The 5 Big Mistakes I Made When Self-Publishing My First Book

A lot of people think Where the Woods Grow Wild was my debut novel. It’s actually not, but I’m totally okay treating it as such because my very first self-published novel was a bit (fine, a lot) of a fiasco in its inception. Some of you have read it: Little One, published just about two years ago and republished (with a lot of improvements) a few months later.

I’ve written about this in past posts and random tweets, but I decided to share the five biggest mistakes I made when first self-publishing Little One. Most of them were due to an utter lack of experience, so if you’re building towards your first release, maybe I can save you some trouble.

#1 Not asking for beta readers

News flash: beta readers are amazing. They should be an integral part of your self-pub journey. They’re the first eyes to see your work, and the feedback they provide is ESSENTIAL. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can get by without that feedback. I probably don’t have to explain why. Suffice to say that your view of what works and what doesn’t will ALWAYS be limited by your investment in your own manuscript. Solution: ask for beta readers. I didn’t when I self-published Little One, and my story suffered because of it.

(Note: my beta readers for Where the Woods Grow Wild were the best, and I’m still super grateful! I feel like that story is wildly [pun intended] more successful because of them.) 

#2 Relying on self-proofreading

Freelance editors across the globe are already pulling their hair out. So did I when I realized just how many typos I had missed. To be fair, I was a broke senior in college. I couldn’t afford a vanilla coke, much less a professional proofreader. Still, my mistake was thinking that one or two quick proofreads would be enough. No…no. Can you successfully proofread your own work? Possibly, if you give yourself enough time. Do I recommend it? Definitely not. It’s not worth the anxiety of finding another spelling error or wrong word choice post-publication when people have already purchased the book.

#3 Settling for an okay cover

Some of you may remember the original cover for Little One. It was okay, as far as very basic designs go. But it really fell flat when inserted into the hyper-competitive world of Amazon thumbnails. I feel bad saying this because I’d hired an artist friend for that design. She did everything I asked her to (and did it well!), so the mistake was mine for not realizing how much the cover art mattered. Later on, I acquired a new design from a professional (and experienced, importantly) cover artist, but I’ll never be able to make up for that sub-par first impression. Mea culpa. 

#4 Not investing in a physical proof copy

If you’re publishing a print edition through a program like CreateSpace, do yourself a favor and BUY THE PROOF COPY. The shipping expenses are worth it in the long run. When I first self-published, I thought the digital review option was enough. Plot twist: it wasn’t. Not even close. When my first print copies arrived, there were chapter titles on the wrong page, awkward paragraph splits, and other glaring print errors. Some of those copies were for friends, and I had some pretty embarrassing explaining to do. Printer’s fault? Nope. Mine, for not wanting to sacrifice $25 and a few days to revise the physical proof copy.

#5 Rushing everything

I tweeted about this yesterday. Don’t rush. Don’t ever rush. Please, for your own sake, DO THINGS SLOWLY.

I think this point includes (and is the cause of) all the other mistakes I made as well. When I first self-published Little One, I was in a huge hurry. For several reasons. One legit reason was that I needed the project completed for college credit (English major perks). I needed those credits to graduate, so I had a tight deadline. The other reason, however, was a truckload of impatience on my part. I wanted the world to get my first novel, and I wanted them to get it assoonashumanlypossiblerightnowplease. I cut corners. I skipped essential steps. And the result was a mediocre product. Please, don’t make that mistake. Take the time to do things right, even if it means pushing back your intended deadlines. I want your first self-publishing experience to be one you can remember with pride.

I hope this post is of some help for those of you intending on self-publishing (or even if you’ve already got some books under your belt). Now I can look back on the experience and view it as a growth opportunity. My new books are worlds better because of what I learned from those mistakes.

At the same time, I still cringe now and then.

Thanks for stopping by today. I always like interaction, so add to the conversation in the comments or just say hi! Make sure to follow me here and on Twitter to receive your complimentary baby penguin.

In the meantime, have a great day!

27 thoughts on “The 5 Big Mistakes I Made When Self-Publishing My First Book

  1. Some fantastic tips here! I love when people share their advice based on personal experience. Sadly though, I think we sometimes have to make the mistakes ourselves before we realise their true importance! Thanks for sharing yours 🙂


    1. You’re welcome! And it’s true…pretty much all of the mistakes I mentioned were areas I “knew” not to get caught in, but it took that personal experience to really hammer the lessons home.


  2. Thanks for this advice! Hopefully I’ll remember it by the time I get to the publishing point of my writing. 🙂


      1. I have no idea how soon it will be…hopefully within the next 2.5 years! I really want to be published while I’m still a teenager.


  3. Some of this I came across myself. Luckily the printing service I’m using offered physical proofs for a much smaller fee (and they covered shipping, up to 3 copies), and it was a *lifesaver*. Especially when everything was loading fine digitally, but not in hardcopy. And I did have someone who was not me take a look at the hardcopy proof, to double check, and indeed there were a few things (like extra spaces or the wrong character’s name in a certain spot) that either I had overlooked or the printer had accidentally not changed. I’m very pleased with my finished product. But it was definitely a team effort. And I only had one beta reader this time (purely because of time constraints), but for all the next instalments (it’s at least a 4-part series), I’ll have several beta readers.

    For those would-be self-publishers, all of this is really important to discuss!


      1. I found a local printer that does everything from wedding invitations and travel pamphlets to self-published books. More regional printers are getting into self-pub, because local authors find it much more user-friendly than something like CreateSpace or Amazon. I was able to conduct all my business by email or phone, and there was always a live person available to answer questions or give updates on how it was going.


      2. Man, that sounds fantastic. I wish they had more services like that available in Europe. Then again, I’m pretty reliant on Amazon, for better or for worse, so I’ll put up with CS’s issues for now hehe.


      3. I know there aren’t even many American printers that do this right now. Hopefully that will change pretty soon. But I know Amazon works great for people who really don’t want to deal with the marketing/shipping/inventory issues themselves. For me, not going with Amazon worked best, but I know it doesn’t for everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Haha “mea culpa” iQué triste! 😦

    largo tiempo, man. largo tiempo. (es mi culpa pero shh)

    voy a tratar no apurar mi novela. Your advice is pretty good and valid. I’ll try to keep it all in mind because self publishing seems to be the way to go!


  5. Would you have any advice on how to find beta readers? I don’t have any friends who are into fantasy, or a blog (I know a lot of writers ask people that way). My family are great, but they are a bit biased and tend to avoid giving me negative feedback. I’m struggling to think of anything other than throwing my story at random passers-by 🙂


    1. Hi! Great question :S I got most of my volunteers via Twitter, but that might not be an option for you either. I know there are many websites that are specifically for authors to get in touch with beta readers and vice-versa, but I’ve never used one so I’m afraid I can’t personally recommend any specific sites. I imagine you’ll get good results if you dig around a bit, though. But if you do have a social media presence, that’s definitely a great place to start.


  6. These are great tips that every writer should know. It’s best to wait and release a quality product. Some writers don’t do that and their sales suffer. Then they wonder why no one bothers to buy their’s sad because their book could be good but because they didn’t put in the extra work no one will know.


  7. I went through almost the exact same process as you did!!! Especially the typo grief! (Although my rush was just due to my own impatience in wanting to say I’m finally DONE!) But looking back, I can see how I’ve grown and what areas I should have done differently! All these points will make your book SO much better! And always remember:
    “Don’t be Hasty.”
    I honestly think that is THE most important one. All the rest flow from that point.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nice post 😊 I started small and chose to publish a novella, which I had edited by a so-called professional but after that disaster and doing a Diploma in Editing and Proofreading, I re-edited and re-published much like yourself! My own advice would be to research multiple editors/proofreaders before making a final decision! A bad editor can ruin a book. For my next novel I’m hoping for less mistakes and for the first try to be the only one!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m trying to read everything I can about self-publishing. This was a great help. While I’m not a struggling college student, money is still an issue when it comes to securing the funds to make sure the book is published correctly. I did splurge on a professional editor and they didn’t change much in way of content. So, I figured I’m either an awesome writer or I should have searched a little longer for an editor (my gut tells me it’s the latter). I wasted almost 700 bucks and now I have to start from scratch again which is very disheartening. I wasn’t going to bother with the beta readers until I read your article. Thanks for the heads up.


    1. No problem! Hope this was a bit of help. Yeah…I edit my own work because I can’t afford to shell out thousands on a professional, nor do I particularly trust anyone who offers cheap services (though that may very well change with future experiences). Beta readers are the best, if you ask me. Mine have caught so many flaws/mistakes that I would have never thought of. I hope you find the best option for your project!

      Liked by 1 person

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