VIDEO: Clayton Smith on Common Self-Publishing Mistakes

Clayton Smith screenshot

During CWC 2014, we asked Clayton Smith, the self-publishing guru from Dapper Press and author of Apocalypticon, how to self-publish well. This year at CWC 2015, Clayton Smith will be leading an entire intensive on self-publishing on the Friday preceding the conference. Below we’ve included the highlights from the interview. If you want to know more, be sure to register for CWC 2015 and apply to be a part of Clayton Smith’s unique intensive! 

What are the common mistakes made by self-published writers?

I think the biggest pitfall is that it’s so easy to do it, technically speaking. You can just slop together some words on a page, get together this book cover from some images that are awful that you stole the copyright from, and you can load it up on Amazon, right? Really, you can put together a horrible looking self-published book and start selling it in less than an hour if you wanted to. And I think a lot of people do that and a lot of people don’t take the time to make sure that it is a quality book.

What does a “well done” self-published book look like?

If you can take a book from one of the Big Five publishers and then take your self-published book side by side and flip through them and look through every page and not see a distinct difference, you’re doing it right.

What are telltale signs of bad self-publishing?

Well, I mean, the cover is number one, for sure. [A bad cover] is the number one thing that will make people think, “Wow. This book doesn’t look like something I want to read. It looks horribly self-published.” There are some other things, too. If you open the book and flip through it, really wide margins or really narrow margins are a dead tell. If you flip the book over to the back and you look at the barcode, one of my favorite little tells, for most self-published books, the authors don’t buy barcodes. They have the print-on-demand person or company put their barcodes on there and the price on the barcode will say something like $00.00. That’s a favorite tell that not many people talk about.

Who should self-publish?

I think that if you’re not prepared to work at it or to spend a little bit of money to make it a good product, then I would encourage you to maybe think about doing something different. Self-publishing is starting your own business. Every time you publish a book, you are being an entrepreneur and your running your own little business.

Have more questions? Watch the full interview below:

Fascinated by self-publishing? Check out our previous post Secrets of Smart Self-Publishing. Be sure to stay up-to-date with the latest career advice and news for writers in Chicago by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing to our newsletter