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Melissa Clark: My Publishing Mistakes


This is a guest post by Melissa Clark (@melissaclark), teen writer and founder of Teen Authors Journal.

Ever since I was little, publishing a book has been my dream. My first time experiencing this feeling was at the age of seven. I was browsing through a local bookstore and realized that I didn’t want to be the shopper anymore. I knew instantly that my dream was for people to browse my books.

So I embarked on a journey down the publishing path. I finished my very first manuscript (only 100 pages long) when I was nine years old. I gave it a silly title and self-published it through

Now, I didn’t exactly share it on Amazon or anything complicated like that. I was a highly inexperienced author at the time, so let’s simply say it wasn’t good enough to share to the public. However, it was something my close friends and family could enjoy.

Soon enough, I grew embarrassed of my novel. From the age of nine to ten, my class was given various English assignments as a foundation of writing. Since my first book was published, my writing had improved by miles.

From then on, every look at my book made me cringe. Hearing people calling my awful work good felt like mockery, as I knew my old skills could not compare to my current ones.

My parents bought a copy of my book for me to gift to the principal. Pretty soon, everyone in my school knew I had written a novel. I was embarrassed, and I wanted to prove them all that I could write something better.

I wrote two more novels after that. Neither of them were published. They were so pathetic I didn’t bother editing them. I threw them in the trash and started my next one.

Throughout fifth grade, I plotted the story every day when I had spare time. Two years later, I was finished with 300 pages, and I was proud.

But I made one awful, horrible move.

I spent so much time thinking about publishing my novel that I grew impatient. I must have only edited for about two months before I decided to publish it to Amazon (through CreateSpace) for the world to see.

I remember holding those 300 pages in my hands and feeling like I had hiked Mount Everest. But when I opened the book, I was hit in the head with a scrambled mess. Typos. Plot holes. Wrong names. Too many characters. Did it just change from present to past tense?

So I hit delete. Again. And this wasn’t because of embarrassment. Sure, that was part of it, but the real reason was because no one was buying my book besides friends and family. I waited days. Weeks. Months.


This happened due to four of my mistakes:

  1. Rushing through the editing process. My book had potential. (Every book has potential.) However, I didn’t put enough effort into proofreading, checking for plot holes, etc.

  2. Not finding beta readers. I believe it’s important to have at least one dependable person read through your book before publishing it.

  3. Not spending enough time on the cover and book blurb. These are important because they are the first impression of your book. When I was editing mine, I grew impatient and simply created a mess. The cover was sloppy; my book blurb included a few typos.

  4. Not enough promotion. In self-publishing, you have to promote the book yourself. This means whipping out your phone and hopping onto a social media app is a must. Without putting your book out there, no one is going to read it. If you’re optimistic and think that someone will magically land upon your book on Amazon, stop. The chance is rare until you get more people to buy it and write reviews.

This time, I’m doing my best to write a book that I can truly be proud of. Although my self-publishing experiences were discouraging, I’ve learned a lot from them and realized that my true goal is to be traditionally published. So if you are a teen hoping to share your novel with others, whether through self-publishing or traditional, please enjoy every bit of the process. If you skip steps, you’re only creating air bubbles. Slow down, take a deep breath, and tackle one piece at a time.

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