The worst 5 pitfalls of self-publishing and how to avoid them

Self-publishing can be a magical thing. It opened up the publishing world to the masses, enabling anybody to publish a book without needing agents, a publishing contract, and traditional publishers. However, just because self-publishing is open to everybody isn’t a guaranteed mark of success. In fact, there are many potential pitfalls in self-publishing. So, here’s your insider’s guide on how to avoid them… 

Many self-publishing authors assume that this method of publishing means they’re on their own. They self-edit, make a cover in Canva, use some basic software for the book’s layout, then make a haphazard attempt to market the book. Unsurprisingly, this often doesn’t work out well—and it’s why self-published books typically had a poorer reputation compared to traditionally published ones. 

To avoid your book looking and sounding amateurish, you can hire a team of experienced book professionals to help you, from editors to designers, proofreaders to marketers. Leverage the experience of these professionals to self-publish something worth reading. It might cost more in the short term, but it leads to better returns when you publish. 

Even if you’ve decided to hire a team of professionals, a major pitfall (one that I see time and time again) is expecting editors to be available immediately. Many authors wait until they’ve finished writing to look for their editor, but by then it’s too late. The best editors get booked up months in advance, leaving you to choose between who is available, instead of who is best for your book. 

To avoid this, plan ahead. In this case, the early bird really does catch the worm. Contact your desired editors and team members months before you need them. This maximises your chances of securing the best editor for you. Likewise with designers and marketers—get them on board before you need them. 

Another time-related pitfall is not leaving enough time for the pre-publishing work. Most authors underestimate the time needed for editing, design, and proofreading—often setting aside only a month for these processes before the publishing date. As a result, the whole process is a rush and the book ends up being of poor-quality. 

To avoid this, set aside at least six months for editing, design, proofreading, and marketing. Content editing can take anywhere from a month to a year. Copyediting takes between a few weeks and a few months—likewise with design. Proofreading another week or two. Be patient, set aside plenty of time, and if you can publish earlier than expected, well that’s a bonus. 

Another common pitfall is only starting to market the book after it’s published. Many authors focus so much on the writing and editing processes that they forget to market the book before it’s published. They don’t start until the book is out there in the world, and by then the marketing is too little, too late. 

Like editing, contact your marketer while you’re still writing the book and form a plan. Start to build your author platform, gain interest on social media, and seek pre-orders. Plan your book launch and have marketing strategies in place so you’re not on the back-foot when you’ve published. 

Make no mistake—self-publishing is accessible, but it’s not easy. Many authors think that writing is the hard part, then they’ll put their feet up and wait for the book to be published. Unfortunately, the editing and marketing parts are often harder, much harder. The editor will require you to make changes to the book, sometimes hard changes, and marketing is notoriously difficult. 

The way to avoid this is simple, just don’t stick your head in the sand. Don’t be disheartened when editing leads to substantial changes and when you have so much marketing to do, but equally don’t underestimate how challenging these parts of the process will be. Have a plan, dedicate sufficient time, and build a team of experienced book professionals who can help you publish an incredible book. 

If you’re looking for a team to get your book ready, get in touch with The Book Shelf today.