The foundation of this article is “Just Publishing Advice” by Derek Haines; for more information, see below.

Girl in dunce hatIf you’ve made mistakes, don’t feel bad. No need to hang your head in shame or tuck yourself into a corner under a dunce cap. As President Theodore Roosevelt said, “The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything. Do not be afraid to make mistakes providing you do not make the same one twice.” Here’s the key, even for those who have made the same mistake twice: as Dale Carnegie put it, “The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way.

Here are six of the mistakes Haines made—and the valuable lessons he learned as a result.

Publishing Too Quickly

“Self-publishing was so simple,” Haines writes. “No sooner had I got my first book of 80,000 words neatly formatted in one Word document, I thought, why not hit the publish button and become an author, like now? Then, I’ll see what happens.

“What happens is that real people read the book description and preview pages of books that are hurried to market by first-time authors, and they are nowhere near as loving as your mother.

“It only takes a couple of honest, bordering on nasty, and approaching hurtful reviews to understand very quickly that being an author is not quite as wonderful as you had imagined.

“Even very good books get some bad reviews. But a badly written, poorly edited and barely proofread book will never get anything except harsh criticism. I made this mistake well before e-books. So I can only imagine how much worse this mistake would be today.”

Lesson learned: Poorly written books are a dime a dozen, especially now that one can be published with the click of a button. But they don’t simply sink into obscurity: a poorly written book will always attract criticism, get bad publicity, and drive customers away in droves. Never rush into the publishing process and be in a hurry to become known as a very bad author.

Couple reading bookThinking Everyone Will Love Your Book

You love your book, so why won’t everyone else? After all, it’s a great story full of super interesting characters—and it’s got a totally unpredictable twist at the end. In fact, it’s got a bit of everything for everyone.

That’s your fantasy.

Now for reality: book buyers are extremely fussy, and they buy far fewer books than you probably think. Trying to sell your book to everyone wastes a lot of time and money, so you need to narrow it down to a target audience and some very specific market demographics. If you want to understand even a little about your target audience and your market, you’ll need to do a lot of research, listening, interacting, and building of online connections.

Lesson learned: Know your market and think about who you are writing for.

Everybody is not going to like your book. Here’s how Haines put it: “Teenagers and people in Scotland don’t seem to care for my books at all. I’m not all that popular with the 20-30 age group either. More women tend to buy my books, but then again, I think more women read than men. Middle-aged men do like one of my books. I have one book that nobody likes at all.”

Toe in waterTrying to Write in Multiple Genres

Unlike traditional publishing, self-publishing gives you lots of options for experimenting, trying different genres, and using different writing styles and see what works and what doesn’t. It’s probably okay to experiment with a few different genres—but after you’ve stuck your toes in to gauge the temperature, it’s best to settle down and stick with what you do best.

Haines says that writing in multiple genres is “not what I would call a ghastly blunder.” But it does make it more difficult to attract a dedicated readership. When you write in a single genre, you will build a dedicated base of fans who will eagerly watch for your next release. If your offerings are all over the place, any potential fans will eventually scatter to the wind.

Lesson learned: Figure out which genre is your most popular and which you have the best talent in. Then stop experimenting and stick to that genre from now on.

Waving white flatGiving Up

No one ever said writing was easy. In fact, Ernest Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” It can seem even harder when the book you’ve bled over doesn’t sell well.

“Writing books is hard work and it’s tough when sales don’t meet your expectations,” Haines writes. “In fact, they will never meet your expectations, so you begrudgingly accept that fact.”

That having been said, it’s good to take a little break every now and then. But taking a break is not the same as quitting.

Lesson learned: As Haines says, “Only give up writing when are sure that you don’t want to learn how to be a better writer anymore, and that you don’t want to listen to another single word of constructive criticism. I gave up writing for four years once until I realized the real reason why I had made the decision. I had stopped wanting to learn.”

Peeking through blindsChecking the Book Sales Every Day

When Haines was new to internet print-on-demand (POD) self-publishing, he checked his unit sales every morning. No exceptions. That did bring him more sales, but it did cause a fixation and created an “overwhelming feeling of doom.”

Both good and bad sales affect you. When they’re good, you start thinking you’ve made it and last and it’s all uphill from here. (As if.) And when they’re bad, your ego takes a pounding and you’re tempted to hang up the cleats. Either way, it’s a distraction you really don’t need if you want to write.

Lesson learned: Just keep writing. Write, write, and write some more, and ignore your book sales. Avoid your online retailers’ sales and royalty dashboards. Just write. Once a month is more than often enough to check on bad news—or any other kind of news. As Haines says, “My experience is that book sales happen mostly when you are not looking.”

Empty bookstoreThinking Amazon Is the Only Place to Sell Books

Haines remembers, “When Amazon first created KDP Select, I was hooked by their pitch about increased sales opportunities, free e-book promotions, higher royalties and extra income from e-book lending.” Here’s the hitch: Amazon has strict rules of exclusivity: if you put your book up for sale on Amazon, you can’t pitch it anywhere else. And that’s what Haines did—almost immediately, he withdrew all his books from all the other retailers.

He felt okay about that at the time. He reasoned that the majority of his book sales were coming from Amazon, so what did he have to lose by foregoing an estimated 25 percent of his income on all the other retailers combined?

He lost a lot.

Lesson learned: Here’s how Haines sums it up: “What I didn’t realize at the time was that by withdrawing all my books from other retailers, my titles that were listed on them lost all their momentum over the year I gave exclusivity to Amazon.” His sales and income on Amazon increased during that year—but in the meantime, he lost reviews and ratings on those other sites. He gave away e-books for free by the truckload, which didn’t give him any substantial return at all on rankings or sales. And it took him years to rebuild his sales on the other retail sites, especially Apple and B&N.

“With my experience of KDP Select well behind me now, my advice is never to give anyone exclusivity to your book or books, unless they have a very fat advance check for you in their hand,” Haines says. “Do not put all your eggs in one basket is very old advice, but it is still acutely true.”

 Derek HainesDerek Haines, who has “a passion for words in print,” started his “Just Publishing Advice” blog in 2010; you can find it at Of the blog, he says, “The aim of my site is simple. I want to call on my experience to help create a growing resource site for new and even not so new writers, authors, bloggers, content writers, book cover designers or anyone else with an interest in writing, blogging and publishing.”

Derek started his publishing career by printing, hand binding, and selling his novels (as well as what he describes as books of mediocre poetry”). He is now a Cambridge CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) English teacher, author, writer, and blog owner. He has self-published eighteen books and maintain five blogs.

Of blogging, Derek writes, “My long-held interest in writing and publishing, as a means of freedom of expression rather than as an avenue to fame and instant riches, led me into blogging. They were called weblogs when I started so that dates my experience. But I love it because it is real publishing at a grassroots level.”

(Photos: dunce cap,; couple reading,; toe in water,; white flag,; peeking through blinds, Forbes; empty bookstore, Flickr; Derek Haines,


"Kathy writes compellingly and swiftly, has an eye for detail, and possesses an uncanny sense for how to shape a story to make it pulsate with energy."
 —Taylor Halverson


"Kathy Jenkins has honed her editing skills with such precision and excellence that today she is viewed by many (including me) as the best editor on the planet. No matter how many times I have read and reworked a manuscript, Kathy improves my writing with meticulous care and good will."
 —Susan Easton Black


"Kathy has been so helpful to me in bringing my manuscripts to fruition, encouraging me to work diligently on my writing craft. She makes every author better in every way."
 —Ed J. Pinegar


"Kathy brings life in her writing, wisdom in her editing, and experience in her consulting; she has made me a better and more confident author."
 —Ganel-Lyn Condie