The 3 Most Important (and Common!) Mistakes to Avoid When Self-Publishing
Updated: Jan 8, 2021
**I am so happy to share that I have now released my debut novel, The Raven’s Call,
as an eBook. I will post the link below where you can purchase a copy on Amazon's Kindle Store. The paperback version will be available in February!**
But first, I’d like to share three of the hiccups that were made along the way and offer ways you can avoid them. These are useful tips for any of you who have yet to publish your first book or who have gone through the publishing process but are considering a different approach with your next project.
Do You REALLY Need an Editor?
If you are an indie author, especially an unpublished one, you may be submerged in a soul-clenching debate with yourself: do I need to eat this month, or should I hire an editor for this book?
The answer is: ramen is your friend for the next 30—possibly 60—days and yes, hire the editor.
Why? Consider the following true story:
I wrote a scene in The Raven’s Call, where the hero, Raven, is starving and out-of-sorts after being rescued from a kidnapping incident. In the scene, he, an omnivore, is a passenger in a vegetarian’s car. Undaunted, Raven makes the driver pull into a fast food joint to get some tasty chicken. Said driver pokes fun at the grumpy request, noting that he hopes “the Colonel” sorts him out.
The problem? I had referenced the chicken joint as “Popeyes.” Three people read my story before the mistake was pointed out to me. Sorry, KFC. <slaps forehead>
Having said that, it is important to check your editors work. They are wonderful, but they are human, too.
My story saw vast improvement after each pair of eyes had scanned through it. However, I can’t stress this enough: every set of eyes belong to a very human mind that can, and will, miss things. And even if they do not, an automated process they use to save time, might. One of my editors corrected a “bout” of diarrhea to a “bought” of it. As much as I wanted to give her the benefit of a “dought”—ahem—doubt . . . yeah, you get it.
Your Cover Requires Some Research
As a creative person, I couldn’t wait to work with a designer to see my vision come to life. I found a designer who did just that, and the colors of my world were vibrant … for a week. The agonies I had read other authors going through while designing their covers were not going to be mine! Then, I read an article that put the seed of doubt in my ear and ultimately, saved me from major copyright infringement. The writer of that article was an author, giving advice, as I am now. They recommended doing a search on any graphics/images used for your book cover and marketing materials, to make sure they are OK for commercial use and not under copyright/trademark protection.
The first cover for The Raven’s Call had the bottom half of a woman’s face on top and a fierce-looking raven on the bottom. I knew who the woman was, so I wasn’t worried about the legality of that image. Yet, with the author’s advice still lingering in my mind, I delved into an image search of the raven. What came up was none other than the three-eyed raven used in HBO’s hit television series, The Game of Thrones, based off the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire written by American novelist, George R.R. Martin. My cover designer had simply removed the third eye and figured he had altered the image enough to escape detection. Yikes.
Design two came shortly after.
Copyrighted Material Can Trip You Up
You might be wondering why I felt comfortable using a KFC reference but not a Game of Thrones image. I will touch on the reasons why, but it is important that you do your own research when it comes to legal matters, such as whether you are violating the copyright protection of someone else’s work. Since this can differ between geographical areas, constantly changing laws and litigation results, and the preference of individual brands, I would suggest you do this with each book before publication.
Fair use allows, in most cases, the ability to drop the name of a copyrighted piece of work/brand into your own work. However, if where or how you drop that name causes a significant negative effect on its potential or existing market, then there can be legal ramifications. Negative effects could include using a children’s brand in an erotica story (for obvious reasons) or presenting information in a manner that gives away the long-awaited ending of a series because you were lucky enough to travel to a country that saw the release first.
There are many other considerations, such as the context in which the copyrighted material is used compared to its nature, the amount of the work being referenced (stating your character is singing their favorite Jeff Buckley tune in a scene is entirely different than laying out the lyrics, chord progressions, etc. of the song), so again, do your research.
I hope that this information helps you in your planning or action processes of self-publishing. Make sure to subscribe to both the site and blog to get useful writing and self-publishing tips, my book updates, and sometimes, just hard-knock life lessons to learn from (and laugh at!)
**Now, for the promised link to access the ebook version of my debut novel! I hope you enjoy! Tell me what you thought of the story either in a review (these are crucial for indie authors!) on Amazon or Goodreads, or through any of my social media outlets, accessed here. I love to hear from my readers!