Self-Publishing Rights & Wrongs – Kathy Hendershot-Hurd

In 2006, I self-published my first book, Beyond the Niche: Creating Advertising Messages that Deliver Results. I chose to self-publish because the purpose of the book was to act as a “credibility” piece for my business.

While I claim to have made “all” of the mistakes possible – I doubt if I were that thorough. I’m sure it will take me SEVERAL books to explore ALL the mistakes possible in self-publishing! <grin>

First, what I did right:

1) I launched a self-hosted blog to promote the book prior to publication. (Not doing this earlier is also one of my “mistakes”.)

2) I hired a GREAT graphic artist for the cover. (It cost me $750 but the cover of my book is something I’m proud to show!)

Mistakes I Made

The first mistake I made was the title of the book. See, when you’re selling your book online, you want your book title to come up in searches, whether those searches are done in Google or Amazon – if you don’t have essential keywords in your title, the people won’t FIND your book.

The original title of the book was “Beyond Niche Marketing” but one of my paid “advisers” told me that the title was too long, so I removed the most essential keyword of all from the title!!! The new title may have been more “melodic” – but the blog for the book gets a LOT more “search engine action” because it contains the magical 9 letter word: m-a-r-k-e-t-i-n-g.

By not paying attention to keywords in the title of my book, I hurt sales DRAMATICALLY! Fortunately, I had already registered the domain name to promote the book and it contained that magic “keyword”, but if you search for a book about niche marketing on Amazon – you won’t find mine. That is a tragedy!

I followed the advice of someone who “claimed” to be an expert when in fact, they weren’t. I should have stuck to my guns, but again – I was relying on others advice instead of my own.

The next mistake I made was to write a book in DIRECT CONTRAST to my beliefs. I broke the essential “truth” of marketing which states that “when you target everyone with your marketing message, you reach no one.”

I wrote the book with “small business owners” in mind, but in reality that market is MUCH too broad. If I were writing the book again, I’d be writing “Niche Marketing for Realtors” or “Niche Marketing for Beauty Salons” or “Niche Marketing for Bankruptcy Attorneys”.

Again, I hurt sales terribly by broadly targeting my audience. Instead of selling 5,000 books to the 100,000 [insert niche market name here], I sold 500 books to the 1,300,000 small business owners.

I attribute this mistake to my own lack of vision and direction. The fact that several “ paid advisors” whom I hired in the production of the book didn’t catch it either – well, that’s just sad.

The final “mistake” I made in self-publishing my own book was I waited until the book was almost finished to begin marketing it. I thought that launching a blog to promote the book 6 months before the book was published was plenty of “buzz”. OH HOW WRONG I WAS!

My book’s blog was “sandboxed” by Google for the first 9 months. (Sandbox is the term used by web developers to describe when Google “refuses” to include a brand new website or blog in its index.) There is a lot of speculation as to why sites get sandboxed, but I’m confident that the fact that the domain name contains “hot” keyword terms is part of the reason.

In the early days of my blog, I was happy to have a few dozen visitors a month. Now, two years later, the book’s blog has a much wider audience and gets thousands of unique visitors each month. How i wished I’d built that audience BEFORE I published the book! If I were going to do it all over again, I’d launch a blog BEFORE I even begin WRITING the book!

In the end, it was a mixture of inexperience, being in a rush to complete it and bad advice that kept my first book from becoming the success it deserved.

Right now, I’m currently debating between self-publishing again or pursuing the “traditional” publishing model. I’m in talks with a “traditional” publisher and am really trying to weigh whether the costs are greater than the benefits or vice versa.

Part of the “problem” with self-publishing is just like any other skill – you learn by trial and error. Most of the mistakes I made were typical “rookie” mistakes. On the other hand, I’ll be giving up a lot of control (and profit) if I correct my first book’s publishing mistakes with the second title.

About Kathy Hendershot-Hurd

Kathy Hendershot-Hurd is founder and COE (Chief of Everything) at Virtual Impax, a consulting firm that helps small business owners develop marketing strategies to grow and build their businesses. You can read more from Kathy at

She is the author of Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results. She drives sales of the book through the blog

One of the best marketing pieces she ever created for her consulting practice was writing her book. While the book has not sold tens of thousands of copies, it did a magnificent job of filling her consulting practice, which was its original purpose.