Make your self-published book
a success with these tips...

The 6 most common mistakes first time authors make

I want to start this blogpost firstly by saying: don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

That’s how we all learn. When we’re children, we try to walk, fall over, get up and try again, and think nothing of it. As adults we’re just out of practice at getting things wrong, or perhaps we never put ourselves in the position where mistakes are possible.

The best thing you can do to avoid unnecessary mistakes is to arm yourself with as much information about writing and publishing as possible. But life is a learning curve and none of us would be where we are today if we didn’t get it wrong sometimes.

Here are some tips to help you on your way:

1. Do proofread your manuscript thoroughly

The fundamental thing to get right when writing a book is the manuscript. It all starts from there.

The quality of your work cannot be compromised for any stakes, including time, money or deadlines. It’s imperative that your manuscript is as good as it can possibly be. This means the spelling, punctuation, grammar, spacing and paragraphs, typeface and story itself.

If you have issues or errors with any of these elements, your readers will spot it immediately, and it will shatter your credibility as a writer.

If possible, enlist help from family members and friends to read through your manuscript and help you detect any errors.

Even better, pay a professional to proofread and edit your manuscript.

2. Don’t commission a book cover that ‘stands out’ from it’s genre

There’s a reason that book covers in a particular genre all share a certain look and feel. That’s what the reader is expecting to see when they browse the book shelves or the ebook-shelves.

Your book cover gives your potential readers the first clue into what your book is about. This is a split-second perception, an intuition that your readers will pick up, just from a glance at your cover.

This is crucial to peaking the reader’s interest, and helping them make the first judgement about whether they want to pick up your book and investigate further.

Don’t choose a cover design that ‘stands out from the crowd’. It will just confuse and alienate your readers as they won’t be able to rationalise what your cover looks like it is, with what the blurb says it is.

And a confused reader will just put your book down and walk away.

3. Don’t delay publishing while you wait for a publishing company or agent to get back to you

A hard truth about being an author is that most will never get picked up by a traditional publisher. This doesn’t mean they’re not great writers, and won’t make sales. It just means that a publishing house isn’t willing to take a risk.

Many authors wait months and even years to hear back after sending in submissions. As time ticks by, confidence in their writing diminishes, morale is knocked, and eventually they get a ‘thanks but no thanks’ reply anyway.

So why put yourself through this unnecessary pain?

Take back the power and decide to become a published author your own way. Don’t put your book on hold for an endorsement that might never come. Self publish instead. You keep control of how your book looks, you keep more of the royalties, and you get the triumph when you see your book on sale.

And, if further down the line that editor or agent does come back to you, the fact that you’re already selling your book and making money independently can only go in your favour.

4. Don’t expect your book will sell itself

Just because your book is available online or in bookstores doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly sell a thousand copies.

Promoting sales, marketing your book and introducing yourself to your readers takes time and hard work. If you don’t do it, you won’t sell many copies as no-one will know your book is there.

Before you publish, take time to define a strategy for how you will reach your potential readers.

Here are some more articles from us on how to:

Use email marketing to sell your books

Generate book reviews

Build your audience in 30 minutes a day

Use Twitter to get more readers

5. When first launching your book, limit how many platforms you publish on, and the number of formats you publish in.

It’s a great idea to self publish your book on as many platforms as possible, and in as many formats as possible. But not from day one.

Decide to release an ebook version on Kindle. That’s it for now. The other versions can come later.

Trying to have a hard copy, paperback, Ingram Spark version, audio book, Kindle etc etc etc all at once will muddle you in a haze of formatting and covers and layouts. Not to mention blow your deadline to smithereens.

Just decide on one version, on one platform, to begin with, and stick with it.

Once you have one version on sale, you can then move onto the next. You’ll be making sales, and collecting reviews and feedback simultaneously too.

6. Write more books

It may seem like you haven’t even taken a breath, but a great way to sell books is to write more!

The reasons for this are compounded:

  • Readers like to start a series as they know they’ll be able to grab more of your stories and characters.
  • A series of books cements your validity as an author and makes readers more likely to take you seriously in the first place.
  • You have more content to communicate with your readers on your website and blog.
  • If you have books 2 and 3 (and 4, 5 and 6!) ready to go, you can make a collective promotional effort to get the most from your marketing.
  • The more books you publish, the easier the process becomes.

What mistakes have you made and learnt from along your publishing journey? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.




We’re Peter and Caroline O’Connor. Creating beautiful book cover designs for authors all over the world is our passion. Every author should be able to benefit from a beautiful book cover design (not just the lucky few who get signed by a big publisher). We design, podcast, and coach authors full-time so we understand your struggles.  Currently accepting new clients.