8 Self-Publishing Mistakes I Wouldn’t Repeat If I Could Time-Travel And Start All Over Again

Someone once told me that the release of my book would be like my own baby coming out. I didn’t really feel it for my first book “What Your Soul Already Knows” but it hit me straight in the solar plexus this time with “The Octopus Curse”.

How is a book like a baby you ask? Well, here’s a list:

  • It took me 9 months to make it.
  • I’ve gotten all hormonal over it, even cried a few times.
  • It’s a damned painful process yet bafflingly wonderful at the same time. (HOW?!!)
  • I love it more than is good for my personal health (I see moms of toddlers nodding.)
  • It makes me so happy when someone says. “OHMYGOD, your book (baby) is so beautiful!”
  • And it is so darn beautiful isn’t it… (see how I get all mushy?)

This is the reason why I haven’t been all that active on social media, and I thank everyone who messaged to check up on me. You’re the best.

A by-product of two cultures fusing, I have always felt a little lost in my skin, and traveling has always made me feel better. The more I traveled, the more I realized that although women were different in many ways, divided in many ways, whether it be by culture or clothing style, race or religion, size or life-choices, some things were always, always the same, no matter how far I went. The light in a girl’s eyes when she sees chocolate, the way a mother touches her baby’s cheek, tears, laughter, sorrow and joy; across all these bridges, the whole of womankind met and merged.

I saw a bit of myself in every woman I met, and that finally gave me the courage to share my poetry of over ten years. I realized we need to celebrate these bridges that so beautifully unite us.

I’m sure this bookbaby has a lot more to teach me, but even before it’s launch on November 1st 2019, it has taught me so much!

If you’re thinking about self-publishing a book, there are some mistakes that I wouldn’t want to repeat if I had the chance to start all over again.

1) Do not start before you’ve finished, aka, complete your manuscript! First things first! Write, then rewrite. Self-edit a thousand times, until it sparkles like a diamond. Then give it to a few other people (editors) who will shoot some bullets into it, so you can see all the cracks and weak points and fix them. It can be difficult, painful even, to hear criticism of your hard work, but this is necessary. You will thank yourself later.

2) Do not ignore or be dismissive of other books in your genre. Read, read, read…read books in the genre you write. Hold them in your hand, sniff them, sleep with them under your pillow. There is so much to learn for anyone who is self-publishing by taking a good, long look at the books already on the market and doing well. For example, the themes that are more likely to sell. I don’t believe that should be the criteria for deciding what you want to write. You should write what you love to write, but knowing what is more likely to sell would guide you in things such as deciding if you want to offset print a thousand copies or offer print on demand for every single order that is placed. You would also learn a lot about the style of the current books in the genre, and might even see some things that inspire you. For me, it helped me decide which poems to include in the book, and guided me as to which were the ones others would, more probably, enjoy.

3) Do not rush the process, but set a deadline. This may seem paradoxical but it’s essential. You need to set a deadline, a release date for your book and work towards it. If you don’t or if you keep changing it, you are in danger of never actually feeling satisfied enough with your book to actually get to publishing it. It makes it difficult to plan other things around your launch as well. At the same time, you cannot rush the process. Changes done in haste, are rarely done well. So the deadline needs to be concrete, but also reasonable. I would say for any book would require atleast 8 to 12 months of work after the manuscript is completed to be ready for printing and release, but it would also depend on the exact work, as each one would have different requirements.

4) Do not try to design your own book cover. I actually didn’t make this mistake, but I know others might be tempted to; Do not compromise on this. Your cover is the first thing that someone sees, and the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t fly too far in today’s visually excitable world. If you’re a talented who-ha with incredible Photoshop skills, it’s still the same. Don’t try this one.

5) Do not make major decisions based off a screen. It is impossible to make a wise decision solely by looking at a laptop screen, and even worse a phone screen. A simple black and white print (to size) would give you a better idea how things would look on paper. For example, a size 16 font is NOT appropriate for a poetry book. I have no idea what I was thinking. In fact, I realized I wasn’t very happy with the size 14 that’s currently in my book…after I had gotten a thousand copies printed. Not fun. Not at all.

6) Do not make full page illustrations with fixed blank boxes. I don’t know how relevant this is to you, but it’s something I learned the hard way. In The Octopus Curse, I asked the illustrator to draw the patterns after already deciding and delimiting the box spaced in which the poem was on the patterned pages. Later in the process, I decided to change the size of the book, and I couldn’t (easily) adjust the boxed areas because they were pre-drawn into the pattern itself. The wiser thing to do would have been to ask for patterns covering the whole page, and then place a blank box wherever I needed. It would have saved a whole lot of (unnecessary) pain.

7) Do not be careless with the proof copy. Before the final printing cycle, make sure to request a proof copy of the book. Go over this copy with the utmost care. This is the last chance you get to fix anything you might have missed or anything you are not satisfied with. Carelessness costs money, time and emotional energy. It’s a golden rule.

8) Do not despair. Self-publishing a book is one hell of a bumpy ride. Sometimes, you are going to feel like it’s just not worth it. You will feel it in your gut that it’s a failure, that it isn’t going to sell more than ten copies. You may be right. It might not sell more than ten copies, but it’s definitely not a failure. You’ve created something out of nothing. You’ve put a little bit of yourself out there. It doesn’t even matter how many you sell, you’ve accomplished so much already.

PS: There are ways to make sure your book doesn’t sell just ten copies. More on that in another post.

Meanwhile, for residents of India, the book is currently available for pre-order with an early bird discount of 40%; this is the lowest the price will ever be. You can use the coupon code SALMA40.

Much love,




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