Where Did I Go Wrong?

Lucy’s trying to make me feel better by being very cute.

As I look at what’s left of my bank account and sigh mournfully, I would like to take this moment to discuss the importance of research and planning ahead. Here’s where I blew money:

  • Filed the copyright too soon
  • Did not sign a contract when paying for cover art
  • Didn’t communicate adequately with the cover artist
  • Paid to have the copyright filed
  • Paid a vanity publisher


If you file a copyright on your first draft and make significant changes (restructure, add art, additional or less chapters, etc), you have to refile. It’s $65 a pop, so make sure you have everything the way you want it or pretty close the first time. I am definitely not known for my patience, and when I finished the first draft, I jumped the gun on everything except actually publishing– and that was only because my copy editing background taught me better. As a result, I had to register the copyright twice after making huge structural changes to the body of the work during the editing process.

Cover Art

I gave my artist a detailed creative brief, but when she began discussing changes, I didn’t specify what parts had to remain the same. I also didn’t give her a time line upfront or require her to sign a contract since it’s someone I know, and I didn’t ask for a drawn concept– I accepted a verbal one. I paid in installments (a third up front and a third when she verbally gave me the concept), but the finished product wasn’t what I envisioned at all. It’s a great concept! It’s just not what will work for the book. But because I didn’t give her structure and better guidance on what I needed, I lost the first two payments I made and wasted her time. You’re probably going to hire or recruit people for a number of steps in your book, and communication and setting expectations is so important.

Paid to Have the Copyright Filed

I bought my eBook ISBN number from a third party, and I bought the option to have my copyright filed. What I didn’t know was that you still have to actually pay to register the copyright yourself. All they do is set up your profile. If you don’t mind paying for that, then go for it because it definitely saved me time. However, I couldn’t find anything online that says that having a third party do it for you has any benefits, so if someone knows of any that exist, please add them in the comments!

Paid a Vanity Publisher

This is where I am kicking myself the most. I had no idea what a vanity publisher was because I was in the early stages of trying to figure out how to navigate the self-publishing world. So when I was solicited by one, I thought it was the greatest thing ever and went for it. I was smart enough not to sign a contract that didn’t have an out, and I didn’t submit any material, so I still had all of the rights and ownership. I only got about half of my money back though. If I had gone through with it, I would have given up the rights to my work for 10% of the royalties.

I’m not saying vanity publishers are bad, but do your research, read the reviews, and look at all of the fine print before you sign anything. If you have the money to invest thousands of dollars in one and let them do all of the work for you, go for it. If that seems like an exaggeration, consider that you should plan to pay around $1000-3000 out of pocket no matter what you do for an editor, proofreader, artist, the book creation, online presence, and everything else that goes into making your book. Vanity publishers can charge more and give you less in royalties, so it comes down to cost and profit vs convenience.

What I learned from all of this…

All told I wasted around $2800 from mistakes, lack of research, and lack of communication. That’s a lot for a new author. When your writing is your passion and you want to get your work out in front of the world, it’s so easy to jump the gun and rush the process. I promise you, taking the time to do everything right is worth it. Next time I’ll talk about the things I did that went the right way. Until then, happy writing!

P.S. If you’re an author, share your social media links and website in the comments! I love finding new authors to follow.