The 3 Biggest Mistakes Authors Make When They Self-Publish

Self-publishing is awesome. Seriously, it's probably the best thing that's happened to millions of authors who, for one reason or another, decided that a traditional publishing path wasn't right for them. 

The majority of authors I work with choose to self-publish, and I know that the work we do together is top-notch and serves my authors' brands, messages, and readers. But I also see a lot happening in the industry outside my glowing niche of inspired writers, and some of it makes me a trifle sad. 

So many authors have great concepts, stories, and visions, but falter in the execution. And, because they've chosen to self-publish, there's no one in the "pipeline" to catch and correct their errors, or help them in areas where they lack knowledge or expertise. The result is that they end up sending books to print that aren't ready to share with the world and/or aren't presented in a way that will excite and interest readers. 

So, if you're thinking about self-publishing your book, take a look at the 3 Biggest Mistakes Authors Make When They Self-Publish. It's my hope that this information will help you avoid common pitfalls and put your energy in the right places so your book can shine like the gem it is.

Mistake #1: They don't hire an editor

I know what you're thinking. I'm an editor, and I'm writing this ... so I must be trying to sell you something. 

Yes, I'm a professional editor. Yes, I've worked with hundreds of authors and edited multiple #1 bestselling books. And yes, I would LOVE to help you perfect your world-changing book. But that's not why I'm offering this advice. 

The fact is, unless you've spent years studying grammar, syntax, editing, formatting, and book composition, you don't know what you don't know. And what you don't know, in this case, can hurt you. 

Your social media followers might not care that you sometimes substitute "their" for "there," or "your" for "you're." They know your brand, and they can see through the grammatical errors to the heart of your message. But readers who have never met you, and who don't know anything about you? They'll look at those errors and think, "Why didn't she hire an editor?"  or worse, "If she didn't care enough about her book to make it look professional, why should I care about this content?" 

The sad fact is, people do judge a book by its cover, and an author by her grammar. Call me old-fashioned, but I hope that doesn't change. The English language is a beautiful, complex thing, and I hold it in very high esteem. 

Even if you're a total grammarphile, and you're confident that your work is error-free and flows well, it's worth it to have a professional editor proofread your manuscript before you send it to print. Trust me, when you've been looking at a file for three months, your eyes will skim over typos, missing words, and other bloopers that stick out like sore thumbs to first-time readers. That's why I always have one of the editors on my Team look over my work before I send it to print. 

If you're on a self-publishing path and don't have the funds for an editor, commit to doing your research. Pick up a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style. Get online and read some grammar blogs (The Book Designer has a list of fun and funny grammar blogs in this post). Get interested in what makes a sentence, paragraph, section, and chapter work for readers, and then apply it objectively to your book. 


Mistake #2: They don't invest in a great book cover

Again, this is a case of not knowing what you don't know. 

Sure, you might have found some great artwork, or even created it yourself. But the image alone isn't necessarily what sells your book. It's the statement made by the cover as a composite, and what the holistic combination of images and text says about you, your book, and your brand. 

Just a few of the gorgeous covers we've designed for clients this year.

Just a few of the gorgeous covers we've designed for clients this year.

Your book's cover is the first thing readers will see, and (along with your title and back cover copy), is the thing that will sell your book to someone who knows nothing about you. It needs to be eye-catching, professional, and evocative. 

If graphic design isn't your thing, strongly consider hiring a professional designer to create your book cover. Look for someone with experience in this type of work and ask to see samples. (Not all designers do book covers!) If you decide to go for it yourself, do your research, use a real design program (Canva is a good free one) and give yourself plenty of room to play. 

I'll have a post coming soon about what makes a great book cover, but in the meantime, check out this post from


Mistake #3: They don't have a marketing plan

According to, a new book is published on Amazon every five minutes. And most of those books don't sell more than 100 copies. 

Self-publishing has made it possible for everyone to get their writing out there. I think this is a great thing. We all deserve to have our voices heard and our messages taken to heart. But the sheer preponderance of material online and in bookstores makes it hard for new authors to stand out from the crowd. 

Too many authors publish their books through self-publishing services like Createspace or IngramSpark and think that people will just magically be able to find their books. Sure, your friends will be able to pull up your book on Amazon by typing in your name, but what about all the other people out there? What about the thousands of strangers who need to hear your wisdom? 

Publishing a book - even with a major traditional publisher - doesn't guarantee sales. Good marketing does. So before you hit "publish," make sure you have a plan in place to reach your current audience, grow your community, and generate the buzz your book deserves. 

Heart of Writing Team member Deb Coman is a content marketing strategist and social media expert who assists business owners and authors to create online visibility. If you're struggling with marketing strategy, she can help! You can also check out this guest blog post from Suzanne T. Moore, "3 Steps to Successfully Market Your Book."


Bryna Haynes is a word alchemist, book strategist, and the founder and President of The Heart of Writing. She's also the chief editor for Inspired Living Publishing and the best-selling author of the multiple-award-winning book, The Art of Inspiration: An Editor's Guide to Writing Powerful, Effective Inspirational and Personal Development Books. In over a decade as a book coach, editor, ghostwriter, and publishing consultant, she has helped hundreds of authors find their authentic voices and create powerful, memorable, successful works. She lives outside of Providence, RI, with her husband, Matthew, their Moonbeam, Áine, and their Little Star, Aelyn. 

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