The publishing industry is a dangerous place. I read an article the other day that stated the overwhelming majority of self-published authors don’t even sell 500 copies of their titles. Scary huh? What can authors do not to be in that number? I have my opinions on the subject, but called in additional experts (self-published authors) to give their two cents on what self-published authors’ worst enemy is. I received lots of great responses that pretty much fell into the below deadly sins.
Arrogance – There are authors out there who have done decent to quite well selling books and get to smelling themselves (as my grandmother would say). What these authors see as confidence, others often perceive as a funky and/or dismissive attitude. As my good friend author J’son M. Lee would say, “It’s best to keep it humble.”
Distribution Issues – Unfortunately, many authors do not know or understand what their different distribution options are. This goes deeper than just who is shipping your book where (electronic and print). Many also do not understand how ISBNs work and why your publishing company should own its ISBNs. Yes, it takes research. Start with Bowker, the only official source of ISBNs in the United States, and learn everything you can about ISBNs. Don’t be afraid to contact their support if need be.
Know exactly what your distributor can and can’t do for you. Will they offer marketing of your title to regional book sellers and libraries? Will your print titles be returnable? What seller and warehouse catalogues will your title(s) be listed in? Are they print on demand? What is print on demand? Are they taking a percentage of each sell…?
Speak with authors who have distributed in different ways and ask what worked and didn’t work for them. Research, research, research then make informed decisions. It’s okay if you change your mind later on in the game. You may do it this way for now and another way later, but at least you truly know what you’re doing.
Doubt – This one came up a lot. Not only self-doubt, but the doubt of others in us that we’ll make it. Fear of failure and of disappointing our loved ones has stopped many from reaching for their dreams. There is no easy way to say this, so I’ll just put it out there. If you do not try, you have failed yourself. The desire for this dream is in you for a reason. Nurture it by writing, learning the craft and business and doing your best to see your dream to fruition.
Gullibility – It breaks my heart every time I hear an author has been taken advantage of by a supposed editor, publisher, distributor, book seller, cover artist… The list goes on and on, including fellow authors. I have been in the business for over a decade, but don’t listen to every word I say. Do your own research. Same goes of other experienced authors, industry insiders and those who are supposedly in the know. There are a lot of good people out there who truly want to help you, but there are also a lot of cons who do not want you to succeed for whatever reason or who want to take advantage of your dream. Be careful.
Instant Gratification – There are self-published authors who want their book out there now, now, now. They don’t want to wait until they have enough money to properly produce their books. Many don’t want to take the time to have their book properly produced. Many don’t want to invest time in learning the craft and business. Many don’t want to invest time in creating and implementing marketing plans. Many don’t want to invest in the time it takes to have reviews (from legitimate review teams and publications) before their book is released. Many don’t want to invest the time in truly building a relationship with their base. Many won’t even decide who their base is… It goes on and on.
Laziness – There are authors who just want to write the book. Forget about the research that goes into writing their book(s) or learning the craft or business. Money is tight so everyone is trying to save costs, but some authors are so lazy that they won’t even learn how to properly format their book (which is easily found online).
Poor to No Planning – You’ve written this book, now what? Many have not set aside production and marketing budges or created a marketing plan. They haven’t been nurturing their relationship with readers and networking. They haven’t pinpointed how to connect with their target audience or even know where or what their target audience is… Publishing is a business. For a better chance at success, it pays to have plans for your business and each product you release.
There you have it. The Seven Deadly Sins of self-publishing, but as I went through them, I think some of them carry over to traditionally-published authors also. Be careful out there. The publishing world is dangerous!
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