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I’ve been working with self published authors for a few years now and I can honestly say it’s the best job in the world. There’s nothing better than reading a great manuscript, helping to make it the best it can possibly be and watching the writer succeed.

I love that self publishing has allowed more authors than ever before to get their work out there without the rejection letters diminishing their confidence. But the downside is that it has opened the floodgates for every hack author to put their book out and hope it will mean instant overnight success. If you’re really serious about being a self published author, then these are the sins you want to avoid:

  1. Ask a friend to be your editor.

Asking a friend who got a C in GCSE English to edit your entire manuscript in exchange for a few beers isn’t a very fair exchange. Even a basic edit of a book takes time so it’s a pretty big favour to ask someone to do for free, meaning they’ll probably just half arse it and hope you won’t notice. If you want to sell any books, it’s worth the expense to hire an editor. If you really don’t have the money, at least ask a fellow writer to help you and maybe offer to edit their manuscript in exchange.

  1. Replace the plot with pages of dialogue.

Few writing sins will give you away as an amateur more than this one. I can’t tell you the number of terrible novels I’ve come across where the plot comes to a screeching halt for the characters to bitch at each other like they’re in a soap opera. Bad novelists constantly alternate between this and my next point.

  1. Describe every little detail.

When the characters aren’t arguing, they ditch the dialogue completely and describe every moment of the drive home from work and every random thought about cheating on their husband that pops into their heads. It drags the story down and makes it a chore to read. If this happens in your novel, then take out the red editing pen and cut mercilessly and brutally.

  1. Don’t bother with drafts.

You wouldn’t study for an exam by briefly looking over the notes you took in class and you would think writers wouldn’t put their books up for sale without writing a second, third or even fourth draft to eradicate any errors. It takes time and effort but the end result is a great book that will sell. Perhaps more importantly, the process will help you become a better writer.

  1. Ignore the craft of writing.

I think that the reason some writers do these things is because they don’t really care about being writers, or have a very warped idea of what being a writer actually entails. If you want to write a book, even as a hobby, you have to study and practice the craft of writing, just as you would for any other skill. This means reading as much as you can, joining a writer’s group, reading magazines and blogs about writing. The list goes on.

  1. Write a book just for fame and fortune.

This is the worst and sadly most common reason I see for people putting out terrible novels. They read rags to riches stories about people selling record number of e-books and think it’s an easy way to make money. Unfortunately, these success stories are rare and usually don’t mention the hundreds of hours and several failed books that came before the success.

Of course I believe that authors should do whatever they can to make money from their writing. At heart all of us just want to make a living doing what we really love and we should pursue that as much as possible. But there’s a difference from making money by doing what you truly love and pushing a book onto the market as if it’s any other product to be sold.

You only need to look at a few statistics to see how hard it is to make decent money from a book, which is why the truly successful, talented and happy writers do it as a labour of love, because frankly that’s the only reason you can do it.


These are just a few of the mistakes I’ve seen from the thankfully small number of hack writers I’ve worked with. If you’re reading this blog then that means you obviously care enough about writing to read about it and actually learn how to write a book.

But as all good authors know, writing the book is just half the battle. Next time I’ll tell you how not to market an e-book.