Kill Your Book Before You Start

by | Jun 7, 2015 | Self Publishing Books

self publish“By a show of hands – who has published a book?”

My hand went up, along with about ten others.

I was surprised … this was an event FOR online content creators and only about 5% have published a book.

The speaker changed his question and said:

“How many of you want to publish a book?”

Almost 80% of the hands went up.

That’s a big gap between those who have written a book and those who want to do it.

Smart marketing companies have taken notice of that gap. It can be a bit daunting to write and publish and book, which is part of the reason there is the gap. To help would-be authors, many companies now offer a variety of packages to get your name on the cover of a book.

One package I’ve seen allows you to buy into a book with someone famous. There are usually many other people that will be a part of the same book. Each person will write a chapter that fits in with the theme of the book. The famous person has their name on the cover but you can buy and promote a version of the book that has your name and picture on the cover with the famous person.

This isn’t really writing your own book, but now you can say you wrote a book with Mr. or Mrs. famous person. In some circles this could be a credibility boost for you.

The ‘Business Card Book’ is also becoming quite popular these days. It’s usually a smaller book with around 10 chapters. You write the chapters and then the company offering the book package takes care of the editing, layout and publishing. You will even be invited to a big event where you launch your book and receive an award so you can promote yourself as an ‘award winning author’.

Again, this could be a credibility boost and it certainly allows you to get a book you’ve written into print format in an efficient way.

After self-publishing my own book I understand the appeal of hiring someone else to take care of all the details for you. There are a lot of little things to figure out, and there were days where I thought I would lose my mind as I encountered new challenges (like when I found out my books had to be made returnable in the US in order for Chapters and Indigo in Canada to buy and sell them in their stores). The only two things that were actually easy in the entire process were getting an ISBN number and getting my book listed on Amazon.com.

In working with a few of my business coaching clients who’ve opted to go the ‘Business Card Book’ route and chatting with other authors who’ve chosen to self publish on their own, I have noticed that there are a few very common mistakes many authors make before they even get their book on Amazon.

Here are the five mistakes you should avoid if you’re going to self publish a book:

1. Writing the Book for You

The two biggest questions you’re going to hear when you publish your book are:

  • What’s your book about?
  • Who did you write the book for?

Before you start writing, think carefully about how you can answer these questions with only one sentence. That’s who you’re going to be marketing and selling this book to. It’s really important.

You may also be asked “Why did you write the book?”

Think carefully about this because there are a lot of bad reasons to write a book.

sell your self published bookYears ago, I just really wanted to be able to say I’d written a book. Despite hundreds of articles published all over North America, I didn’t really feel like a writer without a book.

I came close to writing a book I didn’t care about just to get a book deal. Thankfully, I was turned down in the end.

Perhaps you feel the same way? Or, perhaps you want to write a book because you’ve had several friends say your story would make a great book?

I hate to tell you this, but your friends are unlikely to buy your book.

You’ll be lucky if your friends actually read the free copy you give them. So … their recommendation is probably not the one you really want to go with.

Maybe you believe a book will give you credibility and will open up doors that are currently closed to you. Well – it is going to help – but once the book is written your work has only just begun.

Your book being in print will not give you credibility. It’s only going to do that if your book is really good and you do a great job of marketing it.

Write your book because you have a message you believe in that you want to put out into the world. Write your book because there’s a unique story that you want to share because it will have an impact on others. Write your book because it’s going to solve a problem. And, write your book because you’re going to give it your all to make it a success because you know it’s a book that needs to be written.

2. Not building a platform to sell your book

One of the most devastating moments I’ve had as a writer was, after a couple of months of back and forth on a book proposal, one of Canada’s major publishing houses told me I wouldn’t be able to sell enough books to make this worth it for them to work with me.

Self Publishing and Selling on AmazonIt really hurt, but that kind of rejection made the success of my book so much sweeter. In it’s first week on the market my self published book sold close to 3,000 copies and went to #1 overall on Amazon.ca. It continues to sell decently well two years later too.

So what was the trick to such a powerful performance in it’s first week?

Did I buy a bunch of books and ask all my friends to buy copies too?

I just don’t have enough friends – and most of my friends asked me for free copies!

The ‘trick’ was that I had built a platform of loyal readers. I’d also spent time building relationships with others who had their own platform of loyal readers and clients.  And, I had a couple of friends and colleagues who were very generous in their support, giving me some of their own educational products to include as a give away bonus in the launch week.

If you’re planning to release a book at any point in the future you need to start building your own platform and relationships now. Do not wait until it’s time to sell your book.

3. Not Planning How You’ll Sell Your Book

Your book will not sell itself.

If you think you’re going to put a couple of posts on Facebook and have a little launch party and sell your book, you’re definitely not going to reach many people. You’ll be lucky to sell more than one hundred books that way.

That’s why I believe it’s so important to have a really good reason for writing a book. If you truly wrote your book to help other people then you’ll be really motivated to get that message out. If you wrote it to make yourself feel good or look good, then you won’t feel as strongly (typically) about asking a bunch of people to help support your book.

Before your book is done you need to sit down and create a marketing plan and timeline of activities to sell your book. This video talks about the five best ways to sell your book and one that doesn’t work at all.

4. Not Understanding Distribution

Book SigningsDo you want to sell your book in book stores?

Do you want your book listed on Amazon.ca?

The best publishing option for getting your book on Amazon.com and selling Kindle books is CreateSpace. They have great service, a good product and it’s quickly listed on Amazon.

However, if you’re a Canadian author, you may find that you have a lot of people who won’t buy from Amazon.com because of currency or shipping restrictions.

Getting it listed on Amazon.ca is not very straightforward with CreateSpace. It also doesn’t work for Canadian book store distribution.

An option like Lightning Source will work so book stores like Chapters and Indigo can carry your book. Lightning Source is not an easy company to work with as an independent author though. And, they take a long time to get set up and get the listing on Amazon.ca (about 8 weeks in total). You need to plan well in advance to get your account set up and things uploaded into their system in time for your promotional plans.

If you choose to print with CreateSpace (or some other printing house) and want to be in Chapters or Indigo in Canada, your only option is to go store to store and apply to have your book available on consignment. Unless you’re doing a ton of local promotion, the book store avenue is going to be way more work than it’s worth if you have to do it the consignment route.

There’s a lot to figure out so you want to think about where you need distribution so you can plan for the time and issues you’ll face.  This is why it’s important to think about WHO you are writing the book for.

One last note – every format you choose needs a different layout. This takes time and expense as well. If you want to launch with iBooks, Kindle and a print version you’ll need three different layouts. You’ll want to plan and budget for that as well.

5. Making Decisions Based on Money

The first mistake is trying to save money by NOT hiring professionals.

There’s nothing that says ‘on the cheap’ (and not credible) like a cookie cutter cover or poor editing.

If you’re going to publish a book, hire professional people to do it right.

Since you’re hiring professionals and spending money to do it right, plan to make money selling your book!

So many people who are doing the ‘business card book’ say that ‘they aren’t doing it to make money – they are doing it for credibility’. I haven’t seen the sales pitch for the package yet, but I am certain that must be part of how they sell it.

Since most books will be lucky to sell more than a few hundred copies I guess it makes sense to sell it like that. But how much credibility does a book that nobody buys really give you?

If you really believe in your message and you are committed to creating credibility, why not plan to sell a bunch of books to get your message out?

You’ll recover your costs and maybe even make a few dollars.

It takes work, but you’ve already gone to the effort of making your book baby, why not give it the best chance of living a great life by putting some effort behind selling it?

I wrote my book not expecting to break even, but planning to promote the heck out of it anyway. I believed in the importance of the message and loved sharing it with others.

I broke even in the first week and every cheque I’ve received in the last two years has been profit.

My friend and colleague Quentin D’Souza self published his book and broke even without ever selling it on Amazon. He thought through his goals and created a great product that helps a specific niche group of people. He knew it was a book that was immensely valuable and he had a great platform to sell books from and used it to his success.

You don’t need to resolve yourself to losing money on your book, just like you shouldn’t plan to save money on the important pieces of your book either.

It’s an exciting time we live in. Anybody can self publish their book and get their message out. It is very possible for that entire room of content creators to have their own book if they really want one. But, it’s important to understand the process, your goals and why you’re doing it before you begin to ensure the best chance of success.

If you are going to put a book out in the next 12 – 24 months let me know! I’d be happy to chat to see if there is a way I can help you make it a massive success. Just complete this form to set up a call.

You might also like to read:

>> What is an ISBN Number?

>> Who am I to make a difference? (for the would be book author with some doubts)

Image 1: © Flydragonfly | Dreamstime.com
Image 2: © Photographerlondon | Dreamstime.com 

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