Mistakes to Avoid When Self-Publishing

1106 Design

June 04, 2019

Let’s talk about mistakes to avoid when self-publishing.

This past month, I spoke with two authors who came to me for advice after finding themselves in the same sticky situation. Both had hired individuals to work on their books—someone for cover design, another freelancer for page layout and typesetting, and someone else for editing. Their original goal was to save money and launch quality books—a reasonable expectation, except the authors were less than happy with the outcome. Both think their books are terrible, and both feel they have no choice but to release them as they are.

Thus, we will cover two topics in this article: first, how to rescue a book, and second, mistakes to avoid when self-publishing so that you don’t end up with a terrible book in the first place.

How to Rescue a Book

Never, ever feel like you need to launch a book you are unhappy with. If you’re not proud to publicize your book, how will you convince people to buy it? In short, you could end up throwing more money down the drain by marketing a book you aren’t convinced people will buy, making it cheaper to fix it than to waste money on marketing a bad book.

The ease and expense of rescuing your book depend largely on the agreement you had with the person(s) who assisted you with book design and editing. For example:

  • Did they send you the application files for your cover and interior, or do you have only the PDFs? Do you have the final edited manuscript in Word (or another word processor)?
  • Are you happy with the editing job, but your editor won’t give you the edited Word document?
  • Or, are you unhappy with the editing job, but love the cover and book design? In other words, do you need to completely rework the guts of the book and typeset and proof it again?
  • Do you love the editing and hate the book design, but your book designer won’t give you the InDesign file?

In other words, how far back to we need to go to recreate your book? How much needs to be undone before you can start over with your new designers?

The best way to find out is to research a company that offers all the services you require, and has a good reputation and fabulous references (yes, like 1106 Design!). Contact them to discuss your dilemma and get some guidance. Ask for a quote.

At the very least, you will be able to strategize, cut your challenge down to something more manageable, and think about delaying your book launch until you sort things out and have a book you’re proud to show off.

How to Avoid Mistakes When Self-Publishing

While I’ve been rescuing authors, I’ve also spoken with other authors who are hell-bent on making the same mistakes. Their thinking is that they will save money by hiring individual freelancers. Hiring a company that screens its designers and editors, and provides its customers with the best level of service possible, is perceived to be the more expensive option. The expectation is that the less expensive services offered by individuals are identical to those offered by 1106 Design and other companies like us. They don’t stop to think about the ramifications if the cheaper provider is less responsive, less qualified, and less dedicated to their satisfaction than we are.

To avoid mistakes when self-publishing, you need to ask several questions:

How will I evaluate the quality of the work I receive (both editing and design)? What reviews have the designers or editors received? Have you seen actual samples of their work? Were they referred to you? Are they part of a larger organization that has retained them based on their skill and experience?

What will I do if the service provider doesn’t know how to complete the job? For example, some “cover designers” will design only the front cover and nothing else. Some editors will only proofread your book and not do a proper copy edit. Most will not upload your files for you when you need to launch your book on Amazon and IngramSpark. And if you are dealing with two different individuals for cover design and editing, who will write your back cover text? Be very clear on the extent of the services being offered by your designers and editors and be sure to understand your recourse should they not fulfill their obligations. Ask for a quote and an explanation of the services to be provided!

Who will answer my industry questions? Hint: It’s faster to message the project manager assigned to your book rather than Google myriad blogs and websites and sort out the various opinions offered.

What will I do if the individual disappears in the middle of the project? Many authors have contacted us when their freelancers have simply stopped answering their emails. If you are with a larger company and the designer assigned to your project becomes ill or has an emergency, another designer or editor will be there to assist you and make sure your book launches on time.

How many revisions can I request for the price quoted? Revisions are inevitable. How many can you make before you exceed the quoted price? What will additional changes cost?


I must admit; it boggles my mind that so many first-time self-published authors choose the more difficult route of sourcing individual designers and editors via the Internet, spending hours to contact and vet services when they could make one phone call to a company like ours (or worse, not vetting the services at all).

What is their time worth to them?

What is peace of mind worth, knowing that their book is in the hands of great designers and editors? (We answered the question in this blog post!)

Why try to manage a book project on their own when they could work with a project manager who manages it for them?

After so many years in the industry, I guess I will never know, but my hope is that by asking the above questions, authors can avoid some common mistakes when self-publishing.

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