The Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors

The Spawn’s First Novel, “akjehsubfuirewagh6r5” now available on Kindle.

Happy Monday! Okay, last week, upon my return from Thrillerfest, we explored what I felt were the 5 top mistakes that are killing traditional publishing. Then, on Friday, we talked about how self-publishing can help writers as a whole, even traditional writers. It is a wonderful time to be a writer, but I want to make myself crystal clear.

This business is hard work. There are no shortcuts.

I Don’t Take Sides

I feel that traditional publishing has a lot to offer the industry. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t spend so much time and effort challenging them to innovate to remain competitive. Self-publishing is not a panacea, and, since I spent last week focusing on the traditional end of the industry, today we are going to talk about the top five mistakes I feel are killing self-publishing authors.

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. I cannot count how many writers I have met who refuse to read fiction, refuse to read craft books, and who only go to pitch agents when they attend conferences at the expense of attending the craft sessions.

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.”

I see a lot of new writers who believe their story is the exception, that the rules make for “formulaic” writing. No, rules are there for a reason, and, if the writing is too formulaic, it has more to do with execution than the rules.

Three-act structure has been around since Aristotle, and there is a lot of evidence in neuroscience that suggests that three-act structure is actually hard-wired into the human brain. Thus, when we deviate too far from three-act structure, it confuses and frustrates readers. Stories have clear beginnings, middles and ends. Without a clear story objective, it is impossible to generate dramatic tension, and what is left over is drama’s inbred cousin, melodrama. Yet, many writers start off writing a book without properly understanding the basic skeleton of story.

Writing fiction is therapeutic, but it isn’t therapy. Yes, characters should struggle with inner demons, but that does not a plot make. Struggling with weakness, inner demons, insecurity, addictions are all character arc, not plot arc. There should be a core story problem that we can articulate in ONE sentence. The plot arc should serve to drive the character arc. If the character does not grow and change she will fail, but it is the core story problem that drives this change. Without the problem, there is no crucible.

Yes, we are artists, but we need to understand the fundamentals. I played clarinet for years, and yes it was an art. But this didn’t excuse me from having to learn to read music, the finger positions and proper embouchure (the way to position the mouth to play).

The better we are at the basics, the better we know the rules, the more we become true artists.

I’ve received contest winners whose first pages were filled with newbie errors. Yet, when I sent them my critique filled with pages of corrections, I would then receive a reply telling me that the book had already been self-published.


Sometimes there are reasons we are being rejected and we need to take a hard look and be honest. 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.

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.

One of the benefits to traditional publishing is they take on all the risk and do the editing, proofing, etc. When we go it alone, we need to prepare for some expenses and do our research. We can be told a million times to not judge a book by its cover, yet that is exactly what readers do. Additionally, we may need to look into becoming an LLC. We need to set up proper accounting procedures and withhold the correct amount of taxes, unemployment, state taxes and on and on.

This is part of the reason I created WANA International. Writers need business instruction. In the fall we will be bringing on more and more business classes for writers.

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. I know Bob Mayer and Joe Konrath lecture writers to do less social media and more writing. To an extent I agree, but here is the thing. These guys were branded traditional authors who could slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of their names when they decided to go it alone. If you can’t slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of your name, prepare for a ton of work.

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. If you study the successes of the Amanda Hockings and the H.P. Mallorys, they worked like dogs. They wrote a lot of books and also created momentum with social media and newsletters.

When we self-publish, we need a much larger platform because we don’t have New York in our corner. 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?

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 they 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. This goes with my above point of us needing to understand the business side of our business. When we do choose to give away stuff for FREE! it needs to serve longer-term business goals.

Mistake #5 Shopping One Book to DEATH

When Joe Konrath and Bob Mayer chastise writers to get off social media and get back to writing more books, they are giving fantastic advice. 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.

They fill up #MyWANA and all the writing hashtags with link spam promoting their books. They keep futzing with the cover, the web site, the promotions. They do blog tours until they drop, and they do everything except what is going to help that book sell a ton of copies…write more books.

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.

In self-publishing, we can make our own schedule, but it still takes THREE BOOKS MINIMUM. I know there are exceptions, but most self-published successes hit at about book three. The ability to offer multiple titles is a huge part of why John Locke became successful.

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. It also helps us maximize the whole FREE! tactic. Even I am putting my nose to the grindstone to come out with more books in the next six months. I don’t tell you guys to do anything that, I myself, am unwilling to do.

Remember Why We Do This

Self-publishing is a wonderful alternative. Just because we self-publish doesn’t mean we cannot publish other ways, too. I feel the author of the future will actually be a hybrid author, and I do believe that the ability to self-publish is challenging all of us to come up higher. 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.

A little humor…

My own story…

What have been some of your challenges with self-publishing? In what areas is it forcing you to grow? Have you had to outsource? What sacrifices have you made? Tell us your story!

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners will now have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.


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  1. Mmmm, Miss. Lamb? *raising my hand with caution like a little boy*

    Haven’t you written posts before about taking chances, being different, breaking rules, being bold with writing formulas, and finding your own voice?

    None of the books I see on the shelves in book stores or in the top 10 of the New York Times or Amazon seem different. I mean yeah, Jonathan Franzen is awesome and so are you but the problem is the rules are being followed too much.

    After going 0-7 with traditional publishers, I’m going to independently publish in about six weeks or so. I’m using advice you gave me – rewriting a beginning, focus on the main character, create conflict, being daring with language and situation. I’m not saying what I’m writing is the exception. I mean it’s about a female rock musician, but the rejection letters I’m getting all say the same thing – “this isn’t something that would seel” or “this isn’t something that fits a genre”.

    Maybe we can make a friendly wager. If I sell more than 50 books, you’ll buy one. If I don’t I’ll send you one for free and you can use it to hold your back door open in the summer.

    great post

    1. Breaking rules is fine, if we understand the rules first. Breaking rules without understanding the rules is ignorance. I broke the rules by writing a books about social media. Agents told me it couldn’t be done. The information would expire too quickly. Yet, by focusing on people and content and NOT technology, WANA still is selling strong. But I had to understand WHAT was making technology books a hard sale with a short shelf-life in order to break the rules and do something different.

      There are a lot of new writers who don’t even understand the fundamental stuff, but believe they are ready for the big time. Hey, I was one of them if you watch my video.

      I do feel we should bend and break rules but always for a good reason. And, there are some basics that be can’t stray too far from before we just frustrate readers. In my structure series I gave the example of pizza. Pizza has a lot of variations. There is no hard and fast rule that a pizza MUST have marinara, cheese and pepperoni to be a real pizza. There are pizzas that use alfredo sauces or toppings like pine nuts or sun dried tomatoes. Yet, even to the casual observer, it is still recognizable as a pizza. A fried quail leg in filo dough with raspberry reduction IS NOT a pizza no matter how many times we call it pizza. We have strayed too far from consumer expectations.

      1. gotcha

        also, what you’ve written/taught me about editing and rewriting has changed me as a writer. thank you.

  2. Thank you for the valuable info. Love your blog.

    • annerallen on July 23, 2012 at 11:03 am
    • Reply

    This list is awesome, Kristen. I hope all writers considering self-pubbing will read it. Almost all the big successes in self-publishing have three things in common. 1) the author has been in the business a long time, usually with a trad. publisher.. 2)The author has a large inventory, and is opening a business with a lot of stock on hand, not just one item for sale. 3) The author has a well-established platform and brand..

  3. Okay so I have published 2 books, Searching for My Wand and On a Hot August Afternoon. Both have great reviews and the second one is selling a little better than the first, so here is hoping the third times the charm, right? I definitly need to widen my audience.

  4. Kristen, which craft books, courses, apps, etc do you recommend?

    1. All beginning writers, in my POV, should read:
      Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (structure)
      Hooked by Les Edgerton (structure and great beginnings)
      Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell (structure)
      Bullies, Bastards and Bitches by Jessica Morrell (antagonists)
      The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler (Jungian archetypes and narrative structure)
      Story Engineering by Larry Brooks (structure)

      Pansters, especially need books on structure. We need to understand structure so well we do it intuitively.

      1. I would also suggest, On Writing by Stephen King
        Linda Seger’s Creating Unforgettable Characters
        Bird By Bird, Annie Lamott.

  5. #5 is a huge turnoff for me. But it doesn’t apply just to one book either. It could be every book that author writes. There’s nothing wrong with promotion. It helps get the word on the street that you’ve written something worth reading (or at least taking a look at) but please, please, PLEASE don’t bombard my newsfeed, timeline, Twitter, inbox, etc., with constant “Don’t Forget!” or “Coming Soon!”

    I’ll celebrate the author’s milestone because I know you and, hey, it’s an accomplishment! But I don’t need to hear about it for eight months leading up to its release. I know a few self-pubbed authors who are successful without the constant promotional barrage.

    1. Actually the constant barrage is a surefire way to NEVER sell books. People resent spam, but they REALLY resent it in social media. Thanks for taking the time to give your thoughts!

  6. “We can be told a million times to not judge a book by its cover, yet that is exactly what readers do.” — So true. I can’t wait until you have the business modules up and running. Do you have a tentative release date yet? I have both of your books and they’ve been invaluable tools. The WANAtribe site is great too. You are my go-to resource for my writing and social media questions. Thanks for the helpful info, yet again.

  7. These were both great posts – thanks, Kristen! And doubly so because I’m pitching my middle-grade time travel to an agent this weekend (but not skipping craft classes to do so!), and then will start querying others. Followed, hopefully soon, by e-pubbing several short, related non-fiction books, so I’m soaking up all the info I can!

  8. I’m going to disagree with Anne in #4 because authors like Tina Folsom have done it without an agent, a backlist or a name. But she works harder than any other author I know. Those of you going to RWA be sure to check out her panel with Bella Andre.

    In my case, it has taken the 4th book to begin to make some serious money. I have spent on average $1000 per book on editors, cover art, plus websites and professional-looking blog. And still I find mistakes, and have corrected my books several times (one of the perks of Indie).

    Sorry I don’t remember the name of the person, but someone said you have to write about 1 million words to start calling yourself an author. I’m heading to 2 million, and can finally say I’m beginning to learn.

    I went Indie because I have a great agent, but couldn’t stand the 10-12 month wait for the rejections. Just not part of my DNA. And being more senior than perhaps most of you, didn’t want to take 14 years and 14 books to get noticed. Hopefully, I’ve been able to strike a good balance. At least readers are saying so now.

    Always love your posts. I’ll go back to lurk for another few months now… 🙂

  9. Great post, Kristen. I can honestly say that I’ve made at least 2 of the 5 mistakes and, depending on who you ask, all 5. But I see my first book as a learning experience. I had originally planned to write sequels and prequels and turn it into a franchise. Well, that’s not going to happen. I’ve since moved on to other stories. That 1st book will be a stand-alone novel, a sad footnote to my writing career. But that’s fine. I’ve made so many mistakes and learned so much in the process that I treasure the experience. Now, back to writing!

    1. We all make them, no matter which path we take. And I suppose that is the larger point. Both paths require we pay dues, but if we LOVE to write, then it will all be worth it :D.

  10. I think the larger message — and I don’t envy you having to keep making it — is to pay your dues and (yes) be patient. By circumventing traditional publishing, I often get the feeling that self-published authors like to feel “better than”, like they’ve somehow deked around the obstacles we all face. They haven’t.

    Much as it is unamusing to be taken to the editorial woodshed by your agent and editor along the way to publication, if you publish the old-fashioned way, at least you have some reassurance you’ve cleared a high bar. It’s no guararantee your book is good, or great or will sell. But it has been read and heavily critiqued by other smart, experienced people. I need and want that for myself.

    I’m not self-published, and don’t plan to become so, for a variety of reasons, but all our book(s) are still entering a crowded marketplace to people with limited attentions spans and budgets. My last book came out in April 2011, (paperback out next week). I’ve now finally managed to finish the proposal for number three and wonder, indeed, if three will be the charm. Wouldn’t that be pleasant?

  11. Thanks for another useful list of great advice. As some one who is releasing her first book in August and who just started her first press with 7 titles to be released by winter 2014, your words of wisdoem are both practical and inspiring.

  12. You just described my worst fear–putting out a book when it’s not ready. When it comes to self-publishing, I love the idea of being able to control the cover, formatting, and price of my book. I love the idea of being able to get my book out more quickly than a traditional press could and to not be bound by someone else’s schedule. I also love the idea that I don’t have to give away all my rights or sign an exclusivity clause. But how can I be sure that my book is ready to go public? I’ve been at this long enough to look back and cringe over my first three novels (the ones living in drawers) that at the time I thought were awesome. I shudder thinking about them seeing the light of day.

      • Carole Avila on July 23, 2012 at 5:02 pm
      • Reply

      One way to know if your book is ready –you trust other people, mainly writing friends, to give you an honest critique. After those revisions, and if they’re still willing to read, you go through another round of critique (or you send the revision to fresh eyes of other writers.) Do this step several times over. You will see yourself becoming a stronger, more confident writer with every critique. When you feel ready, send it to a professional editor, preferably a reliable referral, and a good one will let you know how close you are to being published. Don’t take criticism personally -it’s for your benefit.

  13. Excellent, excellent post. As a writer, and a freelance editor, I get a lot of manuscripts on my desk that are far from ready, though the authors think all they need is a “final copy edit” before going to print. Most of them need serious developmental editing stemming from issues with structure, plot, inconsistencies with characters, etc. It’s so important to hire an editor and work with them throughout the process so that when you do finally put your work out there, it’s really ready. And then when you do a FREE promo, what people see is your absolute best work. And then get to work on the next one!!!

    • Tiffany Pitts on July 23, 2012 at 11:42 am
    • Reply

    “and what is left over is drama’s inbred cousin, melodrama.” – *snort* *giggle*
    That is a wonderful mental image.

  14. Excellent advice.

  15. I discovered WANA and Kristen’s blog only a week ago. Yikes! Bob Mayer would be ticked at me because instead of writing I’ve been reading all of Kristen’s old blog posts. I’m going back to writing this week, an older (by a week) wiser (by Kristen) writer. Thanks Kristen. You answer the questions I have before I’m even wise enough to think of them.

    1. No, Bobo would be happy that you are educating and preparing for success. This job is tough and much more than the writing. I am always reading business books to see how I can be stronger as an entrepreneur. I also still read craft books and blogs, ON TOP of writing. I am happy you ilk the blog and am blessed to be able to serve you guys.

  16. #2 is so important! I’m a small biz owner (separate from my writing), and the paperwork (legal, taxes, etc.) can be overwhelming. Writers need to understand that there’s a difference between “writing as a hobby” and “writing as a business.” When in business, beyond honing your craft, you have to do the paperwork. Just this past year I learned via a blog post about what you should be reporting to the IRS BEFORE you are published and what you need to save in your records. Luckily I have an accountant, so I can turn to her for expert advice. Still, if I wouldn’t have seen a post on the subject, I might not have known what to ask.

    I’d like to see more out there discussing writing as a business!

    Thanks for this post!

  17. So many writers need to see this… to read it… and to take it to that special place in their heads, mysteriously called their brains.

    This should be common sense, but for so many it’s against what they want, so they ignore it. Self-publishing is great and is going to change the way publishing is done… but so many people are using it as a way to get junk into the system. I’ve already decided which books I’m going to traditionally publish, and which ones will do much better as self. But none of them are going to be published until they are ready. This isn’t fear (being afraid to publish) – it’s about me making sure I’m putting good product out there.

    Thank you for standing up and pointing to the elephant in the room – self publishing is great, as long as you use it right. Don’t forget the basics (or ignore them completely) just because it means you have to work a little.

  18. Like you say, I have had to realise that to be successful you need to keep writing and publishing books. So that is what I am doing. I also am learning that it can be team work, in that you have to invest in other services such as editing, and cover designs. I have learnt how to format, which was new to me. Before I started self-epubbing, I read the WG2E blog and I also read writing magazines that had interviews with self-epublishers in. I am still learning, as I continually read ebooks about marketing and getting readers and blogs/forums about how to stuff. There is always something new to learn about this business.

  19. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. I’m getting ready to publish my first book and from reading this blog post alone I can see where I was about to do some things that would in no way benefit me. There’s so much to learn and if it weren’t for folks like you willing to share your expertise I’d be completely lost! Thank you!

  20. It continues to be a relief and welcome learning experience reading your blog. I almost always come away with a sense of (smug) satisfaction that I’ve managed to do so many things right without knowing it, and an even bigger sense of excitement and gratitude at finding out there is still so much more for me to learn as I continue on the self-publishing road. :-). Thank you!!

  21. Thank you! THIS, right here, is why I’m hesitant to self-publish. I’m too new (and I’ve been writing for ten years). I am not ready, mentally, nor do I have the tools, to be a business. I’m working on it, and I’m really looking forward to your classes in this arena.

    So, thank you. I feel better now for my decision, at this time, to not self-publish. Cheers dear!

  22. You make many, many good points as always Kristen. My debut novel has just hit Amazon, #2 is in layout and #3 is with beta readers… I hear you about getting the 3 book Minimum! Getting the social media platform up and running was a lot of work but well worth it in my view and very important too. I’m no NYT bestseller, so social media is the next best thing! We’re learning! Thanks!

  23. Thank you for this post, Kristen. I am way, way back on the track to publishing–I’m reading like a fiend and taking WANA International classes (Thank you and Ingrid and Donna and shoot, everyone!) but this is going in my “Read so you aren’t stupid” folder.

    I was a college English professor for many years, and my red pen itches like a rash when I read some of the work that is put out before edits or betas or anything. As for your rules: preach it, sister!

  24. Great post, Kristen. I’ve posted to my overwraught, creative hidey hole– Facebook. Some of us (okay, ME) have a hard time letting it be enough. Ten years, great crit partners (what can I say, my partners make me look good, far smarter and betterer than I am) and needing to culminate some of my projects as well as needing to learn new technology, I have self published. Knowing there were problems with the work which made it a good but not great work, made it easier to play in the new technology (Photoshop, self-publishing to the web) and the result is Nana’s Gift for under a whopping buck at most venues. It’s given me the confidence to go forward to create covers and illustrate friends’ books as well as put out a few other of my projects. I figure perhaps five more people than my crit groups may like these things, and who knows I could have underestimated (though right now it’s looking like I’ve OVERESTIMATED) myself. I now subscribe to your posts and Twitter feed. Great stuff.

    1. And if I should ever have the benefit of a critique from you, I’d email you my next work in progress, but I don’t know how you feel about children’s picture books…

  25. The caption with your son’s photo is TOO funny! I haven’t self-published yet, and I continually realize how much MORE I have to learn. I’m reading both your books I am Not Alone and Are you there. They’re helping a lot. I have a question: I am learning that I need a separate Facebook page for my writing. So, in other words, I’ll have two accounts with my same name, right?

    1. Good Lord! I’m replying to my own post because I was just re-reading all the great comments here and noticed I said “son” instead of “child”. Well, there’s another lesson on proofreading!

  26. Rather than give away books, I strongly encourage authors to write short stories set in the same universe, and give those away. I get enough free reading material on one FB page, Must Read Mysteries, that I can’t possibly read it all. Sure, some of it is drek, but plenty of it is great. There are so many free books available at any one tim that readers don’t have to buy books, and many of them won’t, even though they like certain authors. The lure of free is too strong.

    We need to stop flooding the market with free content. Write short stories, do interviews with your characters, have contests and give away ONE book, but don’t give books away. If Kindle does it with the accompanying boost in promotion, that’s one thing, and you don’t have control over it.

    1. Esri, you make some very good points. A free short story set in the same universe is a very good suggestion! I’ve been thinking along the same lines.
      I’ve done KDP free promo for my books and have seen a good increase in sales and rankings. About 10,000 free copies of my books have been downloaded. I am very happy that people get to read them of course, but beyond that, there are a lot of problems with KDP and the whole “free” thing.

      One of them is what you mentioned: there are so many free books available that readers don’t even get around to purchasing other books, even IF they like the author. And this damages both the book market, and the reader/writer relationship. Very sad, really.

      I’ve written a post about my experiences with the KDP Select Free Promo. It contains good analysis, useful tips and predictions.
      Check it out:

      I also agree: we need to stop flooding the market with free content. However, I don’t think it’ll happen as there are too many hungry writers out there, desperate to get ahead as quickly as possible at any cost – even if it doesn’t gain them much in the long term. And Amazon is happy to oblige.

      P.S. I’ll be doing a follow up post on my second free KDP experience some time in August. It was different than the first. Should be interesting.

  27. As a self-published author, I have to say that I’ve made most of the mistakes you’ve stated here, except reading of course. It was the fact that I couldn’t find a good recent title that got me to writing in the first place. I would love to have a book telling me all the hats a self-published author needs to wear, or how they can find sources for help in those areas that don’t cost them an arm and a leg. Part of the reason I write is so that I can support my family, not just support the publisher and editors’ families. There’s just so many hours in a day, and I do have to have some time to relax and read within my genre. I would like to check out Spawn’s new title!

  28. I’ve just downloaded your “Are You There?” book (recommended by the great women writers at Broad Universe) and have been enjoying your perspective and advice. Thanks!

  29. Great post, and awesome videos. The vlog was a great way to get the message across. As always thanks for the tips and advice and thanks for being willing to show both sides of the “great debate.”

    • Frank Lambert on July 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm
    • Reply

    I’ve just started reading your blog (the last three) and as a soon to be self-published storyteller, I’ve found your to be advice spot on. It’s gonna be interesting to see where this takes me over the next year or so. And also, how much I learn not only from your blog, but the mistakes I’m sure to make. I agree, it’s feels like a great time to be a writer, who knows, maybe this is the best time ever to be a writer. Anyway, thanks for sharing your experiences.

  30. Last year when I decided to self publish, it was orgasmic. And then the reality became apparent. Self publishing is not cheap and it takes time and planning away from the writing. With that said, I don’t regret my decision. I love it! I love planning the roll out of my book like a general planning an invasion.

    One of the best words of wisdom I picked up on my journey (and man, do I wish I’d learned this YEARS ago) was from Lindsay Buroker:

    “You spend years writing, editing, and polishing your first book, and when it’s finally published, all you’re worried about is whether people will like it. You don’t worry about whether people will ‘buy’ it or even know it exists.”

  31. Reblogged this on Jessi Gage and commented:
    This post by Kristen Lamb is very near and dear to my heart. I love the advice she has for writers, especially regarding publishing too soon. Thank you Kristen for your words of wisdom!

  32. Great post. I feel like it gave me the words I need when I see writing friends rushing their finished manuscript onto Amazon. Reading this I know the extra effort I’m making will definitely pay off. I just don’t get how people aren’t in the umpteenth revision thinking they’ve still got a long ways to go. Glad you’re putting this word out there. And I especially loved that Xtra Normal vid. I’ve had a few of those conversations, though I haven’t been as blunt (maybe I should have, though I doubt they would have listened to me). Thanks!

  33. Thanks for sharing the great tips about what mistakes not to make in self-publishing. I agree that it’s a lot of work. Too much for me with a full-time job so for now I don’t plan to go that route.

  34. Totally believing in one’s message enough to prepare the manuscript carefully is certainly a time-honored guideline. Researching how others have addressed one’s subject matter and creatively writing with freshness never hurts, either. These guidelines apply to both self-publishing and traditional publishing!

  35. well done, Kristen. My only sticking point is how to decide when the editing has polished the book into its best.

    One more round of edits? Two more?

    Then another round?

    I know at what point I am satisfied, but I tend to second-guess myself due to all the endless warnings about getting a professional editor, which I am unable to acquire for my current works.

  36. Thank you, not only for inserting all of the links, but also for the 5 mistakes list. I’ve gotten alot out of these posts, learned many new things.
    I wondered if I should go the Indy route with the novel I just finished, but I haven’t shopped this stroy around yet. I’d like to give it a chance to be seen by some agets before I dive head first into an industry I really don’t know all that much about yet. I’ll be looking forward to the business classes WANA International will be offering in the fall. I agree with mistake #2 one hundred percent, and know I’ll benefit from some instruction on the businessc of self-publishing.
    Last night I sent out my finished novel to two agents that requested it… I’ve got my fingers crossed.
    Thank you for your wisdom!
    Have a great evening,

    PS, I enjoyed both YouTube videos you included. I think my favorite line on the animated one was, “I wish I could kill you and get away with it” 🙂 made me chuckle seeing that come out of a cute little bear’s mouth.

  37. Kristen: Just discovered your blog today, and I like what I see. I’m going to bookmark it and become a regular reader. I suspect I have made some of those mistakes. though hopefully not egregiously. I understand the business side well, and certainly haven’t spammed anyone.

    I have six items e-self-published: two short stories, a novel, two non-fiction books, and one of the non-fictions in homeschool format. My novel contained 27 typos (in 155,000 words), which I’m just ready fix tonight by a new upload. That was after two proof-readings by me. Nothing has taken off yet, as I’ve sold a grand total of 145 copies of everything. One of the items is in print, and two others will go to print within two weeks. I have my second novel ready to go, just waiting on the cover. I’m not really ready to do much promotion, so I’m in the writing and adding titles phase, and learning some publisher tasks such as formatting and the whole process of uploading.

  38. Reblogged this on pagansilvertree.

  39. I agree! I wrote for 20 years (as a hobby) before I got serious last year and started writing full-time. Published the first book in August and the third in December. Sales doubled from December to January, so there is something to that “third book” phenomenon. I made the first book free May 31 (took Amazon until June 4), but my income more than doubled in June, with 34,000 free downloads. To date, there have been 64,000 books sold (not counting free downloads, of course). Unlike a traditionally-published author, I’ve grossed $120,000 in my first 12 months of paid royalties. Most traditionally-published authors would still be waiting for their book to get into bookstores. It’s a little faster for the small press/epublishers, but still takes a while.

    While I’ve studied the craft over those 20 years, I do break rules, especially the way traditional publishers will publish a series. Specifically, I:

    * put out a prequel/introduction BEFORE the main stories in the series. Masters at Arms is totally a tease and marketing piece, but it’s edited and well-written and sucks the readers into the characters’ back stories (told in the now) and leaves enough questions for them to go immediately, in most cases to books 2 and 3.

    * don’t tie up all the loose ends at the end of a Romance novel. The couple is happy, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still have problems to work on in later books in the series. My main three heroes and their heroines, as well as a number of secondary characters in the series, are very interconnected and will keep coming back to work on problems. They don’t just make cameos to show readers how happy and perfect everything is going in their lives.

    * I have a cliffhanger in each book that sets up the next book.

    * Even though my work is categorized as erotica on Amazon (it’s really erotic romance, but…) don’t make it all about sex. The reader has to connect with the characters and CARE about them having sex. With my fourth book, I’m not even sure they will HAVE sex, which certainly would break a rule for erotic romance even. So, the book may not be categorized the same as the first three in the series.

    Biggest mistakes I’ve made:

    * Writing to the market. I did this three years ago when I drafted Nobody’s Angel. Luckily, last year when the editor and beta readers got ahold of it, they pointed out the problems and I rewrote it (twice) until it was a story from my heart and not because it’s the hot thing that’s selling.

    * Announcing when the next book will be out before I know for sure. It will be eight months from when the third book came out until the fourth will be ready. But I guessed it would be ready in May, then June, neither of which deadlines I met. Finally, I had to blog about why it was late and the response from readers was fantastic, but there are still more than 100,000 copies of my books floating around with those wrong dates, so I’ve learned NOT to announce release dates ever again until the book is at least through content editing and beta reading and in the hands of my line editor.

    * Spending too much time on Facebook & online, and traveling, when I should be writing. I’ve hired a personal assistant and a web researcher to help me get some of the administrative things done, but I still don’t let anyone pose as me to interact with my readers. I just need to set a timer and stop after that time is up and get back to work.

    Now, back to finishing the epilogue of book four, which goes to the editor and beta readers THIS WEEK if it kills me.


    • Carole Avila on July 23, 2012 at 5:10 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you, Kristen, for another helpful article. I love the comments and advice from professionals like you and others in the writing industry -from authors to publishers, agents, and publicists… It lights the path before me as I do my job as a hopeful potential author and that sort of guidance is priceless. I feel that reading wonderful blogs like yours confirms that all the work I’m doing building a platform before being published will eventually pay off. We’ll see…
    Carole Avila
    Eve’s Amulet, Book 1

  40. So glad you pointed out these mistakes because I was about to unknowingly make them. There seems to be so much pressure these days to hurry up and get a book out, but I agree that we should all take our time and do it when the time is right.

    • Diana Stevan on July 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm
    • Reply

    My sentiments exactly. By thinking traditional publishing has gone its course in this new digital age and acting accordingly, is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, excuse the cliché. You’ve summed up a lot of the problems writers face when they self-publishing before they are ready. Readers deserve a good story, formatted well, and with no errors in spelling. Writers test readers’ patience and their pocketbooks when they put out material that hasn’t been vetted. Thanks for summing it up so beautifully.

  41. Thanks for the post. You’re always incredibly helpful! 🙂

    • Diana Stevan on July 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm
    • Reply

    My previous comment illustrates the point I made, as in my haste to send it off, I incorrectly said “self-publishing” rather than “self-publish before they are ready.”

  42. I do think that when I finish my third draft of my novel that I will go the traditional route of publishing, but I’ve always kept self-publishing open as an option.

    I think that your #1 mistake is true for many writers, not just the self-publishers. When I first started writing my first draft, I thought I had little to learn. A year later, looking back, I can hardly believe how much that I’ve learned.

    This was an insightful post. Love your blog and your book 😀

  43. Reblogged this on Elisa Nuckle and commented:
    So my wisdom teeth got put off until next Monday, but I decided this post by the wonderful Kristen Lamb is more appropriate and selfless than me giving a large general update. Hope you have a good Monday (or continue having one at least).

  44. Whew! Thank you for being ruthless and truthful. 🙂

  45. As usual, fabulous. You’d better pick me as your winner because I’m going to be calling you after draft 2 is done so you cn tell which stupid mistakes I’ve made and stop me before I make them.

  46. HAHA! That youtube video was too funny! Dead on. It summarizes every post you have ever written!! 🙂

  47. How have I never found your blog before!?!? You are a genius! This article was incredibly insightful and perfectly timed for where I am on my writing journey. Thank you so much for sharing the wisdom that I have no doubt cost you a great deal of time, money, and emotional turmoil to obtain.

  48. So true, Kristen. Writing and self publishing IS hard work. I wrote my first book in ten months, but then spent the next year and a half editing all the mistakes! Then I sent it to a professional editor who gave me a very thorough assessment. I spent another three months re-working my manuscript based on her suggestions. It came runner-up in a national writing contest, later that year. After several rejections by publishers here in Australia, I decided to self publish. I was lucky to have a self-pub friend (non-fiction, business writer) who recommended an upcoming, local, young graphics designer to do the cover of my book. It was worth the investment. She did a tremendous job. If you want to see the finished result it’s on my blog site –
    I then joined ALL the social networks – Twitter, my own blog, Facebook (my teenage nieces have yet to convince me about tumblr!) – and got to work. And I have to admit, it takes up a lot of your time, but like anything else, it’s a business and you have to work at it.
    I’m currently working on my second book and hopefully my third.
    Thanks for the wise words and the encouragement.

  49. I love your blog and send it to my writing friends to read all the time. So many “aha!” moments! And it occurred to me this week how similar Traditional and Self-Pubbing is to when cable television hit. Remember how any local town or person could broadcast? There were a lot of junky shows that were low-quality (and plain cheesy), and the regular networks turned their noses up at them. But over time, cable has become much more respected. The increased quality of shows is what made the difference, and now, with the Emmy Award nominations that just came out, it’s a good mix of network and cable shows on the list. Perhaps that’s a model for the future of Trad and Self-Publishing? Perhaps one day there’s a place for both, side by side, with the recognition going to either based on quality.

  50. Great article. Glad I was able to access this information. As a new author myself, you have understand all.aspects of the writing and publishing business. Everything that’s free is not valuable. In any business you have to spend money to make money. Getting your name out there and making a.connection with your readers is a vital part to becoming successful. Thank you for sharing this information.

  51. Another post with excellent advice. I definitely need to get off my one book so far and get the others I started 15 years ago finished and out there. Love your list of book recommendations another ask in the comments above. Thank you for your time and well-meaning advice.

  52. Very informational and inspiring blog post! I was happy to read the bit about writing three books because I am almost ready to release my fourth self-published title and am gaining momentum. Thanks for being a resource! I am happy to be newly following your blog!

  53. Reblogged this on writingvortex.

  54. Reblogged this on My Atomic Muse.

  55. Fabulous post, Kristin, you’ve covered it all. Publishing before you’re ready is the big danger, as an avid reader & reviewer, it’s the main fault I see in self published works.

    I’m really, really (ok let’s just say exceptionally & be done with it) glad that I queried with my first book ‘Lethal Inheritance’. I scored an agent which was great for my confidence, but if I had published the version that she first saw (& I thought it was ready then) I would be so embarrassed today. I’ve done 2 more drafts since then and after more rejections from publishers, I just looked at it again and started another draft. This process of submitting it, waiting, (while reading, reviewing, studying & writing some more), being rejected then looking at it again, reworking it and sending in for another round of submissions has been vital to my development as a writer. After 6 years writing almost full time, I just published my first major self-published work. It took me that long to know that this one was ready & that I could still improve on the one with my agent. (Even though I know I can do it myself, at this stage, I still want that publishing deal)

    I advise all first time writers to try the traditional path first. It will slow you down and give you time to not look at your ms for months then come back to it and see it with fresh eyes.

  56. Word. Great blog and video.

    I’m a newbie to your blog — just found you. Think I’ll subscribe and follow, but since I’m like 13,000 people away from being trendy, it’s going to be a bit hard on my independent, anti-herding ego. : )

    But, hey, you’ve got 13,000 followers and a writing career, and yet you still seem cool and want to help others.That makes up for me arriving so late to the party.

  57. What a great post! I just recently realized that writing is my true passion, and now I’m starting to learn more about writing and what comes after it. This post is a great eye opener, I’ve never heard self-publishing described this way before :).

    • TJ on July 24, 2012 at 12:27 am
    • Reply

    Another great article, Kristen. Filled with Fantabulous advice! I especially enjoyed the vids, did not realize you had such a smarmy wit (ok, that’s just my way of saying you’re a smart a$$ and I love it!).

    “Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.” This, I believe, is exactly the process I have been looking for/developing over the past couple of years.


  58. Thank you. I continue to refer EVERYONE I know that ever asks me about writing and self-publishing to your blog and books because of excellent counsel just like that contained in this post. I am very grateful for the generous way that you share your experience and knowledge with others. The second book in my Trilogy series is a much better written/crafted book and one of the reasons is because of writing advice I have read in your blogs. In the past 11 months, I have published three books and can attest that yes, this is hard work. And not a get-rich-quick journey either. The more books we write, the more we sell – I have found this to be very true as well. My books are now in bookstores throughout the Pacific and the e-books are slowly but surely finding their way into the rankings on Amazon. WE must strive always for that balance between promotion and social media AND writing more – and I continue to find that a huge challenge. With book success comes book events and tours and invitations to speak at schools and libraries etc – all things which help to grow your reader audience BUT which also drain time and energy away from writing more. I’m making mistakes as I go and I’m learning HEAPS. Most of all though, I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to be living my writer dream. And to be in control of my writing journey.

  59. I was sent to your site by someone who follows my blog, and I am so glad! I hope you don’t mind but I have posted a summary of your five mistakes on my blog: as a result of reading this post I have decided I am not ready to self-publish (reading a few of your other posts I can see now why my book is far from good enough). I was seduced into the self-publishing route by reading so many blogs on how brilliant it is (and because I am naturally an impatient person) but I think it is probably time to put brakes on my impatience and re-read my craft books. So thank you for inadvertantly stopping me from humiliating myself on Amazon! 🙂

  60. Reblogged this on Losing the count, beat by beat. and commented:
    A really riveting read by itself.
    Shall take note of this when I write (If I actually DO write) in future.

  61. Great article Kristen. I’ve noticed over the last few years that from a growing number of new writers. They don’t understand the three act structure and probably can’t spell antagonist let alone tell you what flavour it is! There books are filled with typos like the one I’ve just dropped in…. they don’t develop characters and I get the feeling they’ve watched multiple episodes of Buffy, Friends or whatever show has inspired their story. Bottom line is, they don’t read.
    When you try and give them a critique they get all defensive. If you’re going to be a writer, you need to develop a skin like a rhinoceros and be willing to accept feedback. As for the I’ll be famous with this book, I laugh out loud at that statement, frequently. The traditional publishing industry can only handle one JK Rowling every ten years. I’d rather be a middle grade author putting out three books a year than an A grade author putting out one every three years.

  62. I think many authors, no matter which direction they choose, are guilty of #1. I’ve gone to writer’s conferences and panels for years, and meet these people every time. Perhaps it’s because the process of writing is so personal, but it’s hard to see truthfully about your own work. Many writers tend to be very driven inwards into our own little worlds.

    I remember sitting next to one college-age kid at a writing panel who asked me what I write. When I answered that I write in a number of different genres, but mainly YA, sci fi, and comedy, his sniff of disdain was quite audible. When I returned the question, he said “I only write for real publishing houses.” I tried to be polite, but I had to ask, “What does that mean?” because I honestly had no clue. He meant lit fic, and that genre fiction was beneath lit fic. Questioning him further, he (somewhat unintentionally) admitted that he only came to panels to pitch, and that he only did one draft of his novel because it was a masterpiece. He also commented, “Maybe somebody will listen to me this time!” Doubtful.

    Furthermore, I think #1 is especially hard because most writers are expected to be amazing on their first try. Publishing culture is very unfriendly to the writer’s growth process. When first book doesn’t work, no matter how many rewrites you’ve done, you give up. A number of self-publishing bloggers have written on that issue, and I’m coming to agree with them.

    Something else I’ve noticed is that a lot of trade authors let it slack once they get going, in favor of putting out books as fast as possible. There’s several authors I can think of where I know they didn’t really work at their later books like they did at their first books. Trying to get noticed makes you work really hard to learn at first, then you just hurry up and finish later. I haven’t seen anyone address that in blogs and communitys, but I wonder if I’m the only one that sees that.

  63. I am an editor and writer and I totally agree that many writers publish before their books are ready. Writing is both craft and art. It needs to be practiced. With self-publishing, it also becomes a business. Remember, your name is on that book forever.

    • Thorwald Hansen on July 24, 2012 at 8:14 am
    • Reply

    Another excellent blog. I am finishing my first thriller. Maybe more a fantasy/thriller. I’ve also written a bunch of children’s short stories I may put into book form. I am not artistic, and the book about the cat probably needs illustrations. Do I need those before seeking a publisher?

  64. Publishing before ready… I have been obsessing over my two novels-in-progress for years. My critique group members are sick of hearing them! Publish already! my friend Susan says. But I know the work isn’t ready yet. I’m climbing what feels to be a very steep mountain of my own learning curve on these two books. Can you ever really know with confidence that it’s ready? I’m so enjoying your Blog, Kristen and have a link for you on my blog.

    1. If it has become an obsession, I’d say it’s probably time to push them out of the nest and start on a new baby. Of course, only you can make the decision of when is the right time, but if people whose opinions you trust say it’s ready as not just wanting to boost your ego, then it probably is ready.

      It’s scary. You hound the ‘net looking for those early reviews to see if it was a success or a bomb. I still remember those couple weeks before I released my first. I read Sondra Allen Carr’s “A Bed of Thorns and Roses” about a week before. The woman writes descriptive prose and sexual tension like nobody’s business. I either posted on Facebook or just whined to my beta readers (I forget which) that my writing was “plain Jane.” I wrote the book in three weeks (well, the first 38,000 words anyway) and then added another 20,000 during the editing phase (because my editor knew exactly what was missing). Anyway, luckily, my editor and one of my beta readers gave me a good talking to and said my book was writing in MY voice and it was just as valid as any other writer’s voice. The book was ready. Publish it already.

      Soon I was getting e-mails from readers asking what other names I wrote under because surely that wasn’t my first. Well, no, it wasn’t. It was the first I’d published. There were about 8 others in a box high on a shelf in my office never to see the light of day. Those are the ones I cut my teeth on and learned on over my 20-year preparation period. I was being told in the 90s that I was ready, but I got scared and ignored them. In retrospect, I’m glad, because self-publishing wasn’t around except in vanity presses and I got to avoid all the rejection letters and publishers taking the lion’s share of my royalties.

      Bottom line: If you think it’s ready, then go for it. If these are two you feel were your practice novels, then put them aside and write the next ones. Only you can decide, but I know someone who tweaked the same novel for 15 years. She is SOOOO happy now to be working on the next one, having self-published that one. But imagine how many she might have written if she hadn’t rewritten the same one so many times?

      All the best to you!


  65. Thank you very much for this post. I’m going to reblog and share on my Facebook page because I want to make sure it gets out to plenty of Indie writers. I see these mistakes being made over and over again. In fact, I was almost on the brink of committing one of them, but I’ve pulled myself back away from the edge and I’m furiously working on my next book.

  66. Reblogged this on Writing Tips, Thoughts and Whims and commented:
    Please read this very important blog all you Indie writers out there!

  67. I think it’s a wonderful time to be an author. We have many venues open to us to get work to market. There’s no reason to dismiss any market out of hand. Each have merits, and pitfalls. You make some excellent points but I still think the biggie is: you’re an author, so write. Write. and write some more. And if you want a little boost vs having the hashtag pound potentiall customers, diversify your distribution platform to include publishers as well as your indie work.

  68. I must admit to getting a bit fed up with my Twitter stream being constantly full of people shopping their own work. I’m now checking everyones previous posts to see what they’re about before agreeing to follow them back, even if they appear interesting on the surface.

  69. Great post Kristen.

    It is oh-so-tempting to just throw a finished second draft out there. It might even secure you a few hundred sales, but one thing it won’t secure you is a dedicated long-term fanbase. Get it properly edited, either through a professional editor or (at a stretch) someone you know, and it’ll pay off.

    I will be tweeting this post later, for sure!


  70. Informative AND entertaining. Did you mean to do that? 😉 You rock!

  71. Reblogged this on hazyshadesofme and commented:
    An informative and entertaining post by Kristen Lamb. Be sure to watch the vlog piece!

  72. Thanks for another very helpful post. The discussion about giving book away free has really started to gain some momentum online within writing groups, etc. One blog I read – sorry I cannot recall the URL – made some good points for not giving our main work away free – ever. The advice was to do short stories somehow connected to your book and give those away. That makes sense. The first time I offered one of my books for free was two years ago when free books were more of a novelty on Amazon. Now with KDP Select, thousands of authors are doing free deals all the time and the marketing benefit has been diluted. At least that is my opinion based on comments from folks that they have stopped jumping on every free book offer.

    BTW, I pulled a couple of quotes out of this blog piece that really resonated with me and Tweeted them.

  73. You can of course apply much of this to us traditionally published authors too – esp with small presses – or maybe not “especially” – anyway – yeah. 😀

  74. Excellent advice. I started out wanting to be traditionally published but have grown more and more interested in self-publishing. However, I’m aware (thanks to you and Bob, etc) of the pitfalls of publishing before I’m ready. I want to turn out a professional product and I’ll do all I can to make that happen.

  75. Reblogged this on Occasional Grue and commented:
    Funny and informative!

  76. It seems like everyone online has a different opinion on this, so I guess I might as well ask you for your opinion.. What is the best way to get your writing read? I’m not even asking with respect to a work to be published, but even a blog, for example? I know this is quite the offshoot from the point you’re making in your post, but I wasn’t sure quite where else to ask 🙁

  77. Wow, Kristen, you’re getting close to 100 comments and all of them glowing with praise, congrats! particularly as the praise is wholly justified. This is a wonderful post, makes me feel like the first day when I met you and read your eye-opening WANA. I’ve come a long way since (published 2 books, got a blog going where I let off steam and it seems to attract other people who like to let off steam) and of course I’m busy on the Internet, twitting away, FBing (don’t like it as much as Twitter – but it’s good too) and trying out Google+ and Pinterest…though I worry about copyright on that one.Why don’t you tell us about it some day?
    The one thing that struck me about this particular post is your point about having a MINIMUM of 3 books. Wow, I hadn’t realized quite the importance of having many titles up there on that digital platform. I thought series were the point; that’s what John Locke and Amanda Hocking have – but you’re right, it’s not the series as such – though that matters too – it’s the sheer NUMBER of books! Thanks for an enlightening post!

  78. Hi Kristen,
    I am so grateful for this post because you have solved my dilemma. Long story short. My first self-published MG novel won a slew of awards (and hooked a movie deal) but sales, well, dismal. I finished the second book, sat on it, and started the third (halfway now). My second book is being professionally edited by my editor for book one. However, I started niggling about doing yet ANOTHER blog tour for book one; another marketing campaign, another ‘something’ that could sell more books. So, thank you again. The secret to selling books is writing more books. An aside that proves your theory: I write historical romance under contract for a publisher, and because these books are for fun, I don’t do any marketing, I don’t do anything – I just write. I have three books under my belt and well, what can I say, with each book sales have risen. It’s a pity we don’t all have a more relaxed and laid-back approach to something we do every day. After all, we should want to get up and positively welcome the job we love doing…

  79. Reblogged this on Catching Fireflies and commented:
    I have been a bit tied up with some family health issues the past few days and have not had a chance to catch up on my blog. So I am reblogging a post from Kristen Lamb’s Blg. She is a wonderful activist for self-publication and it was refreshing to see her point out that self-published authors can make some major mistakes along the way. Read and learn! And if you don’t yet follow her blog, I highly recommend it!!

  80. Kristen — Love you blog, and am learning so much from your posts!
    I have reblogged it on

  81. Hi Kristen, I’m more inclined toward non-fiction writing, and I’m wondering what resource books you recommend for me to read. I’m thinking that the rules for structure, etc. would be far different, and I’m not really sure where to start. I have always really enjoyed writing, just not fiction so much; I guess that’s what I love about blogging. (Doesn’t mean I’m doing it the best way, though, right?)

      • shawn on July 28, 2012 at 8:31 am
      • Reply

      That’s a great question. I’m going to ask Kristen this too. She reads so many books that it makes my head spin. Her gift is though remembering what is in the books and how it applies.

  82. Wonderful, wonderful post. It shall be bookmarked so as to be revisited… when I’m not at the very end of a lunch break. I only got to #2, but love and wholeheartedly agree with what you had to say in #1. Look forward to continuing.

  83. Awesome advice. Given the grammar girl that I am, I would add that self-publishing writers need to make sure they have quality copy-editing. Poor grammar and misspellings make a novel look amateurish.

  84. Reblogged this on Flash Bites: a few short, short stories and commented:
    Great post by Kristen Lamb on the realities of self-publishing! It’s harder than it looks! I sure wish I’d read this post before I jumped into the foray!

  85. I don’t see why anyone needs to worry about creating an LLC unless they’re making thousands of dollars in sales each year, which probably .005% of self-publishers are.

    1. I just set up an appointment with our accountant, because when you do go into six figures, you get close to that point where you have to pay 40% of your income in taxes. Not sure where the cutoff is, but another writer friend told me to look into it with my state attorney general’s office. The accountant is going to help me find ways to lower the tax burden this year so I don’t have to deal with setting up an LLC yet. (I’m enjoying donating to the Wounded Warrior Project, donating to my high school alma mater’s annual auction, and helping my niece’s college field hockey team with donations so they can eat better on the road trips. Also spent a month on the road to, in, and from Colorado researching my upcoming books–tax deductible for me, at least, but not hubby. Attended three reader conventions this year. All fun ways to bring down my net income!) If anyone has any advice or links to info on LLCs and taxes, I’m listening!


  86. I really like the point you made regarding writing a single book and then promoting the hell out of it. As writers, we must have more than one (name your written medium of choice) in us. And as working writers, we must always be writing. The key is balance between social media promotion and real, actual writing. Thanks for this.

  87. #6 should be not writing an ad for the book, before the book is written. Yes before the book is written. Now the ad will never run, but it forces the writer to think through who will read the book and what they will be looking for. And then when the book is written it has those points. You are on your way to a winner then. Thanks, Edward Smith.

  88. Great post, Kristen! I agree with Nos. 3,4,5. Nos. 1 and 2 make sense, but have room for argument and discussion of finer points.

    I started on the Indie route in March 2011, after deciding that life was far too precious to waste it on rejection waiting.

    Just wanted to share my most important lessons:
    1. Editor is a must, but not all editors are created equal. Many editors miss a lot, according to reports from various writers. Chose carefully!
    2. Lots of hard work: I reviewed and re-reviewed my work obsessively, even after it was published, until satisfied. Yet at the same time I concentrated on social media, studied the ins and outs of the pubbing and writing business, as well as kept writing more books.
    3. I’m starting to get this Indie pubbing business (finally). EXPERIENCE is key!
    4. Yes, books are definitely judged by the title and cover, especially on Amazon! And a great cover and title are a must! I absolutely agree! After I renamed my mystery/thriller series from ‘Jade Snow International Adventure series’ to ‘Accidental Spy Adventure series,’ I saw a significant uptick in sales.
    New covers: Still working on redoing them. The ones I have now are nice – designed them myself 😉 – but I know, a pro can do much better. I think, with covers, I am not putting my best foot forward.
    5. Overdoing free – completely agree! Still, there is room for that, if you know what you are doing. Promos have to be done with a plan, and in a business-like manner.
    BTW, I did a great review and analysis of the KDP Select Free promo feature on Lada Ray Blog. It’s based on my experience with the program. Check it out!
    6. 3rd book is the charm. Right on! For me it definitely was. My first, Stepford USA (Accidental Spy US Adventure) wasn’t selling. The second was short novella, Green Desert ( Accidental Spy Prequel), and once the third started selling well – Gold Train (Accidental Spy Russia Adventure) – the previous two also picked up. Working now on my two next books!
    7. Last, but not least, I completely agree, the successful author of the future will be a traditional/Indie published hybrid.

    Lada Ray

  89. Number five really hit the mark-I just unfollowed two people on Twitter today for that very reason. I got tired of seeing the same praise, tweet after tweet, and it started to take on that canned feeling, like someone didn’t actually WRITE the review, just plugged in super sparkly catchphrases designed to hook you. For one, it was a little bittersweet, because when I managed to unearth a tweet with some decent content, I learned something. But it took too much digging to find those amongst the junk she was constantly sending to my stream, and it wasn’t worth the headache.

  90. Sometimes it’s hard just to fathom how much information we have to consider before publishing. After DFW Con, I heard a lot of writers looking to self publishing as the answer: to more money, more media, more owned marketing, etc. And it is, or can be, but you pointed out the mistakes with that. It was truly eye opening to hear the presenters talk about how many books a year we should be writing now, and as I see so many blogging friends launching their new titles, I’m learning what works and what doesn’t. Who inspires that relationship and who doesn’t.

    I’m still forever trying to balance it all. First things first, I need to finish the draft. But I feel so behind in social media since the “day job” has gotten crazy. I still need to get my butt signed up on WANA Int’l. Jenny is starting to yell at me! And now with the Roni Loren picture scare, I feel even more paranoid about how to use social media efficiently and LEGALLY! Hope to schedule out some time and commit to daily research of media tools, craft books, and writing time. I think that will help a lot.

    Thanks for sharing Kristen! Appreciate your story and advice!

  91. I plan on self-publishing in the next two years, although I have a different paradigm in mind to what seems to be the default model. I feel it lacks imagination. I think of it as “Self-Publishing Version 1”. And I never buy version 1 of anything.

    I thought this post was very interesting. As someone who cannot yet claim to be a writer, merely perhaps a smartarse with a lot to say and a propensity for typing it at people, I found a lot of what you said clicked with me very quickly and I liked what I saw. I will certainly be making a note of this post for future reference.

    But I am also a stubborn sod. And some of the advice that comes from authors generally I would just as happily do without.

    The big thing that sticks in my maw is editing. Never in a million years will anyone else edit my work. The very thought makes my skin crawl. I have, on various minor collaborative exercises, watched other people edit what I had written, and in the process completely undermine what I was trying to achieve in terms of flow, point, & tone, in short bringing the piece to ruination. I don’t believe that others are equipped to sense what I am trying to achieve – this is a comment regarding empathy, not talent. I accept that some writers may need help with their work, but I would rather let my work stand as it is, imperfect though it may be (I am under no illusions that I might be a *good* writer, merely that I am the writer of my words, and that that is how it should stay), so that it can be seen as my work alone. Anything other than this and it’s no longer art, basically.
    I am a vicious self-editor, and I do a better job than I could imagine anyone else doing with respect to my own work. I get approached to edit others’ work frequently as well. I should say that whilst I am not a published author, I do do some professional-level writing.

    The other thing is that, yes, I can appreciate that there needs to be some structure to a story, and certainly some concessions to the way the human brain works, but I don’t accept that a writer should conform to a detailed checklist of formal rules that have been handed down from generation to generation of writers.
    In all peer groups, there is a phenomenon whereby the members go around in circles reinforcing each other’s and in essence therefore the collective opinion. Social and technical fads are given life (and more life than they deserve, at that) in this way. We see it every day, whether we recognise it or not.
    And so (and yes, I know I just started a sentence with “and” – like I told my mother 30 years ago: I can if I *want* to) these sorts of ideas need to be challenged, because an idea that goes unchallenged becomes an article of faith that contributes to the stagnation of the group.

    As for commercial success, well, let’s just say that I have read some books that were very commercially successful, and I was left wondering quite why after fighting my way through them. Doesn’t say a lot to those who contribute to such sales – at *any* stage of the process, from cow, to milk carton, to breakfast time.
    I am less concerned with commercial success than simply having written.

    I have my own rules when it come to writing:

    – Decide whether you’re being funny or not from the outset, and for Gods’ sake don’t swing too wildly between the extremes (the placement of the apostrophe is not accidental; I mean, who knows, really);
    – Don’t be implausible. Wild imagination is fine, but effect must follow cause in a sensible fashion or people will turn off;
    – Be Right about and within everything you write. If you lose credibility with the reader you’re a shot duck. For heaven’s sake pay attention to the fine detail. Until it hurts. But if it does you’ve probably chosen the wrong subject matter to begin with (I’m looking at YOU, whomsoever it was that wrote Dante’s Peak);
    – When you are writing to start with, just write. Edit a bit, but keep your thinking at broad brushstrokes. Second and third passes to fill in detail your brain comes up with later is fine;
    – When you are editing, make sure you cut out inefficient text and outright waffle. Replace it with tighter expressions that get you to the end of concept more quickly. Except when describing geography – some latitude (ahahaha) is allowable;
    – Edit iteratively until you are bored with it and can’t think of any way in which to improve the piece. Then leave it on a shelf for a couple of weeks and read it again;
    – Meet the readers’ expectations with respect to the rules of whatever language you happen to be accosting them in. Chances are, if you don’t respect the language (even if you’re creatively bending it out of shape as a part of what you’re trying to achieve as part of the work), the reader will hold you in contempt in return;
    – Don’t leave even little things unresolved. Unanswered questions sit in a reader’s head like a pebble in a shoe. It leads to lack of satisfaction with the work and will potentially discourage further investigation of your work;
    – Style rules are the bane of any author. They are there to be….well, frankly, screamed at in abject derision. The people who write style manuals are just asking for their steaks to be burned. Or something.

    In any case, I have banged on for far too long about things regarding which I have no defensible right to be banging on about. Hell, this isn’t *my* blog. Nor did I edit this, just quietly. Not to any great extent, in any case. Recreational writing at its most irascibly freeform. If you have reached the end of this your tenacity does you credit, and I say that sincerely.

    1. So….curmudgeon, eh. I read it, twice. Both times I smiled. Have you ever read Robert Fulghum?

      One thing I can add to your list of rules: Edit. If it can’t be edited to work, get the scissors and cut it. Having done this many times without fear because in MS Office, I can paste it back and try again, it almost always reads better without the troubled phrase or paragraph.

  92. Fantastic post. I’ve noticed all the same things among self-published writers: that the ones who don’t make these mistakes are the ones who succeed most often, and the ones who do, often give the rest a bad name. Self-publishing is a powerful, fantastic tool – but only if it is used correctly. I’m still giving traditional publishing a shot, and part of that is that trying to do it the slow way forces me to take time to learn the industry. But being patient is never easy.

  93. Great post!

    The thing that’s most daunting, from a new author’s perspective, is writing three books. But that’s only because I’m at the very beginning of this journey. Give it a few months or years, and three books won’t seem quite so huge.

    From my own experience so far, I think *by far* the most important asset any author can have is discipline. Life just gets in the way otherwise. You have to nail your ass to the chair and write. Write, write, write. Then write a bit more. Because otherwise, this thing isn’t getting finished – and then what’s the point at all?

  94. Hey Kristen. New follower here. I think you’re blog is so full of good writers advice that I thought you deserved a nomination for the One Lovely Blog Award. Just heads up!

  95. Number one is probably why self-pub is a bad option for me. When I type the final line of something, I think, ‘There, it’s brilliant!” Then I put it down and look at it 6 weeks later and think, ‘What hack wrote this drivel? It’s terrible!’ This of course. is what the whole editing process is about. But after edits I begin to second guess myself. I can keep going and going – I’m like an an OCD squirrel that can’t stop washing my hands until the bar of soap is gone. I need someone to help me draw the line – yell ‘STOP!’ or urge me to take another pass. I’ve tried a few crit groups. but can’t seem to find people that do more than either gush with enthusiasm or nitpick everything that wasn’t written by their own pen.

  96. Kristen- I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award! You probably have already been nominated quite a few times, but you inspire me and your blog is lovely, so I had to!

  97. On #5 — it’s not just self-published authors. I ran into an author who was shopping his book around to agents, who rejected it because it was too much like a best-selling novel. He could have started a new book, but he kept revising the query, the synopsis, the first 50 pages. This went on at least for several years. One day someone got fed up with the last query and ran a search on his name. Discovered that the book had an ISBN. Turned out he’d gotten one printed copy from Lulu, and they’d given it an ISBN, so the book was considered published. He was then forced into writing a new one — and he could have had 2-3 done.

    I’ve been experimenting with getting shorter works like short stories and articles into circulation. They don’t take too long to do, and I’m also learning things I can use on my novel that I will self-publish. While I can send all the tweets I want to promote myself, the true promotion is going to be my writing.

  98. Again, I am delighted to read your blog. This one came a little closer to home because I am currently self-published, a newbie with five weeks on Amazon.

    However, I have studied the publishing industry for almost ten years while writing various forms of the craft. Along with studying the industry and its expectations, rules, and fiery hoops we must jump through, I studied authors who had excellent things to say about how they succeeded, or failed.

    One of the best books on writing is by David Morrell.

    Everything you listed, I have read about, studied, or experienced. My decision to self publish did not come from being buried under a mountain of rejection letters, nor did it come from impatience or wanting to take a shortcut to my goals, even though I am no spring chicken. Self-publishing is not easy, I agree. However, it is simple, and uncomplicated for the most part.

    Having jumped through some of the hoops, built a blog, a website, twitterland, and haunted many sites offering advice about the craft, I sometimes felt overwhelmed. After reading books on the craft and of the craft, I retreated to my writing until I learned the writing voice I enjoy the most.

    Before going self-published, I studied the business end of the deal and, if I am that successful, I welcome any complications. For now, I am working on my next novel, which is the sequel to the one on Amazon, and finishing the edits on three other completed novels.

    As far as investing money in edits, proofs, cover design, etc, my low income makes that near impossible. I did pay for permissions for the cover art from a graphic designer who tossed in a free suggestion on how to make my cover better. She did not design the cover, only suggested improvements on what I had already designed. Even the low costs of services with Amazon are far above my reach.

    Because of limited finances, I have had to study harder on how to write, edit, copy-edit, proof, market, design a cover, build my own website, and realize that after twenty proof-readings, I am not perfect yet. I missed a typo. (I didn’t cry; I smiled because if that is all a reader found wrong with my book…:-)

    Thank you for another wonderful blog…keep ‘em coming.

  99. Kristen, this has to be one of my favorite blog posts so far. #1 hit home for me because I’ve met lots of fiction writers who don’t read fiction. Huh, what?!?! I just can’t get over that. It makes no sense to me at all! Anyway, great food for thought on the tips.

  100. Great post! I completely agree with everything listed. When we started our publishing company (comprised of three authors), we knew promoting our first novel started waaaaaay before the book launched. In our case, we started building buzz six months out with contests, social media, tweets, blogs, email lists, etc. I also built a nice list of book clubs (I’ve met with at least 30 since 2010). We even had our social media friends vote on the best cover (out of four covers), which brought a lot of attention to the book, our website, and us as publishers (people were intrigued with our story). Once the book launched, we already had a nice list of “ready-readers” and social media presence. Our marketing plan was pretty solid. And, of course, we received a professional edit and industry-standard book cover. As a result, our debut novel has sold over 7,000 copies, which is not too shabby for an indie publisher. Having a plan BEFORE launching a novel is a must!

  101. Reblogged this on Chick Under Construction – ChUC and commented:
    I follow Kristen Lamb’s blog religiously. It’s a very helpful blog for aspiring writers like me. When the business side of publishing gets me down sometimes I have to remember why I write in the first place. It’s very easy to lose sight of that reason while doing daily tasks, going to the day job, checking twitter and/or Facebook and determining what in the world I’m going to blog about! But when you know why you’re writing it’s a lot easier to brave the publishing storms and simply just write.

    • Karen Elaine Taff on August 3, 2012 at 5:38 am
    • Reply

    I’m looking for every bit of advice and feedback I can before making a decision to seek an agent or self publish my first book. It was good to read to comments about putting all your energies into one book, or not, as the case may be. Mine is the first of a trilogy and I have started my blog to make contact with other writers and to log my journey from here to wherever. So thanks for the information published on here.

  102. You know, I didn’t expect to take anything away from this list (because I was able to confirm that I already knew about them) until I hit number 5. I have been “shopping” the crap out of my first book and marketing more than I’ve been writing the sequel. I am guilty. Thank you for showing me the light.

  103. Great post!

  104. Reblogged this on revolution and commented:
    Very insightful points about how to publish the right way.

  105. Great post, but I would have to add a sixth. *** Following someone else’s formula blindly *** Good advice for someone else may be bad advice for you. My young adult coming-of-age story about an intersex teen may require a different strategy than your non-fiction book on stainless-steel turbine blades. It’s still all about connecting with your readers, but it has to be YOU that’s connecting not your imitation of someone else.

    • Jacques on August 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm
    • Reply

    Hi, Kristen.

    I’m with you on pretty much everything, the editing, the rules, the platform building, the writing more books, the structuring a business. It’s all good. But “Jungian archetypes”? Freudian won’t do?

    Great post!

  106. Great advice and spot on. I am finding it hard not to make the mistake of shopping one book to death. The business end of writing is so very time consuming that when life and family intrude, finding time to write is my greatest challenge. Thanks for giving me the “Third Book” advice. It’s what I needed today. Off I go to WRITE!

  107. Wow. I feel like I struck gold. I need to keep coming back to this blog…thank you thank you!!

  108. Reblogged this on So Much To Write, So Little Time and commented:
    I agree with everything Kristen Lamb says in this post! If you are self-publishing, READ IT!

  109. Great information here. Thanks for sharing it.

    • bardconstantine on August 3, 2012 at 7:05 pm
    • Reply

    This is such an accurate list of things that really drag the self pub industry down. (And I’ve been guilty of a couple myself, so I know) Thank you so much for addressing these issues, I’ve passed them on through all the social channels I use. It’s tough because many of us do go unprepared about the business end of things, but that doesn’t mean that one has to stay that way. I’ve been learning all I can about the proper ways to market and promote, and I still have much to learn. But thanks to posts like yours, the info is available. There’s no excuse for bad writing or promotional behavior. There’s a wealth of info out there to help independent writers. We just have to work hard at learning how to apply it…

    1. Thank you for the comment. Hey we all start somewhere, but the Internet makes it MUCH easier to get the information we need to grow. *hugs*

  110. Thanks for producing this blog. The information is helpful to wannabe authors. In September, I’d like to do a series of posts around your “5 Mistakes.” A key message I take away with me today is that it takes a minimum of three titles to generate traction for any author. That was new information to help my future business planning.

  111. Hi Kristen,

    Great article. My issue is that there are so many people talking about what self-publishers need to do to step up their game and no one is truly showing the way, or highlighting those indie authors who are doing it the right way. What ideas do you have on how we can elevate the level of writing, editing, cover design, all of it as it relates to self-publishing. Until we collectively do this, indie’s will have a hard time justifying more than Free or .99 for their work…

    Write on!


  112. These are all spot on. It’s not hard to have success as an indie author, but too many authors are putting out poor quality books and then betting the farm on them.

  113. Very interesting read! I have not self-published myself, but I have several friends that have gone that route. I’ve read some of their work and, on occasion, noticed simple errors an editor would have caught. (Spelling, grammar, repetitiveness, etc.)
    I know that I personally am far better at editing the works of others than I am at my own writing. Perhaps because I see the correct words in my head my eyes just bypass the mistakes. I don’t know.
    Self-publishing does seem to be a lot of work though. Publishing by any means these days is more work than it once was. It seems that writers are expected to dominate social media. To that I say, “I’m working on it.”

    • Prudence on August 4, 2012 at 11:38 am
    • Reply

    Writing is my passion, to publish is my dream. However, I don’t have any formal training and here in my country there isn’t a publishing company to edit etc. I have resisted publishing because of fear of those same mistakes you mentioned, but I am afraid that my dream may die. But I do have an amazing talent… Thus I’ve been considering publishing books of poems so as to introduce myself as an author to the public… Any advice?

  114. Would you believe that I’ve only just found your blog? My friend Diane Nelson posted a link to this blog post on Facebook and I just had to come and check that I’m doing it right…

    Thankfully I appear to be following what you’ve suggested… I just need to get my fingers and brain busy. I don’t have a lack of ideas, just a lack of motivation at the moment.

    I’ve joined WANATribe, it looks like fun!

  115. Thank you so much for this!! I have a lot of work cut out for me as a writer 🙂

  116. Thank you for this down to earth, understandable advice. I had begun to question just how much to advertise versus writing the next book. Made sense and I appreciated your input on editing and the mistakes we can make. Great article.

  117. Mistake #6: Thinking that because you’ve read and understood the craft books, know the rules, have a tender command of the English language, join a critique group and pay heed to experienced advice, and practice the craft for a long time, that you can write better than a mediocre book. Not everyone can, just as not everyone who knows the rules and practices the craft of playing basketball can become better than a mediocre participant. Self-assess at regular intervals. Life is short. Oftentimes moving on to tap one’s better talents saves a lot of suffering and leads to greater joy.

    • Nathaniel Kim on August 7, 2012 at 5:52 pm
    • Reply

    You are right on. It also means as much or more responsibility for the author to give the public the best they can do than those with publishing houses.

  118. Good points.

    • Terry Tyler on August 12, 2012 at 7:57 am
    • Reply

    I love this post and agree with it all, whole-heartedly – especially the first bit. I can’t believe that some writers will attempt to write a novel when they don’t even know how to punctuate, when their grammar is poor – as I wrote in a blog of mine, you wouldn’t try to build a house if you hadn’t learnt how to lay bricks, would you? So many publish, get lots of reviews saying it’s badly edited and punctuate it, then take it off and put up a new version – how can they edit their own work if they can’t see that it’s badly written in the first place?

    Re the business thing and marketing, too – I WORK at this, and it achieves results. So many people have asked me for tips on, for example, doing a successful free promotion. When I tell them ‘how to’ (mine got me as high as #24 in the UK Top 100), some say it seems like a lot of work. Yes, it was. I worked out how to do it myself, using common sense. Then I spent a couple of weeks preparing for it.

    Oh dear, I sound smug. I’m not. I just get irritated by the amount of self published authors who blame everything but their substandard product for their lack of sales/bad reviews. You know??!

  119. Kristen, first let me say, great post, as always. I admire your sage and balanced views (even when we disagree about, maybe, bookstores 🙂 Second, I’m so upset to hear you were at TFest and I didn’t get to come up and say hello! Truly disappointed. Perhaps next time, or at another event.

    1. I definitely want to go next year. LOVED NYC and Thrillerfest was a blast. It was such a whirlwind that I didn’t remember I’d wanted to meet up with you until i was home and blogging. Too many things to think of at once! Anyway, I was bummed, just so you know :(.

      1. You made my day, remembering–next year for sure. I thought it was a blast, too.

        I wonder if this would be a weird thing to ask you?–you are probably the wisest independent author I know (and there are some seriously wise ones, this post notwithstanding).

        Anyway, I am putting together a panel on publishing for alumnae of Barnard College in NYC. If you know anyone who fits and is publishing independently, or hear of someone who knows someone, please send him/her my way. The event should be really good–a range of people from every walk of publishing life–and hopefully both college people and a wider audience from NYC in attendance…

        Could be a weird request, please disregard if so!

  120. These insights are excellent and I just realized how true they are even for me. Sometimes we do rush into things because of our passion and also the idea of being able to make things done a lot easier and faster. But, we do need to think back and reevaluate. Self publishing is indeed not a walk in the park but everything is worth it in the end.

  121. I have made most of these mistakes, particularly the publishing before I was ready. Here’s the thing though: I knew I wasn’t ready, and I published anyway. My reason: I had to do something or I wouldn’t do anything.

    I knew my first stuff wasn’t that great, and I was actively learning how to be better. It’s kind of funny to read my early stuff and see the improvements as I wrote. For me, the issue was getting off the ground and actually doing something. I knew the book would never be a best-seller. Heck, if it sold any copies at all, I was going to do cartwheels. But I needed to start producing, and that was my way of getting myself out there.

    I took a creative writing class in college, and it taught me nothing about craft. All I learned was that I couldn’t write literary, which is what the professor loved above all else. I brought in my Star Wars fan fiction piece, and he blew me off.

    Well, of course it was terrible. I took that class to learn how to write, dangit! But the fallout was that I thought I couldn’t write, period. I hid away my stories for another ten years before I took the plunge, and I was no better for the wait.

    But I was more determined. Since formal classes had taught me nothing, I would learn on my own. I scoured the internet for tips, started following people like Kristen for information and inspiration, and wrote thousands of words every week. Oh, and I also read a few dozen books a month, since I’m a bibliophile.

    So, yes, I made the newbie mistakes. However, I am proud that I made the mistakes because that meant I was trying. I was doing, not just dreaming. To be honest, I’ve never queried an agent because I don’t think I’m good enough to approach a big house with my stories. I’m thinking about sending off to an indie publisher, and it’s made me very nervous.

    But the important thing is that I’m off my metaphorical duff, on my literal duff, and doing this writing thing.

    1. That’s awesome Sharon! I agree. That was one of the points I made in my blog about how self-publishing has helped writers overall. I do feel it helps writers move on, grow, get real feedback and then have tools to dig in and get back to work. Good for you! *hugs*

  122. On. The. Nose. I’m almost embarrassed to say this, but I don’t think I’ve worked harder in my life!

    Between marketing the books I have, writing more books, working the social media angles while still keeping it personal and not degenerating into one spammed link after another, updating the blog, requesting interviews and reviews and then following-up, sending excerpts and links and more excerpts and links, and then getting back to work writing the WIP, chapter mapping the next WIP, and planning the WIP after that, it very much IS like running a small business.

    Because, in truth, it is.

    Listen, if we decide to self-publish (and I have), we basically open up a closetful of hats, all of which we absolutely need to wear. There’s no marketing team or publicity team or editing team or any of the other teams you may — or may not — get with the Traditional Publishing route. It’s just you and your story and your words.

    So that’s where you begin: your story and how well you tell it. If that’s a weak link, no amount of blogging and social media-ing and interviewing and selling and cajoling and pleading is going to give you a hit.

    Very happy to have discovered your blog. Following … now. (^D

      • Karen Elaine Taff on August 15, 2012 at 5:01 pm
      • Reply

      I’ve only just embarked upon this journey and it is beset with more pitfalls than I ever could have imagined! Its good to see what lies aheaad so that I can be fully prepared, well as much as possible at least!

      1. I feel your pain, Karen. It’s almost enough to cause a body to have writer’s block!

      2. You know, to be honest with you, I see them less as pitfalls and more as strugglers to be surmounted and succeeded over. In my mind, they’re only pitfalls if you don’t know about them. And it’s because of articles that people do!

        So instead of being shocked at how hard it is, future self-pubbed authors will instead be armed with a game plan and ready for battle.

        1. a good way of looking at it, and you are right of course. I’m learning a great deal from articles such as these, and certainly am ready for battle – armed with a great deal of determination. I am forging ahead!

  123. I am going to leave this comment on this article because it was the portal that lead me to Kristen. I have completed reading “Are You There, Blog.” There was, indeed, huge amounts of critical information regarding social media. I found I was doing some things right and what things I could do better. It was also invigorating. Kristen has such a way of making the the thought of “authorship” not just exciting, but doable, within reach and fun! Hard work, sweat and toll, but with an appropriate attitude, the most fun you will ever have. How great is it to help others and somehow manage to spread the word about your thoughts, your ideas, your standards and – even your “product!” Kristen, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

    1. Awwww, Victoria, THANK YOU. What a sweet comment and lovely way to start my day :D.

    • Sherry Siska on August 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm
    • Reply

    I just today wrote a blog post on my “Rookie Mistakes”! I wish I had read this post before I hit that publish button. The good news for me, though, is that I finally figured out my mistakes and fixed them. And, I’ll continue to do so because I know that perfection is a mirage. Linked to this post in the blog post I put up today at

  124. Great advice! I’ve been traditionally published with 12 books, and just self-published my first book this week. Even though I’m also a professional freelance editor, I hired an editor, hired a cover designer, hired a layout designer, hired someone who could do all the ebook formats professionally . . . the money was well-spent!

  125. Excellent article. Thank you for the information!
    I myself have started writing a novel. I think it has potential, but of course, it is currently far from finished (I hope to finish it in December) and needs work.
    In case you’re interested, I also talk about software on my blog, as well as books, and sometimes both: (sorry for the self-publicity there…).
    Oh and one more question: I plan on publishing my first novel for free on Scribd to gain publicity. Do you think this is a good idea?

  126. I am so grateful to have found this Blog. Thank you!

  127. This is a really good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very precise information? Appreciate your sharing this
    one. A must read post!The Walking Dead Season 3 Episode 4 Killer Within

    • Sarah Hunters on December 17, 2012 at 10:57 am
    • Reply

    Can you Self publish, via Amazon or lulu, and meanwhile look for an agent, submit the manuscript, and then be ‘published’ the traditional way? (Let’s say a book was accepted to be published, I would then take the self published version off the shelves). Is this legal? do people do it?

    1. The paradigm is changing so quickly that rules change every day. A lot of writers are using self-publishing as a career path to being traditionally published. Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and others have picked up sweet contracts this way. But, a lot of self-pubbed authors are also doing so well, that they don’t want a traditional publisher because it would mean a pay cut and loss of creative control.

  128. Great post. Just found your blog & intend to do some back reading! I self-pubbed my 1st book Witchblood last jan & worked my ass off on fb, twitter & creating a blog, but it was only after publishing the 2nd in June that things began to take off & over the summer those figures kept doubling ending with a record month in oct then suddenly sales quartered in nov & have been worse this month… I’ve heard that’s normal pre-xmas. I hope so. But I also hope your comment about 3 books is true as my third is out in feb! Thanks for the useful info.

  129. Awesome article. I am just going to refer people here instead of trying to explain these points in the future.

    • Steve on March 16, 2013 at 9:45 am
    • Reply

    So, for a first time writer, who do you recommend as an HONEST self-publishing company? I was about to use one company I thought was reputable only to find out that they were a scam.

    1. Self-publishing means you do everything yourself or hire outside people to do it. For instance, hire a cover designer, a content editor, a line-editor, a book interior designer and formatter. I recommend Green E-Books. Jason Chatraw is very reputable and does great work. I think he can even handle covers. There are A LOT of scams so check Predators and Editors and Writer Beware.

  130. I don’t comment on many blogs. (If any at all) But, I had to say you nailed it and I’ve been stressing the same things to others myself. I get the eyes rolled and saying that they’ll never sell if they don’t spam. I go about my business and write for fun. I also consider it a business and have everything I need if ever audited. Great blog!

  131. This article was very informative thank you. As a first time writer this is something I’ve considered I’ve even had offers from people who know others who have self-published I am just concerned the writing won’t get the same sort of attention, as say one might get through a publishing company that has the big league connections. I saw your recommendation for Green E Books would you always recommend going the Ebook route over the paper print route?

    1. E-book is a really great way to start. It’s more affordable and fiction is being consumed mainly on devices these days, so if you don’t have a paper version right away, it isn’t as big of a deal. Save money and get superior editing, formatting and cover, though. Invest in success. And KEEP WRITING.

  132. Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been blogging
    for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is wonderful, as well as
    the content!

  133. Hi Kirsten, got here via long route but it was worth it.
    First. Hands up. I have made most of the mistakes listed here and more.
    Except these important ones; I didn’t stop writing.
    I’ve got 12 novels finished and out there and I’ve got an editor I trust.
    The work has had good, real and serious reviews and I’m proud to say I have got the three act thing going well. I have the fundamentals right inside the work. I’m a natural storyteller who learned the craft before I started publishing.
    Covers? Well, that’s in hand now. I’m moving away from Createspace generic to a new design house doing good work. The back catalogue is getting an overhaul.
    Now the main point; I’ve made my mistakes largely unnoticed because I stayed away from self publicity.
    I have kept very low key and very deliberately. I want to do my learning well and quietly before I unleash the pro made films and social media barrage.
    I have no expectation of making millions or ever reaching any top 100 list.
    My work is too non-mainstream literary-fiction for that to ever happen.
    However, I know I need to get out of my own way and let the work find it’s natural level, free of the mistakes and newbie goofs that drag down so many who spend huge time and effort flogging poor work in a very deep pond of poor work.
    Blogs like yours are helping me refine that process. Thank you.

    1. Awwww, thank you. We learn by doing…and goofing up. As I like to say, “If we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.” I love the new paradigm because I do feel it provides excellent training grounds for the professional author.

  134. My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to be exactly I’m looking for.
    Do you offer guest writers to write content for you?
    I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating on most of the subjects you write about here. Again, awesome blog!

  135. I found this honest and constructive advice. After just reading an article that claims self-publishers lack quality and spam social media telling people to buy books, it is interesting to read some specific advice that can benefit self-published authors as opposed to just slamming them. Being new to this industry, this post has helped to make my expectations more realistic, whilst still enjoying the process.

  136. First off I want to say superb blog! I had a
    quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t
    mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your head before writing.
    I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in
    getting my thoughts out. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost simply
    just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?
    Many thanks!

    1. I don’t clear my head. The writing does it. Start, the rest will follow. A lot of reasons writers are stuck is they don’t yet have a clear story PROBLEM. Nail that? The rest will flow.

  137. Everything is merely true! I agree with all of this. Simply planning the right way is the best thing to do first.

    • Marty Milner on September 13, 2013 at 8:30 pm
    • Reply

    Hey Kristen,
    Found your blog and really enjoyed your points. I just wanted to say “Thank You”. What you are doing is not an accident. By way of complimenting you I thought I’d ask for one of those “unused” evaluations. Why? Because I asked for it and I could really use your help. The people who haven’t bothered to take advantage of your generous offer of a fresh set of eyes have missed the boat. Why would I not just ask you nicely to make believe that I won? Not to jump the line or anything but I believe what you offer is genuinely valuable and I’m going to enjoy your opinion again- if I can.
    Just a thought! – Marty

  138. I’m still at the stage where I’m focused on writing the best book I possibly can, and reading your post is a sound reminder that soon, I need to put this thing down and move onto the next book. I’ll never make it if I don’t have more complete/revised manuscripts.

  139. At the end of the day you are writing a book because it is a goal or dream or whatever your motivation, focus on writing a quality product and taking ownership. Whether you go it alone or use a small publisher or a larger one the author is right there is no magic pill. You need to be ready to market and roll up your sleeves and treat your book like it was your first born 🙂

  140. Reblogged this on North Country Writers' Night Out and commented:
    “The Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors” by Kristen Lamb is an article every writer should read!

  141. This is so good that I’m making it my first reblog. Thanks so much.

  142. Great article! I am planning to release an ebook and I’m writing another, and this certainly helps me prepare for the extra work behind it. My real question that I have not been able to find information on is the legality of mentioning products in a work of non-fiction. My books are on language learning, and I mention don’t know if I can mention products like Skype or the website LiveMocha. The context is that they are tools people can use. Can you tell me if there would be any legal problems with my doing so?

    1. Erik:

      You can make reference to commercial products and/or corporate entities in your book provided that you put something along the lines of:

      “Although the author makes reference to commercial products such as Skype and LiveMocha, the author does not (in any way) endorse these products, and neither is the author affiliated with the corporations that are its proprietors,”

      in your copyright page. But you probably shouldn’t worry anyway–people do it all the time; no one is interested in suing you (lest of all Microsoft itself); and you could easily argue that the tone of your book does instigate purchase of said products. (That is, you are not advertising them.)

      **Check out my blog at**

  143. Booksellers are still being educated regarding POD and often don’t know how to order these books. Lightning Source once said that Ingram would at some time in the future change their system so that iPage (the Ingram database) will list POD books as having to be “print ordered.” But that never panned out. At this time, POD books often come up on the Ingram system as “unavailable” or they come up as having to be “back-ordered.” This can and does drive both publishers and authors crazy. Many booksellers use systems that do not allow backordering

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