Question of the day: What early mistakes would you warn against for those considering self-publishing?
This is an easy one to answer but hard advice to stick to. The biggest mistake that I think too many people make is publishing too quickly. When I was doing a lot of my initial research, I'd land on blogs or sites where writers were spelling out their timelines, and they say something like, (paraphrasing here, obviously):
October 7th: finished the book!
October 20th: Ugh, editing sucks!
November 3: Finished editing! Phew!!!
November 12th: I'm published! Go buy it!!!!!
To me, the most important part of the book birthing process is the revision process. I understand why writers don't enjoy it, especially when the carrot of publishing your book at any moment in time is dangling in front of you. But, erm, you know, there's a reason why self-published books have the reputation as not the same quality as those coming from the traditional system: and that is because many of them simply aren't as good. And you want to know why? It's because (and I'm guessing here, but I'm pretty sure that I'm right), most of them haven't been revised five times, which is about the average number of rounds a manuscript goes through at a big publisher. The difference between a second draft and a fifth draft is astounding. I have second drafts that I'd be horrified to have out into the world. And fortunately, I never had that opportunity because the editor always knew that it wasn't ready. But with self-publishing, it can be ready...in terms of it being ready to upload. But that doesn't mean it's ready for readers.
Revising takes time. A lot of time. You need to give your characters time to gestate, and you need to give your mistakes time to gestate too, so you know how to fix them. It's very hard to accept this, especially when you don't have the traditional editorial timeline pacing you. Normally, you sell a book and then you have at least a year until it comes out...so there's no need to race through your edits. Your book comes out when it comes out, and no sooner. But with self-publishing, it can come out whenever you want it to! So it can be even more difficult to ensure that you've dotted your "i"s and crossed your "t"s. But ensuring that you've done this also ensures that you've written a better book. Don't put out a book that isn't your best. Why? Why bother? So you can be published? Who wants to publish something that's not his or her best?
Don't do it. Don't rush. I totally understand why people do. But I really think that's their greatest mistake.