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!

Final Cover and Release Date for Where the Woods Grow Wild!

The blog’s been pretty quiet these past two weeks or so, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working non-stop behind the scenes (hint: I have). And, as a result of said productivity, I have several bits of exciting news to share! Remember that series we did a while back, in which you got a glimpse of the synopsis, characters, and story-world of Where the Woods Grow Wild? Well, now I’ve got more for you. Specifically, I’ve got the finalized cover design, and…wait for it…a release date!

That’s right, this is happening. I’ve just about finished working with the feedback from my beta readers, and that means the end of the journey is just around the bend (fittingly, since I started this project about a year ago).

In the near future, I’ll talk more about release specifics (parties and celebratory snacks and pre-orders and all that fun stuff), but for now, I just want to share the two main biggies. So, without further ado, as they say…here’s the final cover for Where the Woods Grow Wild!


I’m not 100% sure how the image will show up, so here’s the back-cover blurb in case it’s not at a readable size.

A forest looms over Bardun Village. Nobody goes in. Nothing comes out. The secrets in the oaks remain hidden until a mischievous escapade thrusts Martin and Elodie behind the silent trees. Separated and lost in a tangle of fantasy, they discover more than animals roam where the woods grow wild.

Now for the release date. I have yet to sort out details such as pre-orders (there will be plenty of time for that, don’t worry), and we all know how fickle Createspace can be. However, barring any unforeseen nasties, Where the Woods Grow Wild will be available in ebook and paperback forms on Amazon on December 10th, 2016. A month minus one day.

Mark your calendars, friends. We’re almost there. In the meantime, have a great day.

To Self-Publish, Or Not To Self-Publish…

That is the question.

This post is a brief update on my work-in-progress, The Children of Falore (temporary title).

Those of you who pay any attention to my annoying ramblings on Twitter know I’m nearing the end of the first draft of my current manuscript. I’m shooting for about 75 thousand words for this one, and if today’s writing is a success I’ll be at about 57-58 thousand.

My goal has been, for some time, to finish the first draft by the end of the month and self-publish the book by mid-April (I outline A LOT, so I won’t have to spend a lot of time on re-writes).

Recently, however, I’ve been toying with the idea of going the traditional publishing route, for several reasons:

  1. As of now, I can’t afford to shell out 300 euros on a cover artist. I’ve checked into those stock cover design sites, but have yet to see one I like. As I’ve said before, I’m just not into stock-photo covers. Sorry.
  2. Traditional publishing has always been my long-term goal. I have another fantasy manuscript on the backburner, and I know for sure I’ll be querying that one, but maybe I should give the current one a shot as well…?
  3. My self-publishing journey with Little One was…rocky. The initial release was a flop, and I’ve had to revise the files SO many times, it’s not even funny. Plus, I really, really, really hate Createspace. The reviews have been phenomenal ever since, but I honestly don’t know if I want to go through that much stress again.

All that being said, I also have great reasons to go ahead and self-publish:

  1. A lot of people are waiting to read it. It might sound pretentious, but it’s true. The snippets and passages I’ve shared have generated a lot of interest, and I don’t want to have to wait months or years before even knowing if it’ll be published.
  2. I have some upcoming marketing opportunities (book fairs, events, etc.) that could really jump-start sales if I go ahead and self-publish. If I wait, I’ll miss out.
  3. I do think this novel could do well as an indie book. Given a bit of luck and exposure.
  4. I really want to have control over what my cover looks like, and I know 99Designs (the site I used for Little One) yields amazing results. I just need to come up with the funds.

For now my focus is solely on finishing the first draft. Once that happens (end of the week, hopefully), I’ll have to make a decision. The perfect solution would be to find funds for a cover artist, proofreader, and formatter. That would remove the cost issue and the stress of doing it all myself. This book could hit Amazon within the next two months. If not, we’ll see.

I’ll keep you all posted. In the meantime, keep calm and write/read on! Have a great Monday, everyone.

Six things you need to know before self-publishing

Here are six important things you need to know before self-publishing your novel:

You need a proofreader

By the time you get to the proofreading stage, you’ve read your manuscript so many times that your eyes will gloss over, no matter how much attention you think you’re paying. You will read portions of text the way you know they should be, not the way they actually are. Save yourself the hassle: get someone to proofread for you before you hit publish.

There’s more to cover design than personal taste

Your novel cover has to meet market expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to conform to whatever everyone else is doing and just follow the crowd. Your novel cover should be what you want it to be. But you have to keep in mind that readers will often decide to even click on your link based off of your cover image. Readers have expectations, and no matter how in love you are with your cover image, if it doesn’t attract readers, it won’t be capitalizing on its potential.

Amazon publication date does not equal novel release date

You want to let your novel have some time on Amazon before you make the big launch. Give your book to a few people (friends do just fine) you can count on to leave an honest review. Get a blog or two to review a free copy of your book as well. Make a few sales just through word-of-mouth. These pre-launch preparations will boost the efficiency of your announcement when you’re ready to let the whole world know about your novel.

Marketing starts before the book is even out

The marketing process shouldn’t wait until your book is live on Amazon. Even when it’s still in preparation phase, you can take advantage of that time to get your audience revved up about your new product. Spread the word, share snippets, offer the first few chapters for free…get creative. At the end of the day you may have gained a larger initial audience than if you just waited to start marketing after the book goes live. Be proactive.

Examine the paperback carefully

If you’re going to offer a print copy of your novel as well as an ebook, make sure you order a physical copy and look through it in person before making the paperback available to the general public. While print-on-demand services offer digital review chances to make sure your novel is the way you want it, go the extra mile and review a physical copy as well.

Your next project should take priority

Once your novel is live, it’s very tempting to spend hours a day promoting, marketing, and advertising to get as much traffic to your book as possible. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, keep in mind that you (hopefully) have more books to write, and those won’t finish themselves. Keep writing good stories, and in the long run, those will market you on their own.

I hope it helps you prepare to self-publish your novel! It’s a hard road, but definitely worth it. Keep working hard, and you’ll make it!

As always, feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.