5 Rarely Discussed Self-Publishing Mistakes: What NOT To Do

self publishing mistakes

  1. Don’t self-publish your first draft: If you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of a self-published author banging his head on his desk. It happens every few seconds. Listen very, very carefully. There’s another bang. He thought the book was genius when he clicked publish and he had even “spell-checked” the manuscript beforehand, but now the Amazon reviewers are saying some really nasty things about his book. Things like, “I couldn’t get past the first chapter because of all the errors” and “This was obviously self-published…” Don’t be that guy. Fine-tune your manuscript by going through at least one round of revisions and self-editing and then hire a professional editor to bring a different perspective to the project. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway: The first draft of anything is crap. Don’t publish crap.
  2. Don’t overprice your book: I’m really surprised that more authors aren’t discussing this. I’ve seen multitudes of authors trying to sell their books at exorbitant prices. You need to think as the consumer. Why would a customer pay $30 for your paperback book instead of $12.99 for a NY Times bestseller? Or $9.99 for your ebook instead of $6.99 for Stephen King? They probably won’t! Try enticing the customer with a competitive (or discounted) price and watch what happens.
  3. Don’t count on sales at brick-and-mortar bookstores: It’s true that many indie bookstores will happily stock your self-published print book. Some of them will work out consignment deals with you. From my experience, they’ll want around 40%. Major chains will want at least 50% and you’ll generally need to go through layers of bureaucracy in order to get your book stocked. You’ll also need to take the risk of making your book “returnable.” As you can imagine, this could get ugly very quickly. For those reasons and many others, I advise self-publishing authors to focus primarily on online sales. Your profit margins will increase and you’ll be able to cover a ton of ground much more quickly.
  4. Don’t think that just having an online presence is enough: “I’m on Facebook,” says almost every self-published author. “I’m on Twitter. I’m on Pinterest. I have a blog. I have a website…” This is all very nice, but it’s not enough to simply have an online presence. You need to be active on all of your platforms. In other words, you can’t just “set it and forget it.” Treat your online presence as you would your own home. Care for it, live in it, and love it.
  5. Don’t expect that strangers will automatically care about your book: I have to admit that when I first started self-publishing, I thought everyone needed my book. Everyone. My inspirational book could motivate and change lives. I knew it. But no one cared at first (aside from friends and family, of course). I had to make them care. I accomplished this by – wait for it – networking! I created Facebook groups (and even Myspace groups; remember Myspace?). I befriended book lovers on Facebook. I reached out to fellow writers by email and met them in person at signings and other events. Most importantly, I made good impressions on those people and most of them supported me by helping spread the word. I know this isn’t fun or sexy advice. Many self-publishing authors looking for advice don’t want to hear that this ride could be a long one. Throw away the idea of “quick and easy” and focus on building relationships!

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About J.J. Hebert:

  • Author of two self-published MindStir Media/Amazon.com bestselling books, with over 100,000 copies sold worldwide.
  • President & CEO of MindStir Media, a top self-publishing company seen on Lifetime, Fox Business, History Channel, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Biography Channel, Bravo and Ovation TV.
  • Helped produce hundreds of books for authors nationwide.
  • Provided thousands of publishing consultations. Schedule a free publishing consultation with J.J. Hebert right now.
  • Hailed as the “Self-Publishing Guru” by The Good Men Project.


5 Writing Tips from Bestselling Author J.J. Hebert

Image by erichhh @ flickr

January 15, 2013

As publisher, I read tons of manuscripts, summaries, and queries. I’d say around 50% of each business day consists of reading. At least 50% (not counting emails). I also enjoy reading for pleasure, in my free time. It’s safe to say that I’m somewhat of a professional reader. As a bestselling author, I know the pitfalls to avoid in writing a book… Here are five writing tips that writers (especially new writers) should find helpful:

  1. Outline your story before anything else. I’m aware that some writers can just “wing it,” but the vast majority of writers end up fighting severe writer’s block when there’s no outline in place. I’ve found that writer’s block is usually a result of poor planning. You should sit down at some point — before trying to actually “write” your book — and outline (chapter-by-chapter) your book. Of course, you don’t have to stick to the outline 100%. You should allow some characters, etc. to grow organically, but an outline will keep you on track.
  2. Decide on the point-of-view (POV) and stick to it. A first-person narrative, for instance, should stick with one point-of-view throughout the entire manuscript. This means no “head popping,” i.e. showing the thoughts of multiple characters… Third-person is a little different.  There’s third-person limited and third-person omniscient. With third-person limited (e.g. Harry Potter), the POV stays with one character — for the most part — throughout the narrative. Most events are described through a central character’s POV. Look at how J.K. Rowling handled the Harry Potter series. With third-person omniscient, the narrator knows all and sees all. In other words, the narrator is everywhere at once. POVs can switch often, but you should try to stick to one POV per scene if possible. Of course, I’ve seen some big name authors break these “rules,” and in some cases it works.
  3. Don’t use a thesaurus often. In an attempt to avoid repetitive words, some writers crack open their thesaurus, land on a big “million-dollar” synonym and decide to toss it in the story. This is especially common in dialogue tags. It’s okay to use “said” more than once on a page, regardless of what anyone says about repetition. It’s entirely acceptable to state: “I’m hungry,” said Tom, patting his stomach. Don’t try to look clever as a writer by constantly replacing “said” with verbs like “jested,” “quipped,” “hissed,” etc. In fact, in many cases you can stay away from the “said” dialogue tags altogether. Simply remove “said Tom” and just write “I’m hungry.” Tom patted his stomach. It’s obvious there that Tom is the hungry one…
  4. Use an active voice. Which version sounds better? The loud noise was making him angry OR The loud noise angered him. Stick with the latter scenario as often as possible. By removing “was making” and replacing the sentence with “angered,” I took a passive sentence and made it active. Google “active writing voice” and you’ll see some more (and probably superior) examples.
  5. Revising is not your enemy. I know finishing the first draft can be extremely exciting. You should go out and celebrate. Seriously, writing the first draft is a huge accomplishment! However, you should never submit your first draft to an editor. Never.  Go through your manuscript a couple times, at least, looking for spelling and grammatical errors, passive voice, improper POV switches, etc. In short, revise. Send the editor your “final draft.”

J.J. Hebert is the bestselling author of Unconventional and Weepy the Dragon. He’s also the founder and president of MindStir Media, a full-service self-publishing and book marketing company.

Improve Your Chances of Success in Self-Publishing

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December 19, 2012

Some people say that anyone can publish a book, but I have to disagree. I know many people, young and old, who could never write a book, let alone publish one. And that’s okay. Not everyone can cook a gourmet meal. Not everyone can fix a car. Not everyone can build a house. Okay, you get it… There are professionals who offer those services and plenty of people who buy the services. Similarly, there are professional companies willing to help you self-publish your book if you’re one of the many writers out there wanting or needing publishing assistance. MindStir Media is one of those companies, and we’re happy to help…

I’ve said this many times over the phone to prospective clients: There is a risk involved with self-publishing your book. You may or may not see a return on investment. Your book is a product. It could sell tons of copies or sell few copies or maybe land somewhere in between. In the end, the success is up to the market … and the quality of your product (and marketing, of course)! So what can be done to improve your chances of success in self-publishing?

  • Use a custom book cover design. The key word there is “custom.” The design should be original, not template-based. A book cover is not something that should just be thrown together. If your cover looks amateurish, readers will assume the book’s content is also amateurish!
  • Your book should be edited. Even if you can’t afford a professional book editor (via our Gold Package, for instance), your book should be edited. Join writers’ groups, network, find friends to help you with the editing if you have to. Do whatever it takes. Every traditionally published book has been edited — some better than others, sure, but they’ve all been edited.
  • Select a memorable book title (and subtitle if appropriate). A proper attention-grabbing title and subtitle can attract sales, especially if your book is non-fiction. Choose wisely.
  • Publish in multiple formats. Do your best to publish your book in multiple formats. More options for readers oftentimes mean more sales. Paperback and ebook are a good start. They are the two least expensive formats to produce and therefore your retail prices can be low, encouraging a high volume of sales.
  • Take full advantage of free book marketing. Try implementing available free book marketing opportunities before you decide to buy additional book marketing services.

Don’t take the easy (or cheap) way out and bypass these crucial elements. If you can handle it correctly all by yourself, great! Do it. If not, hire self-publishing professionals.

J.J. Hebert is the bestselling author of Unconventional and Weepy the Dragon. He’s also the founder and president of MindStir Media, a full-service self-publishing and book marketing company.

Author Praises MindStir Media

April 5, 2012

I was thrilled to receive this video testimonial from the wonderful Dr. Marina Kostina, co-author of the forthcoming title The Golden Climate in Distance Learning. This sort of thing makes it all worthwhile!

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