Posted on 08/02/2018 at 11:00 AM by Guest Author

Updated on 7/21/2021

Have you decided to self-publish your book? It can be intimidating, but the good news is you can learn from others. Discover 13 self-publishing mistakes to avoid. 

Table of Contents

The Upside of the Steep Self-Publishing Learning Curve  

A few years ago, Lauren Bailey, former director of Kirkus Editorial at Kirkus Reviews and co-founder of Thrive Empowerment Center, noted that there’s an upside to how steep the learning curve can be for self-published authors: Many have gone before you, allowing you to learn from their missteps.

For indie authors, this can be a huge relief. After all, if you’ve recently decided to self-publish a book (or if you’ve done so before with poor results), you’re probably more than a little intimidated.  

Fortunately, you don’t have to start from scratch. You have the advice of other authors and professionals, who are often generous about sharing their experiences, to guide you forward. Armed with this knowledge, you have a distinct advantage over those who had to figure it all out for themselves.  

That means you have a great opportunity to ensure your experience is positive and your book is as successful as possible. 

Knowing what you shouldn’t do is just as important as knowing what you should do, which is why Bailey shared 13 common self-publishing mistakes that new indie authors make, along with ways to avoid them. 

13 Common Self-Publishing Mistakes

If you haven’t already done so, you should head over to Bailey’s full post on Jane Friedman’s blog for full explanations and resources that will keep you on the right path. Though it was written a few years ago, it still holds up today. 

With that said, here’s a brief rundown of the self-publishing mistakes Bailey wanted indie authors like you to be aware of... 

1. Skimping on cover design 

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but that’s what readers do. And every author needs to keep that in mind. Unfortunately, one of the most common self-publishing mistakes that indie authors make is not investing in book cover design

When you fail to create a vision for your cover and enlist the help of a designer to bring that vision to life, you risk losing reader interest from the get-go. 

2. Not optimizing your book description

When you list your book on a retailer’s site, potential readers need a reason — besides the cover — to buy or download. They need to know what it’s about, which is where the description comes in. Yet, many indie authors don’t optimize their book description for Amazon or other sites. 

3. PERFORMING Insufficient research and market analysis 

Like it or not, there’s a lot more to selling a book than just writing it and releasing it to the public. Yet, many indie authors make the mistake of performing insufficient research and market analysis. If you don’t correct this error, you can wind up... 

  • Promoting to the wrong people 

  • Allowing your book to get lost in a sea of other titles

4. Slacking on (or entirely skipping) the editing process. 

Editing is a complex process that shouldn’t go overlooked. Unfortunately, a lot of authors are so eager to self-publish that they don’t prioritize it. Failing to put the time and effort into editing your work — and getting help from a professional editor — can result in issues ranging from minor typos to major plot holes.


Many indie authors don’t consider timing before they publish. Just because you’ve finished your book doesn’t mean you should release it immediately. You could miss out on some great opportunities by not waiting until the time is right.  

6. Not selecting a specific release date and sticking to it 

The last thing you want to do is let your potential fans down. Unfortunately, that’s what can happen if you don’t select a release date and, more importantly, stick to it. You come across as unreliable, which can hurt your career in the long run. 

7. Incorrectly formatting your book 

Another one of the most common self-publishing mistakes to avoid is incorrectly formatting your book. If you’ve just written your first book, you may not know that every bookseller has its own technical requirements. Failing to format your book properly can make it tough to read, whereas uploading the wrong file type can lead to rejection.  

8. Not having someone read your book before you publish it

Giving someone a copy of your book and waiting for their feedback can be nerve-racking, but it’s a crucial step. Unfortunately, many indie authors fail to have anyone read their book before they publish. Don’t make this mistake, as you could wind up publishing a poor version. 

9. Not marketing your book 

For people to get your book, they have to know it exists. And yet, many indie authors neglect to do any marketing for their books. If you make the same mistake, you’ll risk...

  • Low sales

  • Poor readership

  • Lack of media attention 

10. Selling through only one distributor 

Many authors who opt to self-publish only sell through a single distributor. The problem with this approach is that it restricts your reach. Readers buy and download books through various channels. Limiting yourself to one means you won’t get your book in front of every potential fan. 

11. Charging the wrong price 

Charging the wrong price is one of the self-publishing mistakes most frequently made by new authors. And it’s one to avoid if you want to get the best results. If you price too high, you’ll struggle to make any sales. If you price too low, you won’t get a return on all your hard work.  

12. Not using your personal network 

If you’re like a lot of indie authors, you’re committed to succeeding on your own. But when you don’t use your personal network to your advantage, you miss out on the opportunity to take your work further. 

13. Quitting if your first book tanks 

Finally, a mistake many authors make is quitting if their first book tanks. It’s not hard to see why this is a problem. When you call it quits after just publishing one book, you don’t allow yourself to improve. You give up your dream of being a successful author instead of enhancing your skills in areas such as...

  • Writing

  • Editing

  • Design

  • Marketing 


As Lauren Bailey noted in her post on Jane Friedman’s blog, there are many self-publishing mistakes you need to avoid as an indie author. But just being aware of them puts you at an advantage. So, take it slow and learn from others so that you can increase your chances of success.  

Categories: Behind the scenes

Terrific article, thank you! Cover and interior layout are SUPER DUPER important!!
Susie Schaefer | 09/20/2019 at 02:28 PM
I wanted to add, not handing out Advance Reader Copies in the first two to three weeks before you seriously market your book. You can get reviews from readers that will really help launch your book. Social proof from reviews is very big thing. We writers always have to be asking for reviews.
Lyle Nicholson | 07/26/2019 at 02:16 PM
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