The Five Most Common Publishing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

The offered guest post that didn’t arrive last week, has now arrived. A dead laptop is something I’ve had experience of, so Desiree has my sympathy and understanding. Here is her post, with lots of helpful advice, especially if you have yet to take the plunge and self-publish your book.

Perhaps you’ve just completed NaNoRiMo and you’ve achieved your dream of writing a novel – take a moment to check out these pitfalls before you take the next step – they are easy to fix, and can make all the difference between success and failure.

Publishing your book

Publishing a book is a tricky thing to navigate, especially the first time around. But even as an experienced author, you can still run into major issues with publishing from time to time — some of which you may not have even considered until they hit you in the face and you’re totally unprepared to defend yourself.

But never fear. Even if you’re braving the perils — and wonders — of publishing alone, you can ensure your book launches with all the fanfare it deserves. Learn to ward against these five major mistakes, and you’ll be self-publishing like a pro in no time!

1. Neglecting to self-edit before hiring an editor

For most indie authors, especially those just starting out, a professional edit is a must. If you want to release a book as polished as what the Big 5 presses produce, you’ll need a well-trained pair of eyes to look over your manuscript.

However, not everyone realizes there’s more to this process than offloading your draft on an editor the minute you’ve typed the final sentence. Before you involve a professional, you’ll want to perform a thorough self-edit.

Why? Because if you hand over your manuscript in its raw state, you’re only going to waste your editor’s time (and fork over far more in editing fees than you would have otherwise). To get the most out of your editor’s hours and expertise, commit to fixing obvious errors on your own.

For example, is there a plot hole that stands out like a sore thumb in a casual read-through? Is the final third of your novel littered with exhaustion-induced typos? Resolve these issues first. That way, you’ll free your editor up to work on the subtler details — areas that can really benefit from an expert eye. Perhaps best of all, your wallet will thank you.

2. Not getting a professional cover design

Old adage aside, readers will judge your book by its cover. That’s why making do with an amateurish design is just about the worst marketing mistake you can make.

Indeed, a strong cover design doesn’t just hint at the nature of the book inside, from its genre to its tone; potential book-buyers also use it as a proxy for quality. Sophisticated, well-executed design suggests that the book itself is a professional product, with care put into every pixel on the cover — and every word of the text. Skimp on the cover and readers might assume, even subconsciously, that you’ve cut corners in the writing as well.

That’s no substitute for a professional touch. Feel free to brainstorm color palettes and central images, and do your own research on how bestsellers in your genre tend to look. But when it comes to the actual execution, leave the design work to the pros.

3. Failing to optimize your metadata

Few words sound less literary than “metadata”. But if you’re hoping to succeed in the cutthroat world of Amazon self-publishing, expect to spend a lot of time thinking about yours.

Metadata — info about your book, from its blurb to its associated keywords — helps Amazon shoppers find your book amidst a sea of other titles. To make sure your work isn’t drowned out by competitors, it’s crucial to fine-tune your metadata, putting as much care into optimizing it as you did into writing your book.

Luckily, honing this metadata isn’t nearly as hard as drafting a full manuscript. All you need is a little bit of research! Spend time studying titles similar to your own on Amazon, noting which keywords they use and how their book blurbs pull you in. Soon, you’ll have a strong sense of what perfectly tailored metadata looks like, and you’ll be driving traffic to your book with some choice keywords and categories.

4. Having no launch day plan

Even after your metadata is fine-tuned to perfection, it’s not enough to hit that “publish” button and wait for the adoring public to find your book. To make sure your launch day builds up momentum and lays the groundwork for steady sales, you’ll need to be more strategic.

There’s no need to pull off a lavish launch party, especially during our era of continuous social distancing. You should, however, blast your book on social media and start things off with a celebratory price promotion. By temporarily lowering the price of your book, you’ll be able to draw in buyers who might have otherwise have passed.

Beyond price promotions, there’s one other way to ensure your book launches with a bang: drum up some hype by securing ratings and reviews ahead of time.

Not sure how to get reviews for your book, especially before its official release? Don’t worry — it’s a simple matter of finding book blogs that specialize in your genre (like this one does for paranormal and urban fantasy!), and then pitching them your book.

If reviewers are interested, you’ll be able to send them an ARC ahead of your pub date. Wait for them to work their magic, and your book will launch with a blast of confettied praise.

5. Giving up after one book if the first doesn’t go your way

By this point, your book has been polished to perfection, emblazoned with the perfect cover, and outfitted with just the right metadata to bring readers your way and sell some serious ebooks. Throw in a couple of strong reviews for your release date, and you’re ready to debut your masterpiece in style! But what if things still don’t go as planned?

If your book launch flops, the worst mistake you can make is giving up. Instead of getting frustrated and swearing off self-publishing for good, take some time to analyze what might have gone wrong. Did you rush through writing your book description? Wait too long to seek out reviewers? Or maybe you just timed your release poorly — say, right on the heels of another well-known author’s latest book.

Learn from your missteps, and you’ll be sure to get it right next time. And remember — there will always be a next time, so long as you persist!

Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She’s passionate about indie publishing and hopes to help as many authors as possible achieve their dreams.


  1. Such valuable and worthy advice Deb. Sharing around! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Me again, fast fingers. Thanks to Desiree for this concise and succinct article. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great, common-sense suggestions, Deborah. The only one I usually miss (and shouldn’t) is the metadata.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know where you are coming form, and boring though it is, metadata is a really important tool in any author’s quest to reach as many readers as possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. […] The Five Most Common Publishing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them) […]


  5. This is such a helpful list! Thanks for sharing these tips for indie publishing successfully 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you found them helpful 😁👍

      Liked by 1 person

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