The Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors by Kristen Lamb

Spending more time on mummy than writer: As it should be when they’re this cute!

I was made aware of Kristen Lamb through findingmycreature, who kindly left a comment on my last post. She suggested I read Kristen’s best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer , after I discussed my confusion about where to start when it comes to social media.

The books look brilliant and when I have the pennies I shall buy them, but there is also lots of very helpful advice on Kristen’s blog (have a look if you haven’t been there before). I was particularly interested in her recent post The Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors. As someone who is keen to self-publish soon, I obviously read this closely. As a result, I may well delay self-publishing Pictures of Love until the new year, when I have had a chance to let the novel sit for a bit longer, re-read some craft books and then spent some more time on revision. (As an aside, every post of Kristen’s I read made me want to hit Delete on Pictures of Love and to rewrite it from scratch, only better.)

This is a summary of the five mistakes Kristen discusses, although I recommend visiting her blog to read the whole article.

Mistake #1 Publishing Before We Are Ready

The problem with the ease of self-publishing is that it is, well, too easy. When we are new, frankly, most of us are too dumb to know what we don’t know. Just because we made As in English, does not automatically qualify us to write a work spanning 60-100,000 words. […]

Additionally, too many new writers I meet do not properly understand the antagonist. They don’t grasp three-act structure, and most don’t have any idea what I mean when I mention POV, Jungian archetypes, or the phrase, “scene and sequel.”

At this point I decided I probably shouldn’t self-publish just yet. I have no idea what a Jungian archetype is or what the phrase ‘scene and sequel’ means. It was a humbling thought. At least my book has a three-act structure and I know what POV is!

[…] Self-publishing is suffering a stigma from too many writers publishing before they are ready. If you really want to self-publish, I am here to support you and cheer you all the way, but remember, we have to write better than the traditional authors.

This last point really hit home: yes I’ve read published novels that were badly written – but they were usually by already-established authors who were clearly trying to hit a deadline. They were forgiven. I will not be forgiven if my first novel is slated on Amazon.

Mistake #2 Jumping in Before Understanding the Business Side to the Business

I see a lot of writers rushing into self-publishing without properly preparing to be a small business, yet that is exactly what we are. When we self-publish, we take on new roles and we need to understand them. We need to be willing to fork out money for proper editing, cover design and formatting. […]  We can be told a million times to not judge a book by its cover, yet that is exactly what readers do

At least I feel reasonably happy with my book cover, but it won’t help if someone buys my book then doesn’t get past the first chapter.

Mistake #3 Believing that, “If We Write it They Will Come”

There are a lot of writers who mistakenly believe that self-publishing is an easier and faster way to fame and success. Yeah, um no. And those magic beans are really just beans. Sorry.

Self-publishing is A LOT of work, especially if we are starting out this way.  […] Not only do we need to write good books, but we need to write prolifically. We also need to work our tails off on social media.  […] This is one of the reasons self-publishing isn’t for everyone. We need to look at how badly we want the dream, and then ask how many hours are we willing to work? What are we willing to sacrifice?

This is my biggest problem – I am finding it hard to get the balance right between writing and all the other roles I have to fulfil. The mummy in writermummy is pretty demanding at the moment. Not to mention that, financially, I should probably be getting a job to earn money, rather than spending more money on a dream.

Mistake #4 Misusing FREE!

There are a lot of problems with giving books away for FREE! We shouldn’t be giving away our work unless it serves some kind of a strategic advantage. There are ways to effectively harness the power of FREE! but too few writers understand how to do this and they just end up giving away their art for no tangible gain. […]

I have read arguments for and against ‘free’ and it is helpful to have those arguments presented in the same place by the same person.

Mistake #5 Shopping One Book to DEATH

[…] One of the BIGGEST problems I see with self-published writers is that they publish one book and then they focus every bit of energy on selling THAT book. […] Here’s the thing. Self-publishing, in many ways, just allows us to accelerate the career path of the author. Even in traditional publishing, it usually takes about three books to gain traction. In traditional publishing, this takes three years because we are dealing with a publisher’s schedule.

[…] This is why it is critical to keep writing. Not only will writing more books make you a better writer, but once people discover they love your writing, they have a number of titles to purchase. Being able to offer multiple titles is how we make  money at self-publishing.  […]

This is one of the reasons I want to publish Pictures of Love – so I can move on to the next (hopefully better) book. I’m caught between the terror of abject humiliation and the need to move forwards.

Remember Why We Do This

[…] We are striving to be better writers, to be better entrepreneurs, to get better at organization and time-management and to write more books and better books. If we can learn from these mistakes and grow, then the future is ours for the taking.

Wise words. You can find Kristen’s blog here:

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