Early mistakes of a self-published author

Humility is one of the virtues I admire the most, and one that I try to strive for whenever I can.

Humility comes especially when you realize you’ve made a mistake, and you’re willing to own up to it. In the process of publishing “Amidst Traffic” there were SEVERAL mistakes that I committed. The reality is that when you’re an independent or self-published author, you’re much more likely to commit mistakes because, really, you’re on your own. You don’t have an agent or an experienced editor who has been in the business and can coach you through (and away) from committing these types of mistakes.

So in this case, I wanted to share some of my early mistakes for the sake of other authors who might benefit from them.

Don’t be impatient!

This is perhaps my biggest fault. I’m such a straight-forward (and often obsessive) guy that when I set my mind on something, I want to get it done, and I want to get it done NOW!

In August of this year (2012) I decided to take on the ambitious goal of publishing “Amidst Traffic” by Christmas time. I completed my goal one month ahead of schedule and had my book completed by Thanksgiving in a span of less than 3 months.

The book is actually a compilation of stories that I had written over the years, but many of them needed rewriting (and lots of it), and there were maybe 2 or 3 stories that I wrote within that time period.

I was so excited to finally finished the book after reading it and re-reading it for what felt like the hundredth time, that I started submitting the book for review right away (I’ll be discussing the process of getting your book reviewed in future blog posts).

Originally, I didn’t think much of it. After all, my wife and I had looked at these stories so many times that it couldn’t be possible that we missed anything.

By now, I had already published the book on Kindle by using the Kindle Direct Publishing program, and I was just one week away from sending the book to CreateSpace (my printing distributor) to publish the paperback… Right then a friend of mine who is incredibly precise and talented in editing asked me if he could help edit the book.

Originally, I hesitated. There was no need. I looked over this book a dozen times. It was perfect. Really!

But then I gave in and said, what could it hurt?

I gave him the word document and a week to review it. I thought to myself, “He’ll probably find 10 or 20 minor mistakes.”

That wasn’t the case. He found probably over a hundred minor issues of either punctuation, improperly used words (using the word “peek” when I intended to use “peak” or “fleeting” instead of “fleeing”), or general awkward sentences.

Fortunately, there really weren’t any major mistakes in place. But there were so many minor issues that in the greater picture, they did add up to something big.

And unfortunately, I had already submitted the manuscript to Kirkus Reviews (before the edits), which is one of the largest reviewing companies in the Nation. Their review of the book turned out to be less than stellar, and although they didn’t mention a peep about the book’s editing, I’m sure it had an effect on the reviewer’s perception of the book as whole.

When you’re a self-published or independent author, you pretty much make your own deadlines. So it’s really not a big deal if you set yourself an ambitious goal to finish in 4 months, but instead it takes you 6 months, so long as that additional 2 months ensured that you produced a top notch (near flawless) product. Take your time! Don’t rush.

I’m currently reading Noah Lukeman’s “How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent” and he addresses this impatience in authors… We all expect to be an overnight success, when really we should strive for the long haul. Everything we do should be toward the long-term picture. Look ahead 20 years, not three to six months! If you commit major mistakes now because you were too impatient to wait and get it right, you might never become a publishing success (even after 20 years)!

 

Thank others, don’t blame others

In the early days of publishing the book, I reached out to various people from the past (college, previous run-ins and work experience with people in the media) to let them know about the exciting news of my new book. One of my former professors at Pitt is actually an editor of a MAJOR magazine publication.

I thought to myself, “How awesome that God put these people in my life in the past to propel my book into instant success!”

Wrong.

I queried many of them, and while a few replied by email with gracious words of congratulations, most of the people I contacted never replied at all.

I became embittered. And (initially) I thought to myself that if this book didn’t succeed it would be THEIR fault.

Right now I look back at those early frustrations, and I think of how stupid and selfish those sentiments are!

People’s lives are busy. You can’t expect the editor of a magazine or newspaper to suddenly care about your book after you haven’t spoken in years!

My attitude changed rather quickly. Instead of blaming those people who weren’t helping, I became incredibly grateful of those who were. I bestowed and showed my thanks for every tiny effort that my wife, my family and my friends made in promoting my book. The result of my gratitude was immediate. My sister, Marta, who is the manager of an ice cream store and has had several years of experience in marketing and community outreach, went wild on my behalf. She started emailing colleges and other businesses that she had built relationships with to ask if they wanted to host me for either book signings or writing workshops.

Already she set me up with a workshop that I’ll be leading at La Roche college in January.

Don’t regret the fact that your family and friends will be your biggest cheerleaders, promoters and supporters. Thank them! And thank them again!

If you curb your expectation of becoming an immediate success, you’ll be more thankful for the early successes you experience!

 

Listent to your pastor

This applies especially if you’re Christian, but if you’re not a believer, then instead of your pastor, replace the word with “mentor.”

My pastor, Rut Etheridge, is an incredible man whose advice and authority I respect highly. I consider him a friend, but I also go to him when in need of counseling or advice in the playing field of life’s traffic.

Unfortunately I never confided in him once before publishing “Amidst Traffic,” which is a book filled with R-rated language and other adult content. In the book’s intro, I address the reasons why I decided to keep the adult language. I’m going to address this later in another post.

It was only later, after praying and talking with Rut, my wife and other friends, that I decided the book might be better off by cleaning it up entirely. Remove all the F-words and S-words. So in the next month or two, I will be working to established a revised and renewed edition of Amidst Traffic.

Again, I’ll address the matter of adult content and language in my next post, but the point here is that I should have talked to Rut first. I should have submitted and sought counsel from my church’s authority and proceeded from there. We often commit our gravest mistakes when we lead based on our own ambitions rather than based on God’s character.

Before self-publishing your book, seek out advice in those people you trust and admire.

Fortunately, because my book is distributed on a print-on-demand basis, I will be able to release a renewed edition of the book with really minimal loss. It might even serve as a good fresh start!

 

Here are some more self-publishing mistakes to avoid, though these are more helpful if you’re REALLY getting started for the first time!

 

What about you?

What are some mistakes you’ve committed in self-publishing that you think others would benefit from?

About Michel Sauret

I'm a independent and literary fiction author and Pittsburgh-based photographer

2 comments

  1. I feel so inspired and encouraged by your articles on publishing a book, and writing a book. I was recently with a small boutique publishing company, aka indie publishing company, and it did not work out :-(

    However they allowed me to get out of the contract, and gain full rights back over my book Emotionally Discombobulated, and I am so grateful!

    However, you are so right! As authors we can be so impatient. And that is our biggest down fall. I am finding that my impatience actually serves as a stumbling block for building a successful career as an author.

    I am learning the hard way. But I absolutely love your blog! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for the comment Tiheasha. As I’m preparing for finishing and launching my second novel, I’ve pressed on myself to be much more patient. Some days, I just want to launch it as is, mostly just to get this tedious process of editing over with, but that would be a huge mistake, and a repeat of previous mistakes. Ultimately, there really is no rush, just an imposed idea of rush, when it comes to editing and publishing. That’s one aspect that independent (self published) authors must learn to control better.

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