Freedom isn't Free—5 Common Tactical Errors in Self-Publishing

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This business is hard work. There are no shortcuts. I recently self-published my new book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World (and it’s on sale for $7.04 to celebrate Independence Day). Yet, for the record, I had 1) sound business reasons for doing this (NY is too slow to publish anything about technology and I wanted creative control) and 2) I have at least a million and a half words under my belt just in blogs. Granted, I’m new to the whole self-publishing thing. I’ll share as I learn.

It’s great to have independence, but alas, Freedom isn’t free. We need a sound strategy or we can end up toast.

For the Record, I’m Switzerland

When it comes to publishing, I don’t take sides. I feel traditional publishing has a lot to offer. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t spend so much time and effort challenging them to innovate to remain competitive. Indie is not for everyone. A lot has to do with 1) what we are writing 2) our personality 3) our goals. I support writers no matter which path you decide fits your needs.

Self-publishing is not a panacea. Today we are going to talk about the top five tactical errors I feel are killing self-publishing authors.

Tactical Error #1 Publishing Too Soon

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.

The Spawn's First Novel, "akjehsubfuirewagh6r5" now available on Kindle.

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

Too many new writers 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 have some affordable upcoming classes for most of that, btw (Check Here). Use Wana15 for a 15% discount on any of my craft classes. 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.

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.


Signs of problems in your novel.

Signs of problems in your novel.

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’re ready. If you really want to self-publish, I’m here to support you and cheer you all the way, but remember, we have to write better than the traditional authors.

Tactical Error #2 No Prepared Platform

The day we decide to do this writing thing for real is the day we need to start creating a platform and brand. Even traditional authors goof this up. I cannot count how many times I get a message saying, “Hey, I have a book coming out next month. I need to do social media. Can you help?”

Seriously? O_o

I’m Kristen Lamb, not Harry Potter.

Tactical Error #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. I was bummed, too.

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 and upload a NY vetted backlist longer than your arm? Prepare for a ton of work.

Tactical Error #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.

Tactical Error #5 Shopping One Book to DEATH

One of the BIGGEST problems I see with self-published writers is that they publish one book and then they focus every bit of energy on selling THAT book.

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.

Yesterday, I bought six books (1,500 pages) of research. I just published my latest book five days ago…and I’m starting on my next book. Goal is to have the first draft completed by August. 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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. 

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).

Right now, I am flattened with a cold or flu or something that just makes me want to crawl off into a dark place and die, so I will announce last month’s winners sometime this week.

And also, winners 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!


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  1. As someone looking into the business of self-publishing, these little guides are very handy. So thank you for posting things like this, because it helps me determine which route may be best for me and my novels-in-progress. 🙂

  2. It always puts a smile on my face when I can read your lists of “what not to do’s” and see where I went right :-). When I see the one or two places where I went “left” instead, I go back and re-read your post again and again until I’ve got the advice firmly in my head. This time, I’m guilty of Tactical Error #2. I’m just now (four books in) developing my platform and wouldn’t you know it? People’s interest seems to be rising (slooooooowwwwwllllyy). So, I’ll be back to re-read this one a couple more times, and then looking to sign up (finally) for one of your WANA classes on this very subject.

  3. Wow. Talk about timely. I had let writing the sequel to my middle reader fantasy fall off the cliff of self-doubt and procrastination for the past couple of weeks. On the weekend, I got great feedback about the first book from a young reader, and realized that it wasn’t actually dreck. That comment was just what I needed to convince me that I wasn’t wasting my time writing the second in the series. Your encouragement to get more books out there has reinforced my determination to finish this one a lot sooner than later. Thanks!

  4. I’m in awe of people who self-publish. I’m working my butt off with traditional publishing, I can’t imagine the work involved with doing everything it takes to self-publish.

    I seriously considered it for a few months, but after reviewing the pros/cons, I decided it wasn’t for me at this time in my career.

  5. #4, #4, #4 cannot be said enough. If you have to give your entire work away in order to get anyone to try it, there’s a problem (either you’re selling yourself short, or people are paying you for what it is worth, i.e. nothing).

    1. I’m not entirely sure about that. There are a lot of people unwilling to pay for a new/unfamilar author (which is probably another reason libraries remain so popular). Also, there are a LOT of other forms of entertainment out there that an author needs to compete with (i.e. not just other authors). I think that, used strategically, free could be an effective way to create interest in one’s work. I personally have no idea what that strategy might be, but I’m sure it exists.

      1. FREE is great when used as a strategy. For instance, if you have a trilogy or a series? ALWAYS offer Book One for FREE. Hook them with Book One and they BUY the rest.

  6. A lot of common sense here, though some of it’s not so common as it ought to be.
    I have had to out-source cover design, since I have no talent for it and don’t know anyone who has.

  7. Maximizing free. I think there is a whole blog post just on that.

  8. Very good blog and great information. Thanks for posting. Enjoy your day and have a great Holiday.

  9. “I’m Kristen Lamb, not Harry Potter.” This made me chuckle out loud. Truly. No, I do not think COL will catch on, it’s just the more accurate description of the event. 😉 Thanks for the list and the laugh, I needed both. 🙂

  10. I self-published two books, each a compilation of 50 devotionals from my weekly column, one in 2000 and the other in 2002. I already had a market–the readers of my column who’d clip my articles and send them to others. One lady kept a scrapbook of them. They sold fairly well, and I have something for my book table when I speak. However, when it came to putting together book three, I tried several times, but sensed “no go” or “not now.” I’ve written two unpublished novels, which made the rounds of publishers.Although they were rejected, I feel they went far enough up the committee meetings to be encouraging. I thought about publishing one or the other as an ebook, but then again, that sense of “no go” stopped me. I agree with everything you pointed out in this blog post. For now, I’ll focus on making novel manuscript four the best yet! BTW, I have a Christian Writers Page blog, and I’ve added a link to your blog that automatically updates daily. Thanks for taking the time to help us!

  11. This blog post speaks to the adage that everything’s more complicated than it looks. It also jabs a little at the culture of ‘rush’ that most bloggers have – certainly me. I hurry to write and hurry to post and love the rush afterward. Helpful to get a pro’s insights about moving to the next level in a more considered, strategic way. Thanks!

  12. Three books in the same genre, do you think? *slaps head* of course you do – my histfic readers are not going to be hugely interested in my kid’s books, and my kid’s book readers are too young for histfic – at least in this format… Hmmmm….

  13. a particularly helpful post– thank you, kristen! i’ve posted it to a news-sharing website so more people can enjoy it:

  14. I’m now into year ten as a full-time writer, and still learning every day. Brilliant posts, Kristen. Seems there’s always the exception. The writer who never wrote more than a few newspaper advertisements, decided to tackle a novel, got a hot-shot agent after the first query letter, and a fairytale seven-figure book deal after it went to auction, all within a year. Next came the “NYTimesbestseller” title within a month after its release, a fabulous book tour, and a spot on the Today Show. Yeah, that’s NOT me, but I know that author. Most of us will struggle with all of it, give up a few times, and cringe when somebody tells us they ordered our first book. But (sigh) after more than a decade of learning from our mistakes, we still love that road less traveled. Blogs like yours, Kristen, gives us all a bit of hope.

  15. As I look ahead my biggest challenge with self-publishing is affording it, but since the book isn’t completed I’ll worry about the dollars when I have to. Given all that I keep learning I know that I’ll find away. It will happen.

    1. Check out the Killion Group. They are VERY affordable.

      1. are E-books cheaper? Do you mean the expense of a paperback?
        The cost of editing through me for a loop. 🙁

      2. Thank you!

  16. As the relative newbie on the block, I very much appreciate your advise and not only in this post. Having neither self published nor published traditionally before (outside of a few poems, which I don’t count, really) I am absorbing the knowledge you are sharing like the proverbial sponge.

  17. I think the greatest challenge for me has always been #1–rushing to publish. Once I finish a book, I am anxious to hold the finished product in my hand, but I have to sit on my thumbs while my beta-readers have their way, I develop the cover, the blurb, etc, bouncing it all off my co-horts. It’s agonizing to wait, but very worthwhile. My new book is almost ready, and I’m confident it’s about as perfect as I can get it.

  18. Amen to all of that. I’m working on book 3 right now. In fact I’m writing my books as fast as I can. That’s very slowly but hey, even 50 words today mean my book is 50 words closer to completion than yesterday.



    • Nita on July 3, 2013 at 9:32 am
    • Reply

    Great information Kristen. Even before I reached the end I was thinking, I need to post this on my FB and Twitter feeds. My blog is about quilting, and I’m trying to keep the focus there this month. Even if my mind does wander…oh pretty look. 🙂 I’m also working on book 3 (don’t ask how long it took me to get around to doing book 2) don’t know if I can have it done by August, but that’s the goal. Ready for the editor anyway. Yes, I pay someone to edit my stuff. Especially this one, since it will be self-pub. The other two were with a small indie publisher.

  19. I released 12 books (and some short stories) through a trad, small press and just released my first indie book. The learning curve was/is steep and I have a new respect for my publisher who does all this stuff, but I love, love, love the freedom of actually having sales data on which to base my BUSINESS decisions. Information is power, but for YEARS authors have been denied critical information for their business planning. Even if you’re dying to be trad published, I recommend becoming a hybrid author. I don’t even know how to say how different the world is when you have information and some control.

  20. Thank you Kristen, I enjoy reading your posts, you have wonderful energy. I am a self published author, with two volumes down and eight to go. I created my little inspirational book originally as a dust jacketed hard cover, then I was picked up by Iguana Publishing to publish a soft cover and ebook edition of each of the volumes.(I am continuing to self publish the hard cover version because I am old school and I like they they look and feel) You are are right when you say it is a lot of work, and the work starts at the beginning, finding the right editor to work with you, then a designer that understands what you are trying to do, then a marketing guru that is willing to work with you, then the hard part begins, selling yourself and your work, without being pushy… but, at the end of the day this has been the most wonderful adventure ever, and it’s not over yet… oh, and yes my little book is doing very well out there.
    A smile in the wind for you…


  21. The first video needs a choking warning don’t eat while watching OMG! Thank you for the reminders I really needed this focus right now. And yes I put my first book out too early, but I took it down re-worked it and it is with an editor right now. It was hard work, but I’m so glad I did it and now I have a while new routine for editing and revising which in theory will make the next book easier LOL

    • Jennifer Rose on July 3, 2013 at 10:02 am
    • Reply

    I love how you compared writing to music. It is so true. When you go to college for music (or art) first you spend 2-3 years studying all the strict RULES. Then in the fourth year, they are like- now, here’s how you can break the rules! There are so many correlations between music and writing, it’s fun to ponder.

    You are so right about the 3-book rule. Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure that Harry Potter took off after the THIRD book. SO, even HP had to wait…

  22. Nice post! The rush to publish WAY WAY too soon is shockingly apparent by the quality of most self-published books.

  23. As always, some timely warnings and a few swift kicks in the pants.
    Thank you!! (I snorted with laughter over the cartoon video…)

  24. I’d like to think of myself as prepared for the business, but reading posts like these brings me back to a state of cautious optimism for my career. Thanks for always providing excellent posts.

  25. Reblogged this on Dale Tallo's Blog and commented:
    I’ve always considered the self publishing route, to the dismay of some people I’m acquainted with, and this blog only pushes me towards that.

  26. Ah, selfpublishing. One book birthed seven more in the incubator. 🙂

  27. Hi Kristen! So fun to read your blogs as now that have YOUR voice since we met at the Crested Butte conference! Great tips! Keep them coming! Hope you feel much better soon!

    • annerallen on July 3, 2013 at 11:40 am
    • Reply

    Must-read advice, Kristen! I cringe when I see newbie authors giving tons of books away free when they don’t have anything else for sale. Instead of giving a sample to get you to buy a product, they’re giving away the product–the only one they have! You don’t make money when you give away the whole store.

  28. Never been here, but I’m coming back. My favorite thing here (sorry) wasn’t you, it was the caption under the typing child. HAHAHA okay, so that was probably you writing it…
    Wish you could sky write this info for new authors. Meanwhile, thanks for bringing us down to earth.

  29. I really enjoy coming across posts that can help new independent authors, this one actually made me laugh at how blunt it was and i think its brilliant. I’m a new indie author myself and still learning as i progress. I will subscribe to this blog for future tips 🙂

  30. I think the biggest challenge I’ve encountered is not writing work that fits neatly into an established (and popular) genre. A reviewer of my first novel described it as follows: “In all, this is one of those novels that bookshops must hate: not ‘hard’ enough to be spec fic, not ‘weird’ enough to be fantasy, too realistic for the humour section and yet too humorous to shelve easily with the lit fic. And that, I suspect is going to prove to be its charm…” It’s very hard to market a book like that other than by calling it quirky. I look for advice online must all of it is geared towards genre: find people who are doing what you do and make friends with them. Well, no one’s doing what I’m doing. And to make matters worse I write novels, poems and short stories which means three sets of friends and very little overlap. And let’s not even mention the plays…

  31. I’m so happy your new book is out!!! Had to go grab my copy and one for my mom. Congrats!!!

  32. Thank you for another great post. I finished book two but now i have to work on editing both books, starting a webpage, learning about self-publishing, starting book three down the road while taking care of a house, 2 kids and working full time and it is very overwhelming. I have been following you for two years and could not have come this far without you!

  33. Ow!
    Well, now I’m glad I haven’t published yet. 1, because I’m a perfectionist. 2, because I’m working on a platform. But I don’t want to analyze to death and never publish. How do I know when I’m ready to publish?

    • Michael Keller on July 3, 2013 at 2:01 pm
    • Reply

    Damn Kristen,I seem to have made every mistake you identified. At least I now know why my book’s Amazon sales figures trail that of The History of Proctology.

  34. O no, feel better soon. Thanks for the hard truth!

    • Lalo on July 3, 2013 at 3:08 pm
    • Reply

    Another excellent post. I have almost published my first story a few times now. Each time some wonderful soul tells me something I’ve done wrong. They are usually quick to tell me I could publish it as it is but… so I have been back through it now… several times. I became the adverb killer. I took out every “seemed” in the entire book. I grappled with POV until I finally just re-worked the whole story in third person direct. I cut chapters and chapters because I had just rambled away and even I got bored by those chapters. I’ve condensed and cut out and chopped down. I am going through now and killing all the passive voice. I tend to just shlump right down into passive and stay there. I keep thinking, eventually, I will have made every error possible. I don’t even know what I don’t know yet. This first story will be the first of a series and I want it to be good. I love the story, I am just unsure of the skills I need to tell the story. But I’m getting there. I’m taking courses on how to write a sentence. I’ve got books on how to write. Eventually I will publish, when the book is ready. I honestly believe all that I’m learning and all the mistakes I’m correcting will mean that I spend less time on the next book. They said, just get the book written. And that’s important. But I wanted the mechanics of the book to tell the story as well as I can tell it because I love my story. I do not want to publish too soon. I’m glad you mentioned that in this article. I have really begun to appreciate these posts you make.

  35. I’ve seen people go ahead and self publish when they aren’t ready. I’m not an authority on the subject by any means (I plan to self publish some of my work, but I certainly haven’t done it yet), but I know when my gut tells me something is up.

    These five errors are things I see all the times in my over eager friends and all I can do – after telling them what I think – is sit back and let it happen… and make sure I don’t make the same mistakes myself.

  36. I definitely agree with using free to a strategic advantage, but I was just wondering if you had any specific advantages in mind? Beyond stuff like gathering newsletter subscribers/email addresses, or being able to label yourself as a “bestseller” for hitting #1 in your Amazon categories, I mean, are there any other important ones I’m not thinking of?

  37. I’ve Self-Published four books and yeah, I didn’t see any royalties until after the third book was out, and even then it wasn’t spectacular. More like a drip than a stream. I don’t think I’ve made back the money I spent putting the first one out either, but that’s fine. I went into this with the mindset that I wouldn’t make any money for the first couple years, so the fact I can almost pay for my expenses and it’s been almost two years, well, I’m happy.

    Where did I have to grow? Promoting myself and my books. I don’t want to come off as spamming, and was REALLY nervous about automating tweets, but I put several hours in between each and each tweet was different, so that’s okay. I stumbled across several websites that offer free promos for free books (or .99 cents), so I’m actively submitting to them. I did a bunch back in March and my book got up to #2 for free occult.

    Not too shabby. And yeah, I took a screenshot of my book at #2. 😀

  38. Yes, yes, and YES! It had to be said. Thank you for saying it. Self Publishing is a wonderful freedom. It is also a big responsibility, not just to the unsuspecting reading public but to your author brand. Thanks for the cautions to simply take it seriously.

  39. I keep waffling on trying to self-publish because I know what you say about multiple books is true. I have work to do on the target manuscript to get it ready to shop in the fall. For now it is my focus.

    • Schuyler Thorpe on July 3, 2013 at 6:25 pm
    • Reply

    I’m not worried with my work. I’ve gone the traditional publishing route for ten years and got rejected every step of the way. People will often say it’s because of my books, but I’m more inclined it has more to do with an intransigent business model that refuses to get with the times and adapt.

    So I plan on self-publishing. Why? Because I have a ton of books lying around begging to see the light some day. And I’m not talking about “waiting 60 more years before the industry decides to give me a fair shake”–I’m talking about doing it NOW rather than wait for the rest of my life for the industry to make up its mind.

    I’ve seen some people make these kinds of tactical “errors” plenty of times and the truth is, many of *them* aren’t ready to be traditionally published or even self-published. And they don’t do it right either: Promoting, advertising, and the like.

    And while I don’t have a platform and not really interested in making a name for myself, I do plan on self-publishing my books because I want something that I can take some personal pride in–even if no one else will.

    I’ve been quickly discovering that the internet has pretty much neutered any hopes of any of us gaining any real traction with the readers, because there’s just too much information flowing back and forth to be able to work it to our advantage.

    I use Facebook as my platform, but I don’t talk about my books anymore. Simply because there’s no real audience out there to greet me when I do finally get a book out. From what I’ve been told, you only reach about 10-15% of your audience. Promoting your posts is too costly and not very smart.

    Twitter’s a lost cause because I don’t have enough of an understanding to make that site work for me.

    So I plan on doing what I can. I probably won’t make any money off my novels, but again, it’s not the reason why I wanted to be self-published in the first place.

    Like I told my wife this morning–in bed: “Self-published authors don’t do book tours.”

    My goal as a future self-published author is to finish what I started 26 years ago: Get the book out, celebrate my achievement, and move onto the next novel in line. And repeat as often as I can.

    Because like I said earlier, I have a lot of ideas and a lot of books to write. So I’m not going away anytime soon.

  40. More great advice & commentary! This point was especially poignant:

    “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’re ready. If you really want to self-publish, I’m here to support you and cheer you all the way, but remember, we have to write better than the traditional authors.”

  41. Reblogged this on Conservative Calmversation and commented:
    More great advice & commentary on writing and self-publishing from Kristen Lamb!

  42. Great list of 5 errors. I see all of those all the time. The free one when they don’t have any other books and are spending all their time promoting drives me crazy. Write a prequel as a freebie. Write a few short stories from different characters POV to help build your writing skills, your backlist, and your fan base. Shared as always.

  43. Reblogged this on Sarah Solmonson.

  44. This is all good advice. From what I see, most self-published authors commit error #1, after which everything else becomes more difficult. The best way I know of to avoid that error is to participate actively in one or more good critique groups–and learn from the kind of feedback you get.
    My own error is #5, but then some of us are just one-trick ponies.

  45. For me I think the biggest challenge has been learning everything I need to in a rather short time span. I have been writing for more than 10 years but I just decided to self publish last year and I actually did so in the beginning of this year. Naturally, I chose the most hectic and impractical time in my life (I have toddler twins and work full time).
    I am learning a lot. Making mistakes too. But learning something new every day. Thanks for the article.

    I’ve read a lot of self published stuff since I really started getting involved with other writers online, and my one biggest complaint on so many of them is that they’re good stories, but they were published before they were ready.

  47. Such a great post. I am pretty far away from even choosing a route. I finished my MS, but I know it needs edits. Lots of edits. And then it needs even more edits. I don’t want to embarrass myself whether it’s via self publishing or querying. I think the scariest thing to me about self publishing is once it’s out there. It’s OUT there. That’s the one thing about the internet in general that drives me nuts. I am so glad this technology didn’t exist when I was in high school. I shudder at thinking some of my embarrassing moments could be available all the time, to anyone. That’s how I view self publishing. I may do it, I may not. But if I do, I want to get it right (or as right as possible).

    Kristen Lamb

    1. And I’m not sure how your name appeared below mine (I can only imagine hitting send now if I ever did self publish and I didn’t mean too……), but the post was from me 🙂 Meredith that is.

      Meredith’s Musings

  48. Reblogged this on Laura Crean and commented:
    Truth summed up in an excellent article for self-published or wannabe self-publishers – check it out, there are lots of lessons to be learnt here.

  49. Always love your work Kristen. Thank you 🙂

  50. Very interesting and informative article about self-publishing. The word ‘SELF-PUBLISHING’ itself is misleading. There are companies out there (I used one MATADOR – Leicester, England for my two print/ebook novels) and of course there are a myriad of companies like Kindle/Create Space, Smashwords etc. I have just published an ebook with Kindle KDP and Smashwords and I also download books to read on my Kindle. I personally attended Creative Writing Courses before writing my books and I also use an excellent proof-reader before submitting my work, But, unfortunately, not everyone does. My ebook came on 7th May 2013 and I have one review: the reader said ‘…it was error free!’ Thank you,Kristen.

  51. This is my first visit to your blog but I loved every minute of your little video and I am definitely keen to take all advice on board! Look forward to reading/seeing more of your valuable insights. 🙂

  52. Thanks so much for posting this. I often get stressed that time is drifting by and if I don’t self publish now then it will be too late (daft I know!) This post reinforced the importance of having a professional manuscript first and how important it is to take the time to get things right.
    Hope you feel better soon. Crawling under the duvet is often the best thing to do.

  53. That “So You Want to Write a Novel” video always cracks me up and you are too funny. “I’m Kristen Lamb, not Harry Potter.” 😉 I’ll mention your new book on my weekly blog post. Where did you post June’s winner?

    1. I had a bad cold this week, so haven’t posted yet. Likely tomorrow or Monday so watch for it.

  54. Tactical error #1 is so huge! Through RWA, I know many writers who’ve self-published and are proud. A few of those books are great. Others, well … it makes me feel uncomfortable to talk with the author, because frankly I’d rather read a software manual.

    If I had self-published my first, deplorable novel, everyone–even my mother!–would have given up on me. My second, though, sold to Silhouette. That’s when I knew I was ready for the big time. But –big BUT–how is a writer to know when she/he is ready? Any suggestions, people?

    1. Maybe I need to offer that as a WANA service. I’ll read at least first 50 pages and give a recommendation?

  55. I’m so thankful self-publishing wasn’t an option when I first started out. I was so clueless. I won’t get into the details and embarrass myself, but as a newbie, I was only able to absorb so much at a time, and some concepts like show, don’t tell took forever to understand, and I still find myself (or my critique peeps catch me) telling instead of showing. Even after I’ve learned something and can grasp the concept, I still need reminders every now and then, so continuing to read books on the craft is a must. As long as I’m writing, I’ll continue to study and learn. Love that vlog, Kristen. Well done!

  56. LOL Spawn’s work shows promise. I hope that you feel better, miserable to be under the weather. I agree, there are far too many books on Kindle that should have been edited before being published. Thanks for your post.

    • Linda on July 5, 2013 at 9:45 pm
    • Reply

    I have read a few of your blog posts recently, Kristen, and I have really enjoyed each one. The combination of good advice and good humor keeps me coming back for more. I was wondering if you or any of your subscribers has heard of Utales. It is a fairly new company that is publishing children’s picture books electronically, and then charging subscribers a fee to access/read the books I have been to the company’s website, and I thought the concept was interesting.

    1. This is what I LOVE about the new paradigm. Ingenuity!

  57. Oh I love this post! Meaty, funny and so damned true…

  58. Thank you so much for these advices Kristen! They’re very helpful!!

    • Lalo on July 7, 2013 at 1:55 pm
    • Reply

    I have a theory, it’s just a theory. Our story comes from the right side of our brain. Things like spelling, punctuation, sentence structure and word usage, reside on the left side of our brain. I am a very good speller. Misusing words is one of my pet peeves. Misusing apostrophes is another of my pet peeves. In spite of my extraordinary spelling ability (it’s a gift), and the fact that I have amazing talents in using words like to and too and two and there and their and they’re… when I read through my stories… I frequently find errors. How can this happen?

    The editing comes from the left side of the brain while the storytelling comes from the creative side of the brain and twain the two shall meet!

    I’m a fairly good editor. Still, when I read what I wrote, I tend to read what I want to be there… not what is there. Alas, I have to hire editors.

    Now the shocking thing… in addition to punctuation errors, they also find plot holes and other silly little things like that. (In one scene I had a guy fighting and evidently, he had three hands).

    For every person who has told me they don’t need an editor, I say, yes, you do need an editor. Everybody needs an editor. A good formula may be at least one primary and two secondary editors and three or four fantastic beta readers. Hint: the beta readers cannot be your friends.

    In summary, the story is on the creative side of the brain while the editing skills reside on the opposite side of the brain, that’s my theory on why we cannot self edit. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I do everything I can to get a clean copy before I let anyone else see it. Still, they will find things that I don’t.

    1. Read my post about Spock Brain versus Kirk Brain. I COMPLETELY agree. Let the right brain do what it does without interference. If you don’t happen to be a good editor, do what you can then let the pros take it from there.

        • Lalo on July 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm
        • Reply

        I’m so glad to hear my theory is probably a reality. I read back over my work and I know I’m better than that. However, I proof read or edit for others and I spot those errors so fast! I am really enjoying your blog.

  59. Excellent points. I really love the first one…so many good writers I know published before they were ready and it has hurt them. That old acorn about it taking 3 books before anyone reads you? That one scares the fur off me. Because I want my FIRST (published) book to be sell well, to be read, to be loved. But I have seen that with my traditionally published friends…their first book was great but it wasn’t till the third one that their sales began to take off…whether book three was actually as good as book one or two or not. Momentum, I guess?
    So, there’s my question. What if we want that ‘first’ book to be the ‘third’ book? What then? Do we write three or four more and hold it back to release after the ones that are doomed to be mediocre because they are our ‘early’ books? Do we release it first anyway and settle for it never having the readership it deserves because it is first?

  60. Hey there, I’ve just stumbled across this article and your blog – loved the honesty that comes across in your writing and the videos.

    I’ve already bookmarked you for further reading – thanks.

  61. What have been some of your challenges with self-publishing? My main challenges have been technology and people related. I am not particularly tech savvy, so the learning curve on the book uploading process has been steep. And I have to climb it all over again with each new upload, and almost with each edit. After 11 items self-published it is starting to get a little easier.

    The people thing is feeling that I have no consistent human partners upon whom to rely. Every critique group I’ve joined has folded, except one that I left because it became to embroiled in political discussions with me being the only one on my side ranged against eight on the other. Beta readers almost never come through. Family members could care less if I publish or not, and I have to cajole them to make a single post about a book. I get the sense of being very much alone in this.

    One other challenge is overcoming Genre Identity Disorder. I have finally published the last of the novels that were pent-up in my gray cells, and hopefully am about work on things in series, or at least in the same genre as something already published.

    In what areas is it forcing you to grow? I’ll have to get back to you on that. Well, I suppose just perseverance in the face of no support and almost no sales. Working on items 12, 13, and 14, and locking in ideas for 15 through 30.

    Have you had to outsource? Yes, for covers, and for formatting on one book that included graphics (though in hindsight I’m not sure he did anything I couldn’t have done). I’m learning to do covers, however, because 1) I’ve run out my string of being able to beg covers from talented family members and friends, and 2) it’s too expensive to pay for covers to short stories.

    What sacrifices have you made? You mean besides giving up sports watching and most other TV watching and reading for pleasure rather than for developing as a writer? I suppose you could count being chronically behind on family finances as an answer to that.

  62. Loved it. Linked it. You’ve got some great points in here, Kristen. Number 5 is the one I most often find myself repeating to fellow writers. It’s the real bane, especially for anyone touched by the dreaded “what’s the point of it all?” depression.

  63. Great advice to think about!

    I’ve been stuck in the hamster-wheel of the ‘traditional’ route for two years, trying to sell a Jane Austen/ Georgette Heyer type MS to the publishing industry. Regrettably, they can’t see past their ‘Romance Paradigm’ – fast plot, simple sentence structure and sex.

    But I know that intelligent women do in fact read romance too (shocking, I know!), so I’ve decided to self-publish.

    Thank you for your steer towards the light at the end of the very long tunnel.


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