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Common Self-Publishing Mistakes New Authors Make

by Dave Henderson

Hey, I’m Dave. You might not know me, however, here’s the important bit…I help authors. Specifically, I help authors, writers, poets and busy business people shape their writing into a book that sells. Moving from the draft document, navigating around, daunting publishing obstacles, through to a professionally polished book, published and ready for readers.

Many years and 100’s of conversations later, I have noticed a common personality trait that helps determine the success and satisfaction that any self-published author enjoys. Curiosity.

Authors who spend time researching. Authors who ask (many) questions. Heck, even those of you who opting for the traditional publishing experience would benefit from time spent comparing options before signing on any dotted line.

Here are a few of the most common stumbling blocks that new authors face when self-publishing. Enjoy the read.

Mistake #1: A Crammed Cover.

One of the earliest stumbling blocks for our new author is found during the design of the book’s cover. It sees the author giving into the temptation of cramming the front cover with as much eye-candy as possible.

Book contains an element of romance? Let’s add big red hearts.
Does someone visit a church in the first chapter? Let’s include a cross to speak to our religious readers.
Does the protagonist get jiggy with their love interest on the beachside? Let’s include splashing waves.


At the core of every book’s story, or message should be a defining choice of genre. Just one. Yes, there can be an overlap into another subcategory. however when your book gets accepted into Exclusive Books they won’t be balancing your book awkwardly across two shelves.

Decide early on the main genre you feel defines your book. This seemingly trivial detail helps guide your cover designer with their choice of fonts and colours specific to that genre. Defining your genre also represents a step towards defining your ideal reader. Your marketing team will thank you.

How much eye-candy should you include? Less is better. Ideally, the reader’s eyes should be easily drawn to a central image. This image or symbol should ideally allude to the genre. I understand this sometimes frustrates an author who wants a cover that more accurately captures all the books content. It’s not the covers job to fully convey your books content. It captures the reader’s attention. It should entice them to lift your book from the shelf before flipping it over and skimming the blurb.

That book cover with the simple smear of sultry lipstick across the front page might feel like you are selling your romance novel short however if it entices grazing readers to lift your book from the shelf, consider its job done.

Bonus Tip. Your blurb should be very well oiled (edited). You should be targeting roughly 250 words in length. A blurb that exceeds this word-count can look squashed. Also, a blurb should sell not summarise. Otherwise put, how would you describe your book to me in the lift on the way to my offices on the 6th floor?

Example of a Good Cover
Example of Bad Cover


Mistake #2: Your Preference of Packaging

Your book is a message. That message can be packaged in different formats. Don’t confuse the packaging with the message. The goal remains the same, reaching readers. Different readers prefer consuming their content differently.

• I love reading a paperback book first thing in the morning.
• I listen to my favourite podcasts whilst doing dishes or burning breakfast.
• At night I fall asleep with my face sunburnt from my Kindle screen.
• During road trips, I make sure I have an audiobook downloaded for the loooong stretches of silence where I find myself bored with my own company.

Sound like you?

Or do you prefer print?

Don’t let your love of a single format lead you to rob readers who might love another.
In South Africa, we have a very strong bias towards paper. Remember, as soon as your book ventures out of the country and into 1st world markets, you will be in front of readers who prefer reading differently. If you only plan for print, you will be leaving readers behind.

Bonus Tip. For authors looking to explore audiobook options, look at the findawayvoices.com platform. This platform not only distributes your audiobook to retailers (including Audible) but also sets authors up with potential voice artists too.

Mistake #3: Tricky Decisions on Distribution

Who likes bullies?

‘Saffers’ are gatvol of monopolies. From electricity, transportation and even our smartphones. We suffer at the hands of big companies who don’t seem to care how long we spend bleating on customer supports calls. Monopolies suck. Right?

Well, yes. But I wouldn’t recommend we go back to carrier pigeons to prove a point.

Publishing is no different. Authors who avoid Amazon due to their monopolistic practices might be taking a moral high ground. However, the readers on the road below will be the ones missing out. Love or hate them, not many self-published authors can sell bundles of books without some help from the megastore.

Swallow your pride. Head across to kdp.amazon.com and get that book listed now.

Bonus Tip. For authors looking to maximise reach, consider also publishing your eBook into extra stores using a platform such as Draft2Digital. This “middleman” platform helps get your latest eBook into hard-to-reach stores.

Mistake #4: Arriving Late to The Marketing Party

Your book is now available on Amazon. The quaint bookstore down the road too. Printed copies scattered across your living room. What now?

Too many authors only starting thinking about marketing once the book reaches the shelves.

Too many authors are afraid of selling.

Too many authors then throw money at hungry freelancers wearing a marketing cap.

Most authors then give up, their books gathering dust.

Marketing can sound scary. An author’s eyes quickly glaze over. Like when my significant other wants to talk about our future. I get it, selling sucks.

Reword it then. Let’s rather say, “How can I reach new readers?”
Sound easier? Inner resistance feel less?

There are numerous ways to find your readers. Too many to list here. I feel your attention span waning. Instead, I will share a few simple ideas, for when you do eventually ponder the marketing proposition.

No silver bullets. Avoid anyone selling you a fame in a bottle. Finding new readers requires multiple tactics. Some will work. Others won’t. Some are quicker but require funding upfront. Others are free, simply requiring you to roll up your sleeves. Think of marketing as an experiment. Find a marketing person that speaks in a way you understand. Find someone who focuses on a relationship rather than a quickie. Got that same advice from my folks, coincidently.

Speaking plainly. Discussing organic marketing versus paid-for ad campaigns can give you a headache. While I can’t tell you if the whippersnapper sitting opposite you knows their stuff, I can give you this advice. They should be able to easily explain how their services will benefit you. In a language you understand. Every. Simple. Syllable. If they can’t, kick them to the curb and keep looking.

Social media. Let’s get this out the way. That “like” on your post promoting your book does not mean you have sold a book. You could be drowning in a sea of likes and comments and still not have sold a single book. Shallow audience engagement metrics should not be distracting our new author. Every second spent on Facebook is a moment lost to the new author. Unless you are sharing this article, that’s fine. Money spent on marketing should rather be measured against books sold, not comments, likes or whatever it is that TikTok does.

Bonus Tip. Instead of social media an author should first be building an online presence in a domain that they fully control. An author website. This helps you rank online, without distracting notifications fighting for your readers’ attention. This investment in an online piece of “real estate” is recommended for authors penning a series of books. Or those authors who might have a business behind the book.

Mistake #5: Not Sharing This Article

Somewhere, you have a friend who needs this advice. Pop them an email, share this article. Otherwise, if you promise to keep it quick, you can post on social media and tag them instead.

Before I go

I know that this short post only covers the tip of our iceberg. Self-publishing means our new author is exposed to costs they never expected. It also means working with freelancers who simply wont work out. There are good people out there.

Stay strong. Do you your homework. See you and your new book on Amazon soon.


Dave henderson

Super Powers: The ability to make anyone cringe with a single joke.

“I am the founder of the MYeBook self-publishing business. I also act as the Chief Welcome Officer; I welcome every new author through the doors of the business. After our first chat I recommend a publishing route that will best suite your specific goals, before I introduce you to the rest of our talented team. I am always on call to ensure that no author ever gets left behind.”

I am a writer merchandice

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4 thoughts on “Common Self-Publishing Mistakes New Authors Make”

  1. self publishing
  2. Thank you so much for giving me some excellent suggestions on how to move forward. I am extremely grateful to you for your words of wisdom and for all of the help that you offered me.

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