selfpubblundersThe idea came to you like a bolt straight from creativity heaven, a scene as clear as glass: the romance, betrayal, fight for one’s life, maybe even a fight for humanity. A story that had to be written, and now it has been, and there are times you get so enthralled in a scene that you forget who the author is … what a wonderful feeling when you remember!

Since it’s your duty to share this masterpiece as soon as possible, and of course to make a little money while you’re at it (realistically though, it’ll be a lot of money…authors are usually rich, right?) you decide to self-publish. Not only will the book be available in twenty minutes or less (simply upload it to Amazon Kindle Direct or a number of others), but you’ll have full creative control and no silly publishers to tell you a damn thing!

Now it’s time to watch that money accumulate in your PayPal account.

Just wait. They’ll see. You’re a creative genius, untapped, ready to change the world with your words.

Ah! Someone bought a book! It’s begun! Someone—oh, Mom just called. Guess it was her, so never mind…

Still waiting. You’ve made $3.99 so far on one book sold, and already paid it back with this year’s Mother’s Day card.

Why isn’t anyone buying your magnificent prose? Why isn’t it shooting to the top of Amazon’s charts, getting reviews from other best-selling authors? Why hasn’t the Today Show called yet for an interview?

Glad you asked.

Self-publishing, for many, has been an incredible avenue for authors that were either rejected by traditional publishing houses or might’ve been if they’d queried. The thing that separates these successful indie authors from the multitudes is, mainly, one important element:


Their work has been critiqued by other writers, combed over by a hired editor errors, has a cover designed by a graphic artist, and has been e-book formatted either by a professional, or with a program like Scrivener. That doesn’t even broach the topics of marketing, utilizing social media, and building a network of other writers to review your book and share it.

So, to that effect, here is a list of what not to do in self-publishing, or, how to self-publish a book if you only want your mom to buy a copy.

  1. Don’t self-publish your first draft. Don’t even publish your second draft. If your manuscript has only ever been read by you, and maybe your significant other (“it’s great honey! Not really my genre, but it definitely has…something…”), then it is not ready.
    The first step towards getting it that way would be the awesome and free resource for authors looking to critique/beta read each other’s work: Create an account and post to the site for a critique partner. It also provides forums to suggest other aspiring writer’s blogs, discuss favorite books, and read about upcoming contests. A great resource overall, and essential for beginning your journey to publication.
  2. Don’t publish before it’s been professionally edited. This is where Midnight Publishing or another freelance editor comes in. There are a number of different editing packages offered by Midnight Publishing and others: proofreading, a simple edit for grammatical errors, copy-editing, a more in-depth edit of unnecessary words and the overall flow of your manuscript, and finally, a developmental edit. This is a collaboration between editor and writer to fix plot gaps, examine character believability and motive, dialogue, and to tailor your book to its intended audience for maximum success. This edit is what you’d expect from a traditional publishing contract, and is a worthwhile investment if you’re serious about your book.
  3. Don’t publish until you understand the business side of things. This is where a lot of authors may decide self-publishing is not for them; we are artists, and can’t be bothered with things like budgets, sales tax, and all those damned  “rights.” (Can’t we just slap on that little copyright symbol and call it a day?!) Unfortunately, no, we cannot. To protect yourself and to actually make money as writer, you need to understand the basics of running your own business because that’s essentially what self-publishing is. That means keeping your business and personal accounts separate, properly keeping receipts for tax-time, understanding contracts with your collaborators (editors, design artists, formatters, audio producers, etc.) and what they mean, and how to price your book to make a profit!A great resource for explaining this is the Writer’s Digest 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing, a worthwhile investment full of information from CPA’s, lawyers, and successful indie writers; the last fourth of the book is also an extensive list of service providers. If you’re looking for something cheap, there are lots of e-books available written by authors who’ve done it before you. A popular one is Jennifer Ciotta’s No Bulls**t Guide to Self-Publishing; priced at $0.99, you’ll find useful information while supporting a fellow author in the self-publishing industry. Which leads me to my final point:
  4. Don’t publish before you’ve made any friends. Now don’t go getting upset, I’m sure you have plenty of buddies sending you hilarious cat pictures, reminiscing on how terrible high school was (or how awesome, but if you were really that popular you’re probably not an aspiring writer; writing’s for people with deep wounds that need processing), and helping get you through the work day without punching someone in the throat. But are these friends also writers? Do they have Twitters and blogs full of book reviews, do they critique your work, or send you info about upcoming contests? If your answer is no, then it’s time to make some new ones.

Someone who is doing it right is the fantastic and self-deprecating Ksenia Anske; a burgeoning self-published author who’s amassed over 50,000 Twitter followers and multitudes of others to her website. Not only is she a wealth of knowledge for aspiring authors navigating the choppy waters of writing, but she’s been able to write exclusively for the last two years partly because of donations, which she explains here.

I’m not saying the goal is to find online friends to give you money so you can write full time and quit that soul-sucking day job (though that is certainly the end goal). What I am saying is that building relationships, whether online or in the community, will not only give you support and camaraderie from others who understand your struggle, but free advertising on their social media outlets!

That scratches the surface on how to avoid self-publishing blunders, but much more will be discussed in the near future. Come back for Midnight’s Publishing’s next post; self-published authors who are doing it right!

Midnight Publishing offers skilled and affordable media architects for manuscript editing, self-publishing consultation, and author marketing. The ultimate role of the editor is to help the author connect with the reader. A good editor enhances that connection, providing another eye and view for the author. Our editors are artists of language, grammar, and the mechanics that help a manuscript take the journey from ordinary to great. Midnight Publishing also offers graphic and web site design, business copy writing and editing, and more.

Visit author Ashley R. Carlson at:
Twitter: @AshleyRCarlson1