I’m going to be completely honest with you: I totally winged it when I turned my blog into my first book, Yoga for Runners. I had an idea of what I wanted to write about and include in my book, but in terms of marketing and launching my book, I made a lot of common self-publishing mistakes.
Here, I’ll share the biggest mistakes I made with my first book. I see other first-time authors making these errors a LOT, which keeps their books from being as successful as they could be. So, I want to share my biggest book blunders with you so hopefully you can avoid making them, too.
Mistake #1: I Only Had an eBook
The top mistake I had was not offering my book in multiple formats. For about 2 months, I only sold my book as an eBook and didn’t have it in print. Any readers who really wanted a hard copy of my book were totally out of luck.
Not getting your book into print is one of the biggest self-publishing mistakes I see. Many readers prefer to read actual physical printed nonfiction books. Fiction tends to skew more toward eBooks on eReaders, but print books remain king in the nonfiction realm.
Even so, I still think fiction authors should get their books into print, too. You never know if someone’s going to stumble upon your book but give it a pass because you only offer it in eBook format. Don’t take that risk!
I probably missed out on a lot of sales because I didn’t have my book in print. The best time to sell your book is when you launch it. In most cases, that’s the most books you’ll ever sell in a short period of time. And, you need to build momentum to keep your book sales going after your launch.
Don’t Make the Same Self-Publishing Mistake: Publish your book both digitally and physically. Getting your book into print is incredibly important, particularly for nonfiction books.
Mistake #2: My Book Wasn’t on Amazon
During those 2 months that my book wasn’t in print, I only sold the book from my blog. It was only being shown to people who came to my blog (I had a small “ad” on my sidebar), my email list, and my social media followers.
Sales from my website weren’t awful, but I saw a huge spike when I put my book on Amazon. Thanks to expanded distribution to multiple countries, I was selling books around the world. (And, I found a small group of runners in the UK who really loved my book!)
If you only sell your book on your website, you’re missing out on a lot of potential book sales, a big but common self-publishing mistake. Amazon is the #1 place where people are buying books right now, and it’s the best search engine out there for people who are ready to buy.
I know it’s tempting to skip Amazon because you’ll make more profit, but ultimately you may make less money because you have fewer people buying your book. Unless your website has more visitors than Amazon (highly doubtful), you’re missing out on a lot of potential readers.
Don’t Make the Same Self-Publishing Mistake: Your book distribution plans should go way beyond your website! Try to get your book listed everywhere you can so more people can find it.
Book Mistake #3: I Didn’t Put Enough Effort into the Cover
When I self-published my first book, I was on a tight budget. I designed everything myself…and it showed.
The cover wasn’t the worst cover in the world, but it didn’t quite do my book justice. I designed it in Canva myself and included a snapshot of myself on the cover at my then-business coach’s urging.
Also, I waited until the last minute to design the cover, so it felt like more of an afterthought. I do still believe that the content of your book is the most important thing, but the cover is a close second. But, I should have put in more effort, or ideally hired someone with more experience to design my cover for me.
I see a lot of other entrepreneurs on a budget making this same self-publishing mistake, but having a bad cover can change how people look at your book, and it can even tank your book sales. To me, it’s not worth the risk.
Don’t Make the Same Book Mistake: Try to save up money to pay for a book cover designer if you can. If it’s absolutely not in your budget, set aside a good amount of time to read up on book cover design and to create your own cover.
Book Mistake #4: I Didn’t Spend Enough Time Editing
Speaking of rushed timelines, I also wish I had spent more time editing my book. I didn’t just copy and paste my blog posts into a single document, but I didn’t edit as well as I could have to ensure that everything flowed together.
When you’re a business owner (yes, bloggers, that includes you), it can be hard to set aside time for a big project like writing a book. But, if you don’t give your book the time it deserves, you can wind up with a mediocre product.
I don’t think that my first book was bad, per se, but I do think if I would have waited another week or two to launch it, I could have done more editing and improved the manuscript even more.
Your book will never be perfect. But there’s a difference between spending some time making real improvements to your book and never publishing because your perfectionism is getting in the way. If you’re still seeing big jumps in the quality of your book for the time you’re spending on edits, keep going.
Don’t Make the Same Book Mistake: Don’t under-edit your book. Give your book manuscript the time and respect it needs so it does a good job of reflecting you and your business.
(But, don’t over-edit it, either. There’s a point when you should be done with your book because you’re getting diminishing returns on the time you spend on making it perfect.)
Mistake #5: I Wasn’t Fully Focused on My Book Launch
I think one of the biggest mistakes I made with my first book was launching my book and my first course at the same time. Yes, writing a book is easier than you think, but it still takes time. Writing a book definitely takes focus, and promoting a book takes even more focus and time.
It was difficult trying to split my attention between creating and promoting my course and creating and promoting my book. The biggest suggestion I can give you is to plan out your product launches carefully, and don’t do too much at once.
Don’t Make the Same Mistake: Plan out your launch calendar carefully, and don’t launch too many things at once. You can confuse and overwhelm your audience, and you can burn yourself out, too.
Book Mistake #6: I Didn’t Have a Marketing Plan
At the time I wrote my book, I was brand new to promoting products and services. I had just hired my first business coach, and I was learning to promote more than just my blog’s content on social media and other outlets.
As I’m writing my next book, I’m definitely correcting that mistake. I’m not in book launch mode yet, but I’ve started to share some behind-the-scenes looks into the creation of my book on my social media platforms. I’m also starting to plan out how often I want to post on each platform as I’m promoting my book, and I’m working on getting the timing of all of my marketing together.
Don’t Make the Same Marketing Mistake: Start marketing your new book almost as soon as you decide to write it. Talk about what you’re doing on a regular basis so your audience remembers it’s coming. Don’t expect a few posts or emails to get your audience excited for your book.
Mistake #7: Not Using My Network
As bloggers, one of the most powerful tools we have is our network of blogging friends. Literally, you have a huge group of influencers who are more than likely willing to help you out as you launch your book.
I didn’t really leverage my relationships with other bloggers well when I first started to promote my book, and that was a huge mistake. I really hate asking for favors, and I let that get in the way of getting the word out about my book. One of my big regrets is letting my discomfort get in my way.
Don’t Make the Same Launch Mistake: Ask your blogger friends to help you get the word out about your book. Don’t let pride or discomfort get in the way of you making the ask. And, in reality, they’ll be happy to help you out.
Mistake #8: I Didn’t Ask for Reviews
Not having reviews when I launched my book was definitely one of the mistakes I made with my first book. I was under a bit of a time crunch when I wrote my first book, so I didn’t have time to ask my audience members and readers to review my book.
One part of that mistake was not having any quotes about my book from fellow influencers or my followers. Reviews offer social proof for your book—they tell your prospective book buyer that your book is worth their hard-earned money.
If I would have had those review quotes, I could have used them on my book sales page, placed them on my book’s back cover, and included them in my social media marketing. I did my best without the quotes, but I think if I’d had them, I really could have taken my launch to the next level.
I also forgot to ask people to leave reviews after my launch. Book reviews, particularly on Amazon, are one of the most important things that help you sell books. If you want your book to keep selling after its launch, get early buyers to leave reviews. They’ll act as a springboard for your book’s overall success.
Don’t Make the Same Mistake: Make sure to plan to get reviews into your book marketing strategy, even if you’re just getting reviews of a draft of your book. Reviewers can still speak to the quality of your content and how much it will help your readers.
Book Mistake #9: I Didn’t Design a Back Cover
I was so distracted when I was formatting my book and getting it ready for print that I didn’t even think about the back cover. It’s easy to make that mistake if you’re self-publishing your first book. Most of us don’t pay much attention to back covers.
Because back covers tend to be an afterthought for most people, they can really scream “this book is self-published!” if you don’t really care how they look. If you want your book to look professional, you’ll want to spend a little time on your back cover or hire a cover designer.
Luckily, with print-on-demand services like KDP, you can easily update your book’s cover and interior files. So, if you make a mistake like me and you forget to put a back cover on your book, it’s easy to fix.
Don’t Make the Same Design Mistake: Hire a designer to create your book cover, or if you must design your own cover, look at other professionally-produced back covers for inspiration so yours doesn’t stand out as a DIY job.
Mistake #10: I Didn’t Leverage My Book Enough
Your book is your ticket to so many amazing things. It can help you boost your visibility and credibility if you leverage it correctly. Looking back, I should have done a better job of leveraging my book to build my business.
I wish I would have talked about my book more on social media and that I’d posted more photos of me with the book. I should have spent more time reminding my audience that 1) I have this amazing book for sale, and 2) I’m an authority on the topic.
If I had done a better job of using my book to boost my visibility, I could have made big moves with my fitness blog a lot faster than I did. Eventually it all worked out: I started to be contacted for quotes by popular magazines in my industry, for example. But, I know I could have done more if I’d have leveraged my book from the start.
Don’t Make the Same Mistake: Remind yourself to talk about your book on your platforms at least once a week. You don’t want your audience to forget you have a book. Of course you want to remind them to buy it if they haven’t, but you also want to remind them of your expert status.
Skip the Self-Publishing Mistakes!
I really flew by the seat of my pants when writing my first book, and although it worked out for me, I know my book would have been even more successful if I hadn’t made these mistakes. Luckily, I applied these lessons to my other books and book launches, which went much better than my first!
Please learn from what I did and use these lessons to make your book a huge success! I know sometimes it’s easier to learn what NOT to do, so I hope reading or listening to this list of big self-publishing mistakes will help you create a better book.