Don’t skip this! YODO!

Rookie mistakes series – part 2

Have you just started writing? Or have you just finished the first round of your manuscript? Have you not yet been published? Then I’m talking to you! Let me tell you a little bit about myself, to see if you really want to continue reading. I wrote my first book at age 13 and self-published my first book at age 15. I know exactly what it’s like to be enthousiastic and start publishing immediately. Do you feel something similar? Great!

However, I’m going to stop you right there for a minute. Hold your horses. There is one thing you need to know before you start doing anything with that idea or manuscript of yours: how serious are you? Do you want your stories to be read by your inner circle? Or do you want to reach an audience? If your answer is the first, you can close this window or send this blog to someone who would benefit from this blog. If your answer is the second, then this is just for you.


In the beginning, mostly before you have decided how serious you are (do start thinking about that right now), because you don’t have the means or the knowledge or experience, you undervalue some elements of the publishing process and ignore them. DON’T! Do you realise you only debut once? (#YODO) It’s the same as meeting with a stranger: you have only one shot at giving a good first impression. If it’s not good, you will have a hard time fixing it and it’s going to cost some time. You’d better avoid that, right?

Unskippable publishing elements

So, if you’re innocent like me (only at the surface though), you might think: I didn’t (want to) ignore anything, am I doing something wrong? No, because you’re new to this. How can you be blamed for being inexperienced? But it might very well be that you’re not aware of the necessary elements of publishing a book. So here’s an overview of what you definitely shouldn’t skip, just because you wouldn’t have the money, time or knowledge, or any other excuse really.

1) A professional cover

– if you’re not a cover artist, don’t make it yourself! –

There are several ways to avoid having to pay €300,- to €500,- (even though that is a common and fair price), like asking a photographer to use their photo for approximately €100,- to €200,-. And I myself have once paid no more than €50,- for a very good cover. But even so, don’t let the prices scare you. You should want a cover that looks integrated (not photoshopped) and representing of your genre and story, whilst giving it a mysterious look (a theme or element from the books that gives a hint of what it’s about, but makes your potential readers yearn to know what it could mean). Don’t make it with a site like canva, hire a professional cover artist. Even if that means you have to save money for a while – it’s worth it, because your cover is the best marketing for your book. This also applies for ebook covers, not just print!

2) Formatting

If you want to convey your professionalism, do not skip out on hiring a formatter. If you want to put in the time and effort of formatting an ebook, it’s not too hard to learn if you take a style guide like Smashwords’. For print: always hire a formatter if you’re not one yourself. This way you avoid stupid-looking mistakes as enters halfway through a sentence, or no indents. A formatter will help you deliver the right file for the printer’s, so you don’t have to worry about bleeds. What are bleeds? Exactly, none of your business. Your formatter will deal with that.

3) ISBN & bar code

If you want your book to be available in (online) stores, you will need these. It might be a little bit expensive, depending on how you publish (e.g. some services offer a free bar code generator), but even so you shouldn’t skip it. Bookstores will be less likely to sell your book and you might not be able to sell on online platforms without these crucial elements.

4) A professional editor

Nothing screams more “I didn’t know what I was doing and don’t care – it’s the story that matters” than no or poor editing. If you want to reach an audience, they need to know you’re serious. Why would they buy from you if you didn’t want to invest in quality? Typically there’s two types of editing: line editing and copy editing. You need both! And if you really want to handle this professionally: look for bèta readers and proofreaders before the editing process starts. Don’t worry about your story changing, try to find editors and readers who intend to bring out the best of your story. You can even ask for a sample edit.

These four points together just form the bare minimum of what you have to do if you are serious about publishing your book. I can imagine that, after reading, you’re left with a bunch of questions. Leave a comment with your question(s) or email them to and I will be of service!

Did you enjoy this article? Then you might be interested in rookie mistakes part one

“Asking for a friend”

Did you find this article helpful for someone you know? Don’t hesitate and forward it now!

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