Top Ten Things Not to Do if You Decide to Self-Publish Your Book



The inspiration for this list is my latest efforts to self-publish the next John J. Cannon story titled His Revenge. Since I had absolutely no experience in publishing the journey was a long winding road marked by plenty of mistakes. I’m sure the trial and error method of my learning is not over yet, but here is some of what I learned. Don’t forget I’m a fiction writer, so some of these lessons have been enhanced with dubious facts to make them more interesting and hopefully humorous. I would, therefore, resist publishing this list on the Huffington Post. (hear that Arianna?)

Top Ten Things Not to Do if You Decide to Self-Publish Your Book

10 If you decide to self-Publish your book, do not drink any alcoholic beverages for four weeks before and two weeks after you hit the publish button. If you do, at best those little things you forgot are not necessary. At worst, you find out after six weeks you submitted the wrong cover with the manuscript. (You know the one. It has “fiction” spelled “fuction”).

9 If you decide to self-publish your book, do not try to edit the manuscript yourself. If you do, at best you will have a fool for an editor. At worst, your book will be featured on a blog with the lovely title of ย “The Poorest Written Books of the Year.” (You are so lucky to have the top position)

8 If you decide to self-publish your book, do not think you don’t need to know how to format the interior. If you do, at best your readers will be treated to several blank lines. At worst, your book will resemble something created by a room full of monkeys on keyboards. (Yeah, it can be done but that one page with only the word “then” on it took the cake)

7 If you decide to self-publish your book, do not think that cute Crayola picture done by your youngest on the cover is relevant to the book. If you do, at best you will miss some sales due to the confusion. At worst, you will get some letters from outraged parents who thought the story of a mass murderer was a kids story. (Ah well, you can always refund the money)

6 If you decide to self-publish your book, do not think you don’t have to follow the instructions on the publishing site. If you do, at best you will finally give in and start over following directions after wasting many hours. At worst, you will be locked out of the site for one hundred years. (Most places have no sense of humor when it comes to messing with their process).

5 If you decide to self-publish your book, do not think the various choices offered by the site are not significant enough to understand the differences. If you do, at best you may end up with a book that does not make you happy. At worst, your book is so expensive to produce you have no royalty or room to promote. (You are independently wealthy Right?).

4 If you decide to self-publish your book, do not think you don’t need to order a proof copy. If you do, at best you will miss some of those little messy typos and double periods. At worst, you totally missed the fact that you mislabeled the chapter headings and now have two of each. (The reviewers will have so much fun pointing out the mirror effect).

3 If you decide to self-publish your book, do not rush the process. If you do, at best there will be something overlooked but no one will notice. At worst, you forgot to include the dedication that you already read aloud to the recipient. (Hard to convince the person you were sincere after this omission).

2 If you decide to self-publish your book, do not think you can skip the marketing. If you do, at best your family and friends will carry you for a couple of sales. At worst, you will be one of several hundred thousand books published at the same time and will be entirely lost in the numbers. (You did expect to sell your beautiful book right?)

1 If you decide to self-publish your book, do not lay awake at night worrying about possible mistakes instead of planning every detail. If you do, at best you will feel out of control. At worst, you will have a lot to worry about since without planning mistakes will happen. (Even with planning there could be some, Nobody’s perfect).


  1. Now that is what I call a useful list. I shall keep it to hand in the event that I eventually have the courage to self-publish any of my efforts

    1. You hit on the right word. This stuff is scary.

  2. The formatting is such a pain and seems to always lead to paranoia. Though it does get easier with every release. Good advice on the alcohol. You think a celebrating, I just hit ‘the button’ drink is good or still risky?

    1. Depends on how much celebrating. I intend to do it.

      1. A single drink is usually my method. Only because I know I’ll have to do something the next day, which I forgot the day before.

      2. How about those 3:00 am wake up memory jogs. Like “OMG did I correct that typo on page 164?” This is after publish of course.

      3. Never had that. I usually do the pre-sleep panic until I pass out from exhaustion. Like a mini-coma that only the alarm or kid can stir me from.

  3. I see why you put the no-alcohol at #10. I would never have agreed to that after reading the other nine. Good list John.

    1. Thanks,Dan. Now where was I?

  4. I’d like to say it gets better after you’ve got the first one under your belt – but I can’t… ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

    As for thinking you can do the edits yourself – never, never, never, and NEVER EVER try to go the DIY route! You WILL miss the obvious, stupid and downright embarrassing typos and skewed cliches that you’ve gone blind to, simply because you KNOW what you thought you wrote is absolutely brilliant, bang on and right.

    I wouldrecommend hitting the sauce again once you press the send button – you deserve something mind-numbing for the angst that follows the point of no return…. mwah, mwah, mwah!

    1. LOL. Thanks, Jan. Big MWAH back. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. This had me cracking up from #10 all the way down. Great post, John!

    1. Aw. You are too kind. Thanks.

  6. Grooooaaannnnn… the marketing… You got that right. But we’ll have to negotiate #10… ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Great big hug!

    1. Have a nice tall one after Atonement in Bloom. Big Hug back.

  7. Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:
    Excellent thoughts about self-publishing from John Howell.

    1. Thanks PH. I appreciate the reblog

      1. Sure, nice job!

    1. Thank you Jason. So nice of you:-)

      1. It’s an awesome post you wrote; I wanted to share it out

  8. Great tips and such a delightful presentation! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Why has no one coined the term “fuction” until now? I see a whole new genre coming to life!

  10. Fun blog post! Very comedic! I’m sharing with my friends on Twitter and Facebook:) Happy Monday!

  11. Fabulous list John – although I disagree with number ten a tiny bit – four glasses of champers can make finally hitting that publish button a bit – yeah baby! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Champers is the exception.

  12. Reblogged this on Half a loaf of fiction and commented:
    Really useful (and amusing) insight into what not to do when self-publishing…

    1. Thanks Steve for the reblog

  13. Nice cautionary tale. Thanks for the advice.

    1. Any time. Didn’t cost much and that is probablyโ€‹ what it is worth

  14. rings back so many memories…some of them painful :/

  15. Wonderful list, John. Now you see why I’m leery to undertake self-publishing, ha! Of course, snagging a publishing contract all by myself is daunting, too. Sigh. What’s a writer to do?!

    1. I have a publishing contract and it was like being tied up in the basement during spring rains.

      1. That sounds dreadful, too. Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all option!

  16. Thanks for the advice!

    1. Of course. Always happy to help.

  17. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy those margaritas after you’ve been sitting on the Amazon best-seller list for a month. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Ha ha ha. Love it.

  18. Love this! Thanks for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks for the comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Useful advice, although at best it’ll be a very long time until I need it and at worst it will only happen in my head so I’ll imagine how useful it is instead.

    1. good imagination. Thanks

  20. great list. Some of those I might have missed. Thank you.

  21. i would love to post this onto my blog, with your permission. Yes, indeed, I will give you credit. Please let me know. ( my blog in case you want to see it:

  22. […] Source: Top Ten Things Not to Do if You Decide to Self-Publish Your Book […]

    1. A very nice reblog. Thank you.

  23. Great post John! I laughed from the 10th all the way to the 1st. Not only great humor, but soooo true! lol

    1. Thank you so much. You just made my day.

  24. Reblogged this on A Novel Journey and commented:
    If you haven’t visited John’s blog, you’re missing a real treat! Read his post re-blogged here for a glimpse of his humor and genius, and then hop on over and explore his blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you Rhonda. This was very special. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Helen Treharne · ·

    Reblogged this on Helen Treharne and commented:
    Sage advice indeed and highlights how self publishing is not the easy option some may think – at least not if you intend to do it correctly. It requires significant time and investment and a good network of professionals (editors, designers etc) who you trust with your project and understand your objectives. Thanks to John Howell for sharing these tips.

    1. Thank you for the reblog Helen

  26. It really seems as if 1 through 9 encourages number 10. Great post. Thanks

    1. I would say you are 100% right. Cheers *gulp*

  27. Hi John, there is some really useful advice here, and I got quite a few laughs out of it too! This should be a must read for all novice writers.

    I think that the publish button is so easy to press that sometimes it can just be too tempting to press it too early without taking the time to make sure that you have everything as close to perfect as you possibly can.

    Coming from purely a reading background I can confirm that typos and lack of editing and formatting are the most frustrating issues that I come across when reading self-published novels. It really does pay to have a professional assist with things like structure and readability. Iโ€™ve also noticed that a lot of self-published novels can include way too much irrelevant information, overly technical jargon or read in a slightly odd way which most editors can really help a lot with.

    Do you think that organisations such as Amazon should provide more guidance on these kinds of common issues? I know they obviously donโ€™t have to, but surely it would increase their sales too if more of the books that were on offer were more readable
    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and advice!

    1. Amazon does provide a for fee service on editing. The problem is they aren’t perfect either. I actually published My Revenge after three different people proofed it. There was still one “with” that was missing an i. I corrected it but sat in wonder. I only discovered it when I was looking for an excerpt. If Amazon wanted to set some standards I think that would be a good thing. The Kindle division runs a spell check on the e-version but as we all know spell check can be misleading. Thank you so much for the comment. Thank you for following my blog as well and hope to see you more in the future. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Thanks John, I didn’t know that Amazon had an editing service, but I could imagine the quality could be a bit hit and miss and the spell-check could be very dangerous!

        I think even just a really brief rundown on what editing and proof-reading actually involves available for all authors would be a really good start. Not all authors are aware of all the different types and it would be really confusing trying to muddle through it all on your own.

        Thanks for the chat, it’s been great to hear your thoughts and of course you’ll hear from me again ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. My first book was published by an indie publisher and they did an awful job. Once my contract expires I will release a cleaned up version.

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