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Seven Deadly Sins of Self-published Authors – Darby Rae

Seven Deadly Sins of Self-published Authors

The list below contains common editing and marketing mistakes made by self-published authors.  It could also be called “The Biggest Mistakes I Made or Almost Made.”  Self-published authors have the onerous task of writing, editing and marketing their books.  From a business perspective, we are the Production/Operations department, the Sales/Marketing Department and of course the Finance Department.  Few entrepreneurs can bring all that to the table, and as a self-published author, you are most definitely an entrepreneur.

SIN ONE:  Unrealistic expectations of revenue and expenses.

-The cliché it takes money to make money remains true with self-publishing.  The list of expenses you receive from self-publishing companies is a good start.  However, even if it includes some promotional items such as business cards and mailers, there is so much more to promoting your book.  Take a look at my May and August calendar.  Every event costs money, in one way or another…tent, tablecloth, give-aways, marketing to promote the event, new outfit… it all adds up.

SIN TWO:  Editing your own manuscript or having a “friend” do it for you.

-Punctuation issues, grammar errors, tense jumps and POV shifts are distracting to a reader.  You and your mom may think your novel is ready for print, but if you haven’t had it professionally edited, you’re wrong.  I thank my publicist for not letting me make this mistake!

SIN THREE:  Having a lousy website or no website at all.

-For self-published authors, your website is likely the stop your potential readers make before buying your book.  A lousy website is as bad or worse than no website at all.  It is a reflection of you as an artist.  Would you take a fitness class from an out of shape aerobics instructor?  Connect the dots.  If the image on your website isn’t one of a professional writer, get back to the drawing board.  Or better yet, hire a professional.  I’m an author, not a web designer or a marketing guru.  So I hired an expert in Marketing, Collective Alternative, and had them develop a site that would reflect my image and promote my book…and future books.  Visit my website and see how they did.

SIN FOUR:  Winging your book’s marketing and promotion.

-For many authors, marketing is the big black hole because we don’t know what we don’t know.  Should you promote your book using traditional marketing or social media?  What are some easy or inexpensive ways to start?  Consult a writer’s guide, like this one.  Even traditionally published authors are doing a lot of marketing these days.

SIN FIVE:  Spinning your wheels in the Social Media circuit.

-I was the over-achiever in this particular sin until I saw a post that summed up what I was doing wrong, Twelve Twitter Mistakes You Should Avoid.  If you are going to use social media, there is a myriad of information on how to do it right—and how to do it wrong.  Invest a few dollars in doing it right.  I bought Twitter Dummy from the website above and went from 22 followers to almost 200 in less than two weeks.

SIN SIX:  Information overload.

-When you are asked about your book, do you oblige by giving the never-ending answer leaving your listener with bleeding ears and no desire to ask a follow-up question?  Consider consulting The “Secret” Formula for Creating a Short Synopsis for Your Book by Mike Wells.

SIN SEVEN:  Not enough time or energy left to promote your book once it is completed.

-Have a plan.  Gain some knowledge.  Be prepared to invest time, energy and finances in the success of your book.  If you are waiting around to be discovered, it will be a long wait.


  1. TY for including me in this post Darby. Great post and most of these tips would apply nicely to bloggers too.

    Mainly 1-3-5-6 all things bloggers should watch out for.

    Oh and don’t worry, I don’t scare easy lol so “stalk” all you want 🙂

    • You are so welcome and great point about blogging. I would have to put #6 twice on that list! It is puzzling that many bloggers write as if more is better. Blogs that go for the “less is more” are the ones I prefer.

      Twitter Dummy is a good example of less is more. You could have stretched that into 150 (please kill me now) pages. Instead, it is concise with enough supporting detail to get the point. Love the “Dummy Tips” too.

      Your favorite stalker,

  2. Good post. It’s far more challenging to sell a book than to write a book, and takes just as much if not more creativity.

    Although if someone doesn’t understand POV, I’d have to wonder if they are really ready to be published at all…

    • Scott,

      Selling, or should I say promoting, is a huge time-consuming task I wasn’t prepared for. I would estimate I’ve spent as much time promoting Merciful Law as I did writing it. You have an impressive list of published books! Please tell me the rewards are exponential once there are more books in my library to promote!

      As for POV…ah…I did that right purely by accident. So much I’ve forgotten since 101 Lit class in college. = )

  3. Re: #6 Information Overload

    It is so crucial to nail down that one-sentence synopsis. When I began my journey (and I’m publishing my first book at the end of the month) I started off preparing to traditionally publish. I worked for two days of getting the crux of my story into a one-sentence synopsis: A robotics engineer is engaged to his business partner, but a previous one-night stand is pregnant with his child. You agonize every single word; make sure each one pulls it’s weight. I was ready to pitch my manuscript to anyone and everyone. Although I am no longer considering traditionally publishing at this time, it has still come in handy as I’ve worked on my book to explain my project to others.

    It’s also handy to have a couple of teasers that are around 100 characters for social media plus links. Everyone has a short attention span these days, and as indie authors we have only a few seconds to sell ourselves.

    • Describing your book in one sentence…you are my hero! There is a market for talent like that.

      Congrats onthe up-coming release of your first book “CANCELLED.” September 22nd is just around the corner!!

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  6. I’m ordering your book. Thanks for the very sound and sage advice! The traditional publishers consistently downplay self-publishing, using verbiage that impunes anyone who does so, while at the same time closing opportunities to only a handful of names. Your results as a successful author are very encouraging – BRAVO!

    • When I was growing up, my mother always said kids pick on other kids when they are feeling insecure. No doubt the same is true for traditional publishers right now. The great news is, while they are struggling to figure out their future, writers have options. It really is a fantastic time for new authors to break into the market. There are many authors who are only doing e-versions. That reduces cost exponentially and makes cost of entry less prohibitive.

      Thank you, Randolph for your comments and for ordering Merciful Law. Stay in touch!

  7. Awesome Post Quick read and informative.

  8. Bessie Masters says

    Great blog! Keep the advice coming!

  9. I would say there needs to be an eighth (probably more than eight but…)

    8. Turning off potential readers by being too eager or inappropriate with your promoting.

    Leaving a plug for your book in an unrelated book forum thread.
    Randomly DMing a person on Twitter saying “buy my book”
    Posting the same Facebook blurb six times a day.
    Friending people on Goodreads when you have zero books listed on your profile – or only your titles.

    There are sooooooo many things that will turn off a potential reader or reviewer. I started a list on my blog and before I knew it I had 29 items. You can see them all here –

    I was guilty of some of these in my early days of publishing. New authors need to step back and learn the self-publishing marketing ways before diving in. Most learn after it’s too late. They’ve already irritated people.



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