Deb: Publishing Mistakes I've Made (so you don't have to)

After sixteen years and twelve books traditionally published, plus another year of independent and hybrid publishing (two re-released titles, two originals), you’d think that an author like me would be savvy enough not to make many mistakes.

You’d think.

Sadly, I have so much material for a post like this that I hardly know where to start. It’s not that I’m especially inept. It’s just that this is a business in which there are lots of ways to go wrong—and many of them can’t be foreseen.

Here, in no particular order, are a few things I wish I (and some of my author friends) had known:

·         An agent can be a wonderful person to have on your team, but she should be the right match for you and your book. Sometimes, you’re better off without one.
·         Rarely will your publisher do what you think they should to market your book. Don’t assume they’ve got you covered.
·         People really do judge books by their covers. Of my four independently published books, I’ve done redesigns on two of them.
·         An author who’s relatively well known within her genre won’t necessarily sell well independently based on name recognition alone.
·         If you’re publishing independently, keep your production and promotion budgets in check. Make sure you’re investing in the right places. I recently encountered an author who spent a lot of money on production and had nothing budgeted for proofreading. His book is a mess. If you look beyond bundled author services companies to a la carte services, or use author services companies that work on a percentage basis instead of charging up front, you can minimize production costs and invest instead in making sure you’ve got a quality product that will hold up in the long term.
·         When it comes to promotion, most paid advertising will not deliver enough in sales to pay for itself. I know—advertising is about exposure, not sales—but if you don’t have a gigantic budget that allows you to make a really big splash, online ads here and there are not going to make much of a difference. For the most part, the most effective ways of letting readers know you’re releasing another wonderful book are also the ways that don’t cost anything. The old adage about getting what you pay for simply doesn’t apply to marketing independently published books.
·         The same goes for paid reviews (like Kirkus) that put your book in a “self-published” category. Unless the review is starred or featured, a self-published book is never going to get noticed by book buyers (librarians and booksellers) who pay strong attention to reviews.
·         If you only do what everyone else does, you may get only modest results. When it comes to reaching you audience, think creatively in order to engage with them in unique and unexpected ways.

Co-founder of 49 Writers, Deb
 has authored more
than a dozen books. Her most recent work includes Cold
, a novel now available for pre-order as part of the Alaska Literary
Series by the University of Alaska Press, and No
, a novel for young readers, co-authored with Gail Giles, a 2014
release from Running Fox Books.
Deb lives and works on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska,
and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier. This post also runs at
Would you like to write a guest
post relevant to Alaska’s literary community? Email 49writers (at) or
debvanasse (at)
Scroll to Top