August is vacation month in publishing, so I thought I go for a New York City type mail-it-in vacation post.
1) Form a Team
Forming a team is a good way to fail in almost any business endeavor, but in self publishing, it's failure by definition. The "self" part of self publishing isn't a marketing gimmick, it's really about you being the publisher. If you put together a team of coaches and advisers and try to come to a consensus, you've got the business model for a government grant or a new academic department, not a publishing business.
2) Write a Memoir
I'd have to guess that more people get involved in self publishing because they've written a memoir that New York isn't interested in publishing than for any other reason. It's a really, really bad reason to start a publishing business, but it's not a bad reason to self publish. You just have to understand up front that memoir isn't a business model unless you are famous or infamous, and ideally, good looking as well. As I just admitted in the comments, I spent quite a bit of time translating my great grandmothers childhood memoir which was published in Hebrew.
3) Hire a New York City Editor
Do not, I repeat, do not hire an editor because she has a New York City mailing address. Even if you should chance to stumble on a good editor that way, you're only paying more to subsidize her big city living expenses and expensive taste in hats. Self publishing is not a game of inches, where the slightest misstep makes the difference between success and failure. Self publishing is a game of miles, where you either get it largely right or largely wrong. Largely right means writing a book that has an audience and establishing a marketing platform that lets you reach that audience. Largely wrong means doing anything else.
4) Invest Heavily in Hats
I'm not talking about a couple of hats to wear to trade shows or handout as thank-you gifts. I'm talking about spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a branding effort that's meaningless:
Investing heavily in anything other than your titles and marketing your titles is a waste of money. You don't need a new desk, or a lovely in-home office, and those things aren't write-offs until you succeed in selling books.
New York City has finally discovered blogging as a marketing tool for authors. The reason trade publishers love the idea of authors blogging is that it doesn't cost the trade publishers a dime. Many of the quality bloggers I know in the book business have already give up blogging as a waste of time. Unless you establish a large subscription base, it really is a waste of time because it's an incredibly inefficient way to attract visitors to your website.
So, that's my top five list for self publishing mistakes, and I want you to know I didn't put any time into thinking about it. Aside from the memoir warning, I sure I'm could come up with a gross of worse mistakes, or at least a baker's dozen. But I'm too busy admiring my new hats!