Self-publishing is as much about avoiding the wrong things as it is doing the right things.
I’m a strong advocate that almost any self-publishing tactic can work well if applied properly and mastered.
However, doing the wrong things will always hurt you, each and every time.
The following are some of the main mistakes I’ve seen people make. Avoid them at all costs!
Ignoring Your Competitors
While it’s definitely more important to work on your own goals and projects than it is to focus on your competitors, a balance needs to be struck.
Too many self-publishers take the ‘indie’ label to heart, and see themselves as being totally independent and unique. This is a massive mistake. As humans, we learn a lot better when we pay attention to the moves others are making.
After all, none of us has all the knowledge and experience. It therefore makes sense to benefit from the perspectives and insights that others have.
Some of the ways to apply this principle effectively include –
- Scheduling a set time for competitor research. This allows you to strike the right balance between paying attention to what others are doing, and working on your own projects.
- Look outside of your niche. As authors, we run the risk of getting stuck in an echo chamber, where we only hear ideas and thoughts similar to our own. This can be amplified further if we keep a small circle, such as authors within the same specific genre as us.
- Look outside of self-publishing all together. For example, Kyle of fooddeliveryyguru.com releases a mix of interesting content types, such as his recent guide to smoothie services. His mix of content has inspired several ideas for future articles of my own, albeit applied to self-publishing.
- Keep an ear to the ground. Often, hot topics in the self-publishing community, such as changes to CreateSpace royalty payment dates, will emerge in the forums and Facebook groups before they make it to the blog posts. By keeping an ear to the ground, you stand to benefit from the hottest news out there.
- Deliberately listen to people you disagree with. From an ego perspective, it can be nice to only listen to people who hold similar views as us. However, sometimes people we don’t agree with are actually the ones we need to be listening to most.
This is by no means a suggestion to rip off your competitors, or to spend too much of your time keeping an eye on them.
However, you need to devote at least some of your time to keeping an eye on what’s going on out there, otherwise you run the risk of missing out on important knowledge or information.
Reinventing The Wheel
Similarly to how many self-publishers neglect the importance of carrying out competitor analysis, as described above, many also try to reinvent the wheel which, as we all know, costs a pretty penny.
It’s good to be creative. It’s good to be original. However, it takes a certain level of arrogance and a lack of realism to feel you are doing something truly original.
After all, even Shakespeare’s stories were based on existing tales! Are you better than William? Are you?
Some of the ways this problem manifests include –
- Failing to respect genre tropes and conventions for your book cover. Readers don’t care enough to look past whatever creative intention you had at the time.
- Refusing to place your work in any particular genre. There are genres for almost everything. If you feel your work can’t be classified, you probably don’t know it well enough.
- Ignoring marketing ideas that are tried and tested, such as an author website, or building an author mailing list. No one is above the process.
- Failing to benefit from the mistakes others have made. There’s nothing noble about being easily avoidable errors in the name of being stubborn. It’s a lot more smart to stand on the shoulders of giants, and benefit from the trial and error of those who have walked the path before you.
There’s no harm or shame in being creative or trying something original. However, failing to at least consider tried and tested good and bad ideas is a foolish level of arrogance that will condemn you to a certain frustration and failure.
Failing To Use Tools To Grow
Some writers take a weird pride in being Luddites.
I’m sure you know the type. Writers who take a weird pride in not having a smartphone or some other quirk.
While I’m not a slave to any piece of tech, nor am I a blind advocate for tech I do strongly feel that many authors miss out on valuable opportunities offered to them by tech tools.
Some of the opportunities I see people miss out on include –
- Not generating keywords automatically for their AMS or other advertising campaigns. There is nothing noble about doing this by hand! Give yourself a chance guys.
- Not using editing tools or digital writing coaches, such as ProWritingAid. Yes, human editors are awesome, irreplaceable people. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t waste their time by not using a writing checker first.
- Not being open to using tools such as book title generators to help you break through a creative impasse.
- Failing to carry out any type of keyword research or SEO for author blogs. Why waste your valuable writing time and effort on a post if no one is even going to read it? Wouldn’t you rather help people by offering something they are actually searching for?
Like all things in self-publishing and in life, there’s a happy middle ground to be struck when it comes to using tools. Don’t come to rely on them too much, but also don’t overlook the genuine ways they could benefit you as an author and self-publisher.