How to Avoid Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers and Boo-Boos

by | Sep 7, 2016

Whether you are a newbie author just beginning the publishing journey or one that has been on the path with one or many books, there isn’t one who doesn’t have a list that starts with “Next time …” or “If I had it to do over, I would …”

It is essentially an author and publishing bucket list of things to do “right” versus blunders and boo-boos along the way. Every one of us makes them, even those of us who have published many times.

Those blunders, bloopers and boo-boos—mistakes—cost you time, energy and money. Sometimes, just mini amounts. Other times, vast quantities and mega thousands—the ones that can literally knock you out of the playing field. Your mistakes can range widely. They are about:

  • working with the wrong people
  • getting on the wrong path
  • not planning
  • not being realistic
  • sometimes even low-balling what your real potential is

Mistakes can even easily suck you into publishing predator land. And, they can launch you into a misdirection, one you hadn’t planned to go down.

Newbie authors can easily become overwhelmed. We old-timers can as well … and truth be told, sometimes we just get tired with all the “new stuff” that keeps gurgling up—all the new, must-haves and must-dos to thrive in publishing. And let’s face, sometimes, we just jump into something that sounds so good that we don’t want to miss the boat … and alas, we wished we had.

The AuthorU Extravaganza ( pops in a few weeks. At it, I’m guaranteed to hear a variety of war stories from authors who have survived, sometimes barely, theirs. Why? Why do the same blunders, bloopers, boo-boos, mishaps, snafus—you name it—keep bubbling up? Surely there is enough info on the Internet to shout out fair warning.

Within my book officially birthed last week, How to Avoid 101 Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers & Boo-Boos, I’ve identified a variety of critical elements to publishing success that are ignored, unknown or sometimes forgotten. From author platform building and publishing business essentials to key elements in a publishing contract to marketing smarts. Below are of those must-knows from the get-go:

  1. Treat Authorship and Publishing as a Business

    • Are you in this for “something to do,” or are you serious about being a success?
    • Be clear on what it takes to break even—just how many books do you have to sell to cover your initial expenses?
    • Do you have a plan?

    Success in authoring rarely happens overnight. It takes time and patience along with the plan. It’s your choice; you choose.

    Tip: Publishing has a cost to it: the investment includes your time, your energy, and yes, your money. Start by getting educated. Hang out with authors who “are doing it” and identify who the top influencers are in publishing.

    I’m not talking about the one-book wonder who is the current buzz or self-proclaimed guru. I’m talking about those who have some roots; have been at the game for years; experienced the roller coaster of ups and downs. In other words, they are seasoned and can talk the walk because they have really walked the talk. Follow their blogs, join their communities and make comments. Attend high-content conferences.

  2. Beware of Publishing Pitch Fests

    Be careful of what is known as a “pitch fest.” Pitched to newbie authors as education, they are really designed to lure them in (and their credit cards) to buy, buy, buy and buy some more. What are they buying? Products, services, trainings—you name it. Pitch fests are big business for the promoters. Authors want a quick fix to whatever ails them … or they are on the hunt to the “wonder cure” for quick marketing success … quick ways to get on TV … quick fill in the blank.

    Typically, the person running the conference gets half of the moneys. Such a deal … for them. The truth is that too many attendees get emotionally hooked in the hype of the moment and buy with the herd when they shouldn’t.

    Tip: Never pay for anything without using a credit card. When the “hype of the moment” cools down and you are back home and realize you got roped in, that whatever you did is a wrong fit or not the right time for you, contact whoever hooked you and withdraw. Most likely you have a brief window to do this, such as three days. If that doesn’t work, contact the credit card company and merely say that what you had initially bought was misrepresented to you and you want your money back. Companies like American Express and Bank of America move fairly quickly on their customer’s behalf (that’s you) and reverse the charges.

    If you do land at a pitch fest, go in with a budget for yourself. I’ve seen some shell out mega-thousands with the deer-glazed look in their eyes. Pitch fests will make you feel like the turkey “done” popper has popped up along with getting fannyitis as you sit through one pitch after another. It’s a hype. Author beware.

  3. Only Sign a Contract with a Publisher to “Publish” your Book if It Includes a Reversion of Rights Clause

    What’s that, you ask? Simply this: In the “old days,” traditional publishers included a Reversion of Rights clause in contracts with authors. What it did was enable the author to request that ALL rights revert back to him or her under certain conditions, basically terminating the contract for the book. The most common condition was dwindling to no sales. Today, that clause is as common as finding a T-Rex in your local neighborhood.

    Many of the new breed of paid-to-publish companies include a clause about termination … be very beware here. Avoid any that have a clause that states something along the line: You can terminate your contract with a 30 day notice if it’s mutually agreeable. Mutually agreeable? You’ve got to be kidding. If you want out, you want out. The “mutual” can hold you hostage indefinitely.

    Tip: Because of POD, any publisher can keep a book “in print” in perpetuity. Ugh. Make sure you include your own version of a Reversion of Rights … meaning that if your total print sales within the year are less than a specific number, such as 300 copies, that you have the right to terminate the contract. Make sure anything you sign with who you work with has an escape clause. Know what the strings are attached to working with them BEFORE you go forward. You will thank me.

  4. Create a System that Quickly Identifies the LATEST File to Work/Write In

    Too often, authors get files mixed up. They rewrite, delete and add to files that should have been archived. The wrong ones are “resent” to editors, designers, reviewers.

    Tip: Create a “folder” within your working book folder. What you label it is up to you: OLD Files, NON-Working Files, DO NOT USE Files … whatever works for you … after finishing with an old file—MOVE IT to this folder and add the date to it. This eliminates confusion and the possibility of reworking on discards plus the sending of wrong files to a designer or editor. Only keep your CURRENT WORKING file easily available to you.

  5. Don’t Get Just ONE ISBN … Get at least 10 ISBNs

    In the U.S., Bowker is your only legit source. Go to In countries outside of the United States, look up which they are via a quick Google search.

    One for $125, ten for $295. As soon as you pay online, you will receive yours within minutes via email. Throughout the year, Bowker offers “specials” offering deals on them. If you are a member of, you can get a discount. 10 for $250. You will need an individual ISBN for each version of your book that you will produce: soft cover or paper, hard cover, eBook, audio.

    Tip: Get at least 10, even consider 100! When you start thinking of all the variations of a book: hardback, paper, “e”, audio … then there are new editions, spin-offs of the first book into other books … you can gobble up 10 ISBNs quickly. As a self or indie publishing author, buy and own your ISBNs … don’t use anyone else’s. Think of an ISBN as your book’s social security number—you want it always to be connect to your name.

  6. Register Your ISBN So Retailers Can Find Your Book

    Too many authors think that just having the ISBN is all they need. Nope, you need to take another step. Yes, you buy them through R.R. Bowker and most likely the website. That’s the first step. Now, you need to go back in and get specific—report to R.R. Bowker the exact title that you are assigning to each ISBN you use.

    This opens your title(s) up to free listings in Books in Print, Bowker’s Complete Video Directory, The Software Encyclopedia, Words on Tape, etc.

    Tip: Having an ISBN for each title is a good thing; the best thing is to get it fully registered with the R.R. Bowker “gods” so that you are ensured that your titles are in the Books in Print database.

  7. Does Your Back Cover have the Blues?

    Your back cover is the “real estate” where your pitch as to why the buyer needs your book should be pitch-perfect. Is it?

    Start with a snappy, sassy, salty headline. A grabber—one that gets the eyeballs to stop, think “Tell me more!” “OMG, this is for me.” “Yes!”

    Next, write a snappy description of your book and put it at the TOP of the back cover—it’s your lead after the headline.

    Readers shopping for books follow an age-old browsing routine. They check out the title, then flip the book over and look at the top of the back cover for a description of what’s inside. Self-publishers seem bent on frustrating these potential buyers. They often leave this description off the book altogether, write it in convoluted prose or bury it at the bottom of the back cover.

    Stop. Your copy needs to pull the reader in.

    • If it’s nonfiction, concise short sentences on keypoints within; how the book will ease their pain or provide a solution.
    • For fiction, study how book reviewers literally “rope” in a reader with just one sentence—get a copy of the Sunday New York Times Book Review section—it’s excellent as a guide—then a paragraph or two that is snappy, sassy, salty.

    Welcome to marketing.

    Tip: Write a crisp, enticing summary of your book and don’t make readers break a sweat hunting for it. Use bullet points; make sure the cover designer uses design and graphic techniques that will highlight a key phrase or endorsement.

  8. Your Book Isn’t for Everyone … Get Over Thinking It!

    One of the most common mistakes authors and writers let roll out of their mouths when asked “who” the book is for … respond, “Everyone needs my book.”

    No they don’t. Get real, who REALLY is your book for?

    • Men?
    • Women?
    • Kids-what age?
    • Singles?
    • Marrieds?
    • Partners?
    • Who Knows?
    • Addicts?
    • Workers?
    • Retirees?
    • Travelers?
    • Cooks?
    • Diseases?
    • Post College?
    • High School Grads?
    • Lovers of Horror?
    • WHO?

    It’s a long, long list out there.

    Tip: The more you niche yourself, the bigger your market becomes. When you know WHO your market reader is, writing is easier and so is the marketing when the book is completed.

  9. Always Get a Word Document of Your Final Book PDF

    After you have your book layed out by a designer, request that a file in addition to the final PDF of the book be created. The final book is always different from the edited manuscript you turned in for layout. Always—the post layout “cold eye” read before printing finds additional changes. You want a “clean” new Word document in your master book file to make any additions, deletions to, for future print runs or revisions.

    Tip: There are so many changes in a manuscript AFTER it is sent to a designer that it’s hard to keep up with them. Ask what the costs are for a final conversion back to a Word document post PDF. That way—any future editions are easy to work within and you have the “latest” to work on.

  10. Ask for Reviews

    Be upfront and ask for book reviews … and be prepared to ask again and again. Amazon wants them … and you need them.

    Tip: Gather names and emails everywhere you are. When you give a book away, do a follow-up with the link to your Amazon page. And ask. When they are posted … copy and save to your computer. The Amazon gremlins are known to gobble and delete every once in a while.

    The more you get, the more presence and power your book will have on Amazon and to future buyers who are searching for our topic and expertise.

Blunders, bloopers & boo-boos … they happen. Are they preventable? Usually.
Photo: Amazon links contain my affiliate code.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


    • Judith Briles

      You are welcome Cynthia … what I love about publishing … always tips to share with each other. Judith

  1. chandi

    Thanks, I have not given thought yet to the back cover of my book. I wonder if the graphic designer I’m hiring for the cover helps with the design of the back cover too. I guess you’re pointing out that the blurb has to be catchy, but any pointers also for the design of the back?

    I have question for you about using quotes in a book. How I go about getting permission for the quotes I’ve used? Is it enough to footnote them? Some are from poems (some of the poets not alive, some are… and some are from spiritual leaders or historians, again some are alive and some are not.)

    Thank you!

    • Judith Briles

      Hello Chandi .. the cover of the back cover should have the same care as the front.At the recent AuthorU Extravaganza, I had several look at the back covers of books that I had input with–bullets, even a call out, use of complimentary colors to add some pop. I suggest you had to the book store and spend some time “studying” current books. There are lots of dos and don’ts and since the comment box doesn’t enable me to do a show and tell for a visual, I’m a bit stuck here. I would suggest you call in on my free phone coaching on Mondays at 9 Pacific Time and I can pick this up there with more time. 218-632-9854, access code 1239874444#

      For your second question, Helen Sedwick has covered much of this here:

      I’m not a fan of footnotes unless you are dealing with an academic type of book. Endnotes are my preferred, if needed. Judith

  2. Ivan Izo

    Good article, Judith. Number #10 is an important one that demands our willingness to self-promote. I don’t do enough and it shows. You need to send out a lot of review requests to get the reviews coming in.

    The comment about asking for reviews at the end of a book is a good one, but there need to be readers in the first place. No readers would mean no reviews and it usually takes reviews to win readers over. I guess the lesson is to keep sending out review requests and make the magic happen.

    Thanks for the article.

    • Judith Briles

      You are right Ivan, we all need readers … and they are in nooks, crannies, and just about anywhere one can look. It’s the first step. I’m always amazed when authors don’t give books away–I get it that they want money. But give books away–ask for a promise of a review–get the name, email–follow up and be prepared to followup again. And ASK, including the link to Amazon to post.

      It’s called marketing. Thanks for your share. Judith

  3. Jackie Weger

    Judith Briles: You nailed it. While I don’t do some of the things you mention because my books are exclusive to Amazon, I do many. I don’t scurry around begging reviews because I have this gem right after THE END:

    “Thank you for taking the time to read [title]. If you enjoyed it, please consider telling your friends or posting a short review. Word of mouth is an author’s best friend and much appreciated. Thank you, again. [author name].” It works, thus far to above 2000 reviews on my titles.

    Your bullet list is dead on. This is the most critical for any author, but especially indies: “working with the wrong people.” Wrong people have cost me money–even though both had wonderful references. What I didn’t know was: The first was fired for unethical behavior, and the other had minions doing the referring. I have a safe avenue to get my $$$ returned, asked for a refund and now have in hand a series of emails from the author/promoter that she would destroy my reputation/career if I pursued a refund. Holy Smokes. A bully. I can easily absorb the loss as a lesson learned. I ask the most pointed questions of anyone I do business with now and double check everything from IP addresses to Alexa Ranking and sometimes I even ask questions of Amazon’s VP of marketing’s office. Which was fortuitous because I learned in a roundabout way, Amazon has it’s eye on the bully. I can step back. Amazon has far more clout than I.

    “Not planning” is where I see so many fails among authors. Your best suggestion for me: A file with the most recent/current and revised ms. I went straight out and bought a flash drive/memory stick to store those things because I have had the sad experience you mentioned of working from the wrong file. Won’t happen again. Great post. Thank you. Got a chance to vent and learned a few things. Doesn’t get better than that.

    • Judith Briles

      Good for you Jackie.It does start with planning. Yes, sometimes wonderful things drop in–but still there has got to be a plan to move the train forward. I like your request line–authors really need to get some form of it ingrained in their marketing and selling efforts–yet, too often, the “shy author … I just want to write” approach takes over. Hadn’t thought about asking the Amazon VP. We authors have got to get that it is the “we” who needs to watch the back!. Judith

    • Judith Briles

      Thanks Florence. I so wished I had this info when I started down my author path!



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