Self-publishing 101: Don’t Rush It!

The world of publishing has forever been changed, thanks to the onset of print-on-demand (POD) services and e-readers, such as the Kindle and Nook. While this is fabulous for aspiring writers, it can also be a terrible, terrible thing for them, too. Now, with competition so fierce, the pressure is on to “Hurry and Deliver” as much as possible. If you hurry to publish, you may be setting yourself up to fail.

Hurried works are obvious

While the market was flooded with every novelist’s hastily-published books, self-publishing got a bad name. Millions dove in with their first or second-drafts complete with misaligned bullets, mixed-up fonts, crazy page breaks, Wordart logos, and incorrect usage of its vs it’s.

It’s amateurish, and it shows.

Get help with your layout

Hard copy is tough, Kindle is tougher. When you do the formatting of your book, what does the finished product look like to everyone else? Don’t guess – talk to a pro. Your well-crafted book may sink or swim based on its visual readability.

Have someone else do your cover art

The line drawing you made in college art class may look pretty cool in theory, but it isn’t a dynamic book cover. There is a psychology involved in selecting colors, angles, photos and fonts for book covers.  Then there are years of study to use the right dpi, color matching and bleeds, cropping and placing. Don’t know what some of those things are? You don’t have to! Your job is to write. Let someone who has the background help you with your cover. People really do judge your book by its cover.

Good books are written, then re-written

As a speaker, I have heard (and lived) over and over that a great speech is written, re-written, and re-written again. In fact, no speech is ever “final” – there is always room for improvement.

While this is a little harder for books – it’s got to be “final” at some point or it will never be published! – you cannot toss up your rough draft and expect it to be palatable to the literate public. There is always a better (and, typically, more succinct) way to say what you’ve said. Good writing gets read and referred.

Hurried authors skip important steps

Beta readers

Even self-publishers must do market research. You may think you know your audience – but your audience is more diverse and demanding than you are, always. Run your book(s) by some beta testers – other than your immediate family and close friends. Yes, this means giving out some copies for free, and yes, this means opening yourself up for some constructive criticism. It also means learning a great deal and being able to correct major issues before going public and getting criticized on a wide-scale, career-killing forum such as Amazon.

Professional Editing

Many writers feel that, since writing is their gig, they simply don’t need to seek an outside editor. Nothing could be further from the truth! When you are very close to the work, you will often miss really obvious mistakes. Even as a professional editor, I seek a second opinion before I hit the “upload” button on anything!

No writer is perfect. That’s why editors exist. Even editors aren’t perfect. That’s why other editors exist. Your niece, spouse, or 13-year-old son is not a good editor of your work – seek a pro. Make sure you find one with experience in your genre. They know what to look for because many before you have made the same mistakes.


Many PODs offer or require that you purchase a proof copy of your work before it goes live. I have seen forums full of authors complaining about this crucial step. “Why should I have to pay for a proof copy when I’ve already edited the book numerous times?”

Simply, because you may catch something in a different medium that you had glanced over many, many times. Here’s an example from one of my own books:

 Copy error in my book, Nose-to-Nose Networking

Do you see it? Some have to read it several times before they catch it, but this is a prime example of a glaring error that can be blipped right over if you go too fast. I just caught it accidentally while brushing up for a workshop. I was horrified.

This book has sold several thousand copies – both Kindle and hard copy – and not one person (including my crack team of editors) caught the error. When someone catches a simple mistake like this, your credibility goes down in their eyes. They may be able to forgive one such error, if it’s the only one, but when your book is riddled with typos and grammar issues, you will not be able to sell a second book, and your credibility is nil.

Deadlines do not mean rushing

You can set and meet deadlines for yourself without turning out hastily written, formatted and edited work. Even just two hours a day can give you the dedicated time to turn out a really good novel in 30 days. Make this commitment to yourself and your readers, and then seek the advice of a professional editor and designer for your final work. It will be worth it in the long run, especially if you want to get paid!

Mélanie Hope is a professional speaker, author, and coach who travels the world teaching greater communication skills while making as many people laugh as possible.

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