• Bryan Heathman

Common Missteps when Self-Publishing Books



The first time they publish, most authors unknowingly make mistakes that render their book unsaleable. It’s not that they’re uninformed, but they lack necessary experience. There are a myriad of complexities in the book business, and it’s not all that intuitive to learn them.


In fact, there isn’t a week that goes by without a new author asking me for help with marketing their self-published book or selling the inventory sitting in their garage.


A lot of authors have such passion for their vision, they believe if they could just get it written, the book would sell millions of copies on its own merits. “Write it, and they will come.” These fresh-faced would-be Hemingway’s mistakenly believe that 90% of the work is in mastering the medium – writing the book.


In reality, writing the book is only 10% of the work involved. Publishing is a business. The other 90% involves getting the book into the marketplace and promoting it to the world at large.


What begins to dawn on the self-published authors who seek my help is the enormity of this task of breaking into a competitive, multi-billion-dollar marketplace. There are very few cases where an author is also an accomplished book marketer. It takes a team.


Heavy Lifting Is Not Just For Superheroes

For example, I recently worked with an author who came to my team for help. She wanted us to design her cover for her as part of the project, but she was insistent about determining the theme of the design. Her concept was to use the silhouette of a female superhero.


Our team counseled her to allow our professional designer to come up with a more compelling front cover image. But because she was insistent, and we gave her what she asked for.


When I included the final product in our catalog and shopped it to our traditional contacts at Barnes & Noble, Hastings and other bookstores, the comments were consistent. They loved the author’s message and her credentials, but they declined to carry the book because they said the cover made it look self-published.


Eventually, we redesigned the cover and re-released the book. We gave the professional design team total authority over the artwork, and this book went on to sell thousands upon thousands of copies.


The spine is another element that needs careful consideration. When your book is on the shelf beside others in its genre, you want it to stand out. If you choose a publishing format that renders your book’s spine too slim to read, book buyers are more inclined to pass it by simply because people can’t read the spine text. Your spine needs to make an impact in terms of size, color and visual appeal.


Accuracy is another factor that requires meticulous attention when you’re publishing your book. Your book’s final edit naturally needs a careful check for grammar and punctuation. However many new authors make the mistake of trying to manage this themselves. Those who are savvy enough to hire a professional editor for the job often make the mistake of having their editor focus solely on the creative content. The cover and back text also need careful review.


Getting Published “Oline”

One of the most prolific authors published by Made For Success performed an independent test of the Kindle Direct Publishing service. Understanding that we have a team of about 30 people involved in publishing each book, she wanted to find out the best features of KDP and share her results with me.


The author drafted a short manuscript, designed the cover herself, then came up with some punchy marketing copy. She uploaded the manuscript to Amazon, and with a little bit of nervousness, she hit the “publish” button and waited.


The next day she searched Amazon to find her book. But it wasn’t there. It simply didn’t come up in the search results. Where could it be?


After a frustrating 15 minutes of hunting through search results, she logged into her Kindle account to find the answer. You can imagine how crestfallen she felt when she discovered she had made a typo in the title! Instead of using the word “Online” in the metadata, she’d typed “oline”.


Without a team of professionals backing her up, her mistake fell through the cracks to yield a very real embarrassment. Later she told me, “Now I get what you guys do at Made for Success.” That was the end of her self-publishing experiment.


If you are serious about your book as part of your professional life, then making the right publishing choices can make a world of difference. Leveraging professionals to edit, design and distribute your work can give your book its best possible chances for success. Your publisher should have a sales force that consistently calls on retailers and writes regular orders with them.


A worthy publisher will guide you through drafting and executing your book marketing plan and be there to ensure the best possible follow through. After all, it takes a village to launch a writing project. Isn’t your book worth it?


Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success Publishing. Bryan works with best-selling authors in the role of publisher and marketer, including the late Zig Ziglar, Chris Widener and John C. Maxwell. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book that condenses knowledge on website conversion from 7-years running an online ad agency. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes running high impact marketing campaigns for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.

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