Special guest post about avoiding self-publishing mistakes from Dale L. Roberts, from YouTube’s ‘Self Publishing with Dale’

Are struggling to make any money in self-publishing? Have you been working your butt off in the publishing business for way too long with little to show for it? Then, it’s possible you’re guilty of one of these nine common self-publishing mistakes.

Common Self Publishing Mistake #1: Terrible Title Choice

Many newbie self-publishers get their title choice wrong. The reason is they focus entirely on what they think sounds great rather than what their audience is searching.

In nonfiction, try to be sensitive to what your target audience is looking for and how your content relates to their problem. Obviously, you have a solution, and they have a problem.

One of the easiest ways to build a bridge between you and your audience is saying exactly what they want. And, that comes in keywords with high-traffic volume. I cover how to find the best keywords in my video on Amazon Keyword Optimization: How to Find & Optimize Amazon Keywords for Books.

In fiction, it’s a bit more complicated since you have to establish a presence in your niche. What I would advise is to avoid the latest trend of stuffing your title with the name of your niche. You’ll see examples of this garbage tactic in book titles like “Werebear Shapeshift” or “Mail Order Bride.”

If you’re in fiction, then be more creative than keyword stuffing your title. Eventually, your “fan base” will fall off then you’ll be left with nothing more than a bunch of poorly named books with no audience.

Common Self Publishing Mistake #2: Bad Book Cover Art

Everyone judges a book by its cover. Case closed. If you invest very little time or money into a book cover, then it’ll show. I devoted an entire series of videos based on crappy book covers. Though we can all laugh at other people’s expense, you have to wonder – is my book cover like theirs?

A key indicator of the quality of your cover is sales. Is your book selling a few copies here or there? Or, is it selling out of print on a regular basis?

When it comes to good cover choice, don’t be afraid to invest in a qualified cover designer with a history of sales-worthy covers. A decent cover can run anywhere from $150-$300. For those of you unaccustomed to investing this much in a book, relax. Think about your long game and what you want to pull in for the entire life of the publication. I’d certainly hope you plan to make more than $300 for the lifetime of a single book.

Common Self Publishing Mistake #3: Overpricing

Let’s assume you have a killer book title and cover, but you still aren’t seeing any sales. Then, you may need to look at how you are pricing your book. Price your book around the same cost as your competition.

However, you should be realistic. If you are not a celebrity or an established author, then you shouldn’t price yourself out of the market. For the newbie Kindle publisher, keep your e-book prices around $0.99 to $3.99. For paperbacks, set your pricing around $4.99 to $8.99.

Remember, if someone orders your paperback, they still have to additional charges such as shipping and taxes. Don’t expect them to pay more than ten bucks for a book. Some exceptions apply since pricing and profit should be relevant to the book content and print cost.

Common Self Publishing Mistake #4: Poor Editing

Book returns and refunds are inevitable, but completely avoidable if you don’t make the most egregious of errors – poor editing. If your book is rubbish, then readers may just send it back. In fact, most low-star reviews site a lack of editing as the primary reason for bad remarks.

Much like a good cover designer, hiring a qualified and experienced editor is a necessity. Publishing poorly edited drivel does not build a long-term sustainable self-publishing business. Readers see through hack work and aren’t afraid to share their thoughts on poor writing.

Without good professional editing, your book is doomed to publishing purgatory. Raise funds for this critical step in your book production. Your readers will thank you, and the market will reward you.

Common Self Publishing Mistake #5: Majoring in the Minor

You shouldn’t spend time spamming Facebook groups, and Twitter feeds with your free book promotion. People don’t care what you know till they know that you care. So, stop beating up your friends and followers. Build a relationship with people on social media, and spamming social media will be unnecessary.

Common Self Publishing Mistake #6: Analysis Paralysis

Constantly researching what’s the best niche to publish in or how to release the perfect book does not pay the bills. This business is about speed and quality. So, get that content out there and tweak it as you go.

Common Self Publishing Mistake #7: Old Review Gathering Practices

Reviews are important to the long-term success of your book. But, antiquated practices like review swapping and buying will get your business and brand in hot water. If your book is loaded with a ton of four- and five-star reviews that have generic and often stilted write-ups, then your potential buyer may pass on your book.

And, some low-star reviewers will call you out for this mistake. Heck, Amazon is on a witch hunt for what they deem fake reviews these days. So, it’s best you focus your time, attention and finances on publishing and promoting books.

Do you know the best way to get more reviews? Sell more books and build a loyal following. The reviews will come, so be patient and don’t force it.

Common Self Publishing Mistake #8: Reckless Spending

A common mistake self-publishing newbies make is hiring out based on the business model of established writers. The truth is veteran self-publishers have enough monthly income to scale their business. So, they can hire virtual assistants, multiple freelance writers, cover designers, and editors.

However, if you are new to self-publishing, then save your money and build your business one step at a time according to what you can reasonably afford while not sacrificing quality.

This means you should only hire out if it’s necessary. Produce all your content on your own if you can. Once you consistently earn $1,000 or more per month, then consider scaling your business by hiring out. In the meantime, tough it out and gradually invest in your business.

Common Self Publishing Mistake #9: Trend Chasing

Adult coloring books, erotica fiction, and no-content paperback books have been the all the rage lately. Naturally, some self-publishers see the market trends shift, so they adjust their course. This flawed method is an uphill battle to stay current with the ever-changing trends.

Self-publishers who chase trends are running on a treadmill. Sure, they’ll get instant gratification, but never establish a brand by keeping up with the revolving market interest. Instead, they should stick to what they know and love. Then, build a brand around that passion.

By building a brand and growing an audience, you have a greater chance of survival and long-term sustainability.

Self-publishing isn’t an easy business; otherwise, everyone would become dirty, stinking rich doing it. You certainly increase the likelihood of success in this business if you minimize the number of mistakes. Inevitably, you will make mistakes. However, if you heed my advice, then you may have an advantage over most other self-publishers. Check out my full thoughts on these mistakes in this video link.

What do you think about these common self-publishing mistakes? Do you believe I missed one or two gems? Or, do you disagree with any of my insights? I’d love to hear from you, so drop a comment below and tell us the mistakes you try your best to avoid.


Dale L. Roberts is an author, YouTube content creator, and former personal trainer. He currently resides with his wife and cat in Columbus, Ohio. Get more insights on DIY publishing at Self-Publishing with Dale L. Roberts at YouTube.com/SelfPublishingWithDaleLRoberts