E. Rachael Hardcastle is an Amazon international no.1 bestselling author from Bradford, West Yorkshire in the UK. She blogs every week and enjoys sharing her love of journaling, stationery, reading and creative writing.
Rachael has been writing since a young age, first published in a poetry collection through high school. She released her debut novel ‘The Soul Sanctuary‘ in 2010 under E. R. Hardcastle, then began writing under E. Rachael Hardcastle when she discovered her love of speculative fiction.
She has diplomas in Successful Self-Publishing and Journal Therapy, alongside a university Business Studies qualification and many other writing-related achievements. She is also a trained copy-editor and publishing coach, and now runs Curious Cat Books, an indie publishing house designed to help overwhelmed debut authors.
I’ve been in this industry now for more than 10 years. From publishing my first novel in 2010 to launching Curious Cat Books—an independent publishing house for debut authors—in my experience I’ve seen writers make the same mistakes over and over again.
There’s a depth to the self-publishing industry, and a level of overwhelm you can only comprehend once you’ve attempted to write, publish and sell your story. Naturally, mistakes are made; I fear even the most experienced professional can never know everything because technology and processes are always developing. So, when Edwin asked me to name my top 5 author mistakes, I’ll admit I struggled.
After a lot of thought, I came up with the following:
1) Buy your ISBN
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, and it’s 10-13 digits long in its short and full form. This unique reference number identifies the book you’re publishing in the edition you’ve opted for, for example a 5×8” 1st edition paperback. For every new edition you produce, a new ISBN is required.
Whilst it saves money to opt for a free ISBN provided by the platform you’re using, like KDP or Ingramspark, you’re limited to producing that title with that company. They own the ISBN, so it’s only fair. For personal projects this may not be an issue, but when it comes to approaching chain bookstores, you’ll hit a wall.
Large bookstores will not want to pay a competitor such as Amazon (KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing) to order copies of your book. Using an ISBN you own means you can state who the publisher is, so bookstores don’t immediately know who has ‘published’ the title for you.
2) Avoid a vanity press
A vanity press will probably charge you thousands of pounds, and may not do much work to justify the cost. They’ll shower you with praise to convince you to sign, but their contracts may be vague. You might not get much marketing (if any) and editing may not be thorough.
Whilst some authors benefit from using a vanity press because it fits their needs (and may even go on to achieve great success), others find this route expensive and disappointing. In truth, most of what they offer to do for such a hefty price can be done either by the author or a freelancer for less.
There’s nothing wrong with paying for services or even to publish your book with a small press, but be sure you know exactly what you’re getting. Read your contract, then read it again.
3) Submit your legal deposit
This isn’t so much a mistake… more something authors forget to do (or simply don’t know about). By law, you must send 1 copy of the finished book in its most recent form to the British Library for cataloguing at your own cost.
This should be done within 30 days of the date you hit ‘publish’, and other libraries in the list can request further copies within 1 year. Requests are usually sent to the publisher—when you self-publish a book, this responsibility sits with you as the author.
4) Self-edit the book thoroughly
Copy-editing can be expensive if your book is chunky or part of a longer series. Authors cannot always afford to hire a freelance professional when it comes to developmental (storyline, characters etc.) and line editing (aka copy-editing… the technical stuff). To those authors, I would advise at the very least you do the following:
- Complete my ‘6 Read Rule’. This is a self-editing technique I’ve developed, set out in my publishing guide, The Universe Doesn’t Give A Sh*t About Your Book. You should edit the book a minimum of 6 times, and each read should look at something different to ensure you cover all the important bases.
- Use software such as Grammarly, Autocrit or ProWriting Aid to assist you. These usually have a free version and a paid version. Because authors are not editors; you’re not expected to be… but you should gain knowledge of the basics to ensure your final draft is of the highest quality, and so you know enough not to get ripped off.
- Use BETA readers and volunteers to give the manuscript a final polish. You’re too close to your project to catch every mistake. Ask people you know and trust to be honest with you if they’ll read the book to spot any lingering errors. Consider also asking for volunteers on social media (people who will not be afraid of hurting your feelings) to do the same—you should select readers who like the genre and are of the correct target audience.
5) Know what you want. Know your why
Only when you know what you want to achieve through publishing your book will you know where your efforts, time and money should be spent. You can’t draw up a marketing or promotion schedule or begin to approach the relevant professionals, if you’re not sure what success means to you and if it’s worth doing to begin with.
Know why you’re self-publishing and not trying for an agent, or opting to pay a vanity press. Would you like to see your book in chain bookstores, or are you happy just seeing it in a physical form so you can one day read it to your children? Do you want fame and to do this as a full-time job, or is it a hobby?
As a publisher, this is the first thing I ask anyone submitting their book for consideration to Curious Cat Books. I want to know what that author expects and the journey they’re envisioning. As you would prepare an elevator pitch for the story itself, prepare your response to the above.
For more information
I hope you found the above helpful, and I hope this short post helps you to avoid the mistakes I made as a new author back in 2010. I wish you all the best and every success with your book.
Should you need further advice or wish to ask any questions, I can be contacted through my personal website or through Curious Cat Books publishing company. I’m also available on social media (all links in the side bar).
Just starting out, most authors are heavily focussed on their writing. When they get serious about publishing, they soon discover there is so much more to know about the industry. Knowing your direction (traditional or self-published) as early as possible will help you understand which other skill-sets you will need to develop and which tools should be in your kit. And always be aware of predatory companies.
Are you a new author? Old pro? Do you self-publish or are you traditionally published? As always, you can join the conversation on our FaceBook page, the Utility Fog Forum.