Mistakes of self-publishing: Cutting corners

This series began with a guest post from Kaitlyn Oruska: Self-published is not Synonymous with Shitty. But as much as it hurts to admit, there are some self-published books out there that lend some truth to this stereotype.

My first two taught me many lessons about what not to do in publishing. My impatience to publish made me careless. There was almost no editing whatsoever (silly me thinking I could edit them myself because I had an English degree…FALSE), random stock photos with no professional cover designer to spruce them up. They are what I now call my “beta books”: evidence of an author who was brand new to the publishing world.


Compared with my most recent books, you can see a huge difference in how far I’ve come (the ones pictured below are my favorite!). I’ve found an incredible cover designer who is also a good friend, a quality editor, and an increase of beta readers (honest betas are so important!).


While there are still a few copies of the originals floating out there in cyberspace (the original publisher no longer produces them, but they are still sold via third-party sellers on Amazon), I’m working on reproducing Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter and Someone You Already Know: better quality editing (I can’t emphasize that enough). Improved covers. Spruced up content. These will be marked as “second editions” and with time, the originals will fade into obscurity.

But the first time I held those books in my hands, I was blind to their faults; kind of like a mom who thinks her kid is a perfect angel when everyone else thinks he’s a spoiled brat with little to no discipline. The first time you see your name on a book cover is pure magic: I felt that high for weeks. Over time, it decreased as sales went from so-so to zero, and I didn’t know why. Friends and family tend to be more eager than anyone to purchase your book, but when you’re trying to appeal to the masses, strangers will not be so forgiving when they see the flaws that you couldn’t. Excessive grammatical errors are a huge turnoff.

My sales gradually began to increase after the release of my third book, this time with an editor and professional cover. Light bulb! Quality sells! Who would have thought.

Lesson learned: never cut corners. Cover designers and editors can be expensive (though I got great deals with mine), but you have a much better chance of earning that money back in sales if your book is actually worth buying (and if you learn the ins and outs of marketing, as discussed in last week’s post). Yes, it sucks to have to go back and start over from scratch. But my readers deserve better, and the stories in those books are my most personal ones by far. I want them read in their best light.

Not every book is “perfect.” Editors are human, too, and I’ve found errors in traditionally published books on multiple occasions. One of the best aspects of self-publishing is the ability to always go back and make changes. One misspelled word the editor missed? I can fix it and have the book back up within a day. Cover needs some revamping? Ditto (well, depending on the designer’s schedule). There is always room for improvement.


8 thoughts on “Mistakes of self-publishing: Cutting corners

  1. Pingback: How I learned NOT to be an obnoxious author | Sarahbeth Caplin | Author

  2. Pingback: Links: Writing, Batman, Feminism and Science Fiction | Natacha Guyot

  3. Beth,

    Out of interest do you ask anyone (say better half, friend or family member) to read through the drafts/manuscript for spelling/grammar, as well as the content (story line)? If so, do you find this helps or hinders?


      • Hey Beth
        ‘Beta reader? Is that like star signs or something? I don’t bother with that kinda stuff. I read through stuff & I’m a bit of an argumentative old sod, so providing people can take critical feedback, I tend not to be biased or not be kind ,where I need to be. Got a lot of projects on the go at present, some of which are not going to be published published, such as a translation of our parent’s & grandparent’s journals, which is for family interest. One sister is working on a religious book about her faith,which will need pruning later & my other sister is working on a book of short stories. I’m working on something, but have no idea what it is at present.

        Fun, fun fun ! (:

        Keep up the blog postings !


  4. I read one self-published book about writing and self publishing, and it has so many errors in it that it really turned me off following the advice. If I was the kind of person who corrects library books, my Red Editing Pencil would have had a field day!
    Then again, I read another self/small-published book about self publishing which really opened my eyes to the possibilities for “independent authors” in today’s multi-platform book industry.
    Good editing and good design are vital to make people realise that self-published is just as valid as traditionally-published.
    Great post! 🙂


      • Definitely agree that they’re worth giving a chance to, there is brilliance just as much as cringe-worthy editing (probably more brilliance, actually, from what I’ve come across. At the least readability!) The preparation is vital to avoid the cringe factor. 🙂


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