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Self-Publishing Mistakes: Expert Tips from Rasmus Mikkelsen

Publishing Spotlight

Join publishing expert Rasmus as he spills the beans on his biggest self-publishing regrets and what he learned from them so you can get your self-publishing journey started off on the right foot.

Self-Publishing Mistakes: Expert Tips from Rasmus Mikkelsen
Table of contents

Let’s be real—diving into any new business or industry is tough, especially if you're experiencing burnout. Just ask Rasmus Mikkelsen, co-founder of Publishing.com and one of the Mikkelsen Twins.

Before growing Publishing.com to what it is today (one of the top 20 fastest-growing companies in America in 2023), Rasmus and Christian were just two dudes who had enough of their dead-end jobs and wanted to make BIG changes in their lives.

The two decided to try self-publishing on a whim, and it was great, REALLY GREAT…until it wasn’t. Their royalty checks and rollercoaster of success were almost derailed by account terminations and trademark violations early on. 

How did they bounce back to travel the world, say goodbye to the 9-5 life forever, and create a system that’s generated over $50 million for its students? All is revealed in this exclusive interview below. 

Note: Discover the proven path to self-publishing success and how to avoid the mistakes that derail so many first-time publishers. Attend our free webinar to get the Amazon Kindle publishing blueprint. We'll reveal the expert tips traditional publishers don't readily share and show you how to publish like a pro from day one. 

Common Self-Publishing Mistakes and Pitfalls to Avoid: The Overview

Even Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors of all time, has made investment mistakes that he regrets. And some of those mistakes equated to millions of dollars of lost profits. All by not taking the right actions at the right time. 

Rasmus Mikkelsen knows firsthand how much self-publishers have to lose by making similar mistakes, from trademark troubles to sloppy translations. 

In this interview, we'll ask Rasmus to reflect on the most common mistakes and pitfalls he sees self-publishers encounter on their entrepreneurial journeys. He reveals his biggest regrets and missteps from his early selling days on Amazon and provides actionable tips to help you avoid crucial errors on your path to publishing glory.

Get ready to dive into the nitty-gritty challenges of self-publishing as we pick Rasmus's brain on:

  • The #1 mistake he sees new publishers make when first getting started
  • His personal biggest blunder and the costly consequences self-publishers should avoid
  • What he learned from getting his Amazon accounts terminated
  • The massive impact of quality control
  • How to navigate the labyrinth of Amazon compliance 

The Mikkelsen Twins learned from their self-publishing mistakes the hard way, so you don’t have to. Let's jump right into the questions!

1. What Advice Would You Give to Self-Publishers to Prevent Them From Making the Same Mistakes You Did?

"Focus on 1 book to start.

No matter what business or new life endeavor you choose to take on, one thing is for certain. You WILL make mistakes. It is inevitable. It would be unreasonable to expect to go completely mistake-free when you’re doing something for the first time. No matter how much you study and prepare, there is no replacement for real-world, in-the-trenches experience.

As much as we all want our very first book to be the homerun success that can replace our full-time income and allow us to quit our jobs, that is unlikely to be the case. It certainly happens from time to time, and it can happen for you, but it’s still an unrealistic expectation to have upfront.

There are nuances to this business (and any other business) that can only be picked up by going through the publishing process yourself. I see many people get too eager to scale their publishing income to $10,000/month in the next 6 months, so they decide to create 5 books at once, thinking they’ll get to their goal 5x faster. The problem is you’re going to make 'beginner mistakes' on all 5 of those books.

In order to minimize your mistakes and make them as least costly as possible, just start out with one book.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely encourage experienced publishers to work on multiple books at a time, but not right out of the gate.

Start with 1 book, and when you take time to look back and analyze what you could have done better with that book, you’ll have a long list of learning lessons that you can apply to books 2, 3, 4, 5, and beyond. I made this mistake myself, and it just left me with 5 books that were making a fraction of what they could have made if I had slowed down."

2. Looking Back, What Do You Consider Your Biggest Mistake When You First Started Self-Publishing?

"The biggest mistake I personally made was publishing books about topics that were trademarked.

The first book I ever published was about 'CrossFit.' Back then, I didn’t even consider that CrossFit is the name of a company, and only they are allowed to profit off the use of that term which they legally own.

By using the word CrossFit in my book title, I was unknowingly infringing on their trademark. I started seeing sales for that first book, and so my instant reaction was - let’s make more books about CrossFit! So then I published 2 more. Within a month or so, all 3 books were removed from Amazon, and I got a warning email saying that I infringed on the CrossFit trademark and that if I wanted to re-publish the books, I would need to remove the term CrossFit from the title.

I replaced 'CrossFit' with 'Cross Training' and re-published the books. They did continue to generate sales, but a fraction of what they were selling before as all the reviews went away too.

Lesson learned."

3. What Have You Learned About Amazon KDP Account Terminations and Amazon's Content Quality Guidelines? 

"The quality of the books you publish is very important, but I don’t really say that for the sake of adhering to Amazon’s content quality guidelines. I say it because low-quality books will receive bad reviews, and bad reviews will kill your long-term sales.

The truth is—there are a lot of crappy books on Amazon, and because of that, those books sell very few copies every month. Most, though, are not quite bad enough to warrant an account termination. For that to take place, you’re going to need a lot of low-quality complaints from customers. A lot of books are bad, but not quite that bad.

The way you do get books to be 'that bad' is to throw them into Google Translate to instantly generate a Spanish, German, and French version of the book, not quality control the translations (because you don’t actually speak those languages), and then publish them to Amazon.

Well, that’s exactly what we did back in 2017. Believe me, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I can’t go back in time and change it. We were two young guys desperate to prove our parents wrong, and so we tested any and all strategies to sell more books.

Even though those books were poorly translated into Spanish, German, and French, they sold a significant amount of copies every month. But soon enough, those books received too many quality complaints, and Amazon terminated one of our KDP accounts. We broke the rules, and we paid the consequences. We got exactly what we deserved. It was a really stupid thing to do, and we would never suggest it to anyone else or try to skirt the system again.

Over time as you mature, you develop a better understanding of what it takes to run a successful, long-lasting business. Anyone who is familiar with the work we do at Publishing.com knows we do not take any shortcuts when it comes to the quality of our products, our students’ experience, or the level of ambition and integrity of anyone we bring to the team. But that’s a lesson we had to learn through our personal experience early on. 

To answer the question—'What approach would you take to ensure quality?'—As simple as it sounds, just give a damn about your book. Remember that REAL people will be spending money to buy your book, and they expect it to deliver on the promises you make in your book title and description.

If you’re not proud of the book you’re publishing, you probably shouldn’t publish it.

If you wouldn’t recommend that your friends or family spend their time reading the book (given they are interested in the subject), you probably shouldn’t publish it."

4. What Key Lessons Did You Learn from the Account Termination That You Would Pass on to New Self-Publishers?

"Shortcuts might make you a little extra money in the short term, but it will always lead you to making less money in the long run. 

While publishing low-quality Google-translated books certainly made Christian more money in the short term (hence why it was so hard to resist), it led to his account termination, which has easily cost him over $100,000 in lost earnings.

Even if Amazon hadn’t terminated his account, those low-quality translated books would have accumulated poor reviews, and the sales would have fizzled out. If he had just taken the time to ensure that the quality of the translation was high, those books would have continued to sell to this day."

5. What’s the Problem with Linking Accounts Between Amazon’s KDP and ACX?

"I’ve talked a lot about how Christian had his KDP account terminated, but I haven’t talked about how I had my own KDP account terminated. 

Let me say that what caused my account to be terminated is a unique case, and it’s something 99.9% of people don’t have to worry about. The 0.01% of people are those who have a brother with a terminated account who still wants to publish the books they currently have in production, haha! Let me explain…When you’re a self-publisher on Amazon, you’ll have 2 different publishing accounts.

  1. A KDP account for publishing print books and e-books
  2. An ACX account for publishing audiobooks

Well, Christian had his KDP account terminated but not his ACX account—that account still existed. He had about 5 other books in production that were ready to be published, and he figured he would still publish them as audiobooks. The problem is that in order to publish an audiobook with ACX, it MUST first be published on KDP. But since Christian’s KDP account was terminated, he convinced me to let him publish his books on my KDP account, which would then allow him to publish the audiobook on his ACX account.

Doing this created a very clear 'link' between my KDP account and Christian’s terminated KDP account. If Amazon sees someone trying to sneak around their account termination by using or opening another account, they are very quick to shut down the other account as well, and that’s exactly what happened. Definitely a bummer, but we both should have known better.

Again, as long as you don’t have someone else with a terminated account publish their books on your account, this won’t ever be an issue for you!"

6. What Are the Most Crucial Quality Control Steps You Overlooked in Your Early Publishing Days?

"The most important quality control step I overlooked when I first started back in 2016 was not reading the books from front to back before publishing them.

ALWAYS read your book yourself. You can’t assume the quality of the entire book is awesome just because your ghostwriter says it is. As the publisher, quality is your responsibility for every step of the process, from the front cover to the back cover. 

Even a professional editor isn’t going to care as much as you to ensure the book meets a high standard of quality. Be sure that you can be proud of what you publish, as that is the best barometer for whether you have a book that’s worthy of 5-star reviews or not.

If it isn’t 5-star quality, your sales will be short-lived as the poor reviews will start to come, and those will have a big negative impact on your book sales not just then but in the future, too."

7. Can You Talk More About Self-Publishing and Compliance?

"Given our past experiences, it is very top of mind for us to make sure all publishing practices we teach are 100% within Amazon’s Kindle guidelines. We know with 100% certainty what works—and what doesn’t. 

If you look at the publishing strategies and advice we give in our program, it is rock solid. It’s very rare to see someone who has actually consumed our training say it isn’t the best self-publishing education they’ve ever seen.

The dodgy tactics we have used in the past are ones I would never personally do today and ones I would never advise someone else to do. We learned our lesson the hard way. 

We have a lesson in our online course, AI Publishing Academy, that talks specifically about 'How to Avoid Account Termination.' I’ll share the bullet points of what you should be aware of below.

  • Only 1 account per person (no multiple accounts)
  • Do not infringe on trademarks or copyrights
  • Do not publish low-quality book content
  • Do not put misleading info in your title, book description, or metadata
  • Do not manipulate reviews (fake reviews)
  • Do not copy the content and title of other books
  • Do not bundle the same books multiple times
  • Do not recycle the same content in different books

I don’t want this to strike fear into new publishers who might worry about accidentally doing something wrong and getting the axe. Amazon will usually give multiple warnings stating exactly which terms of service and content guidelines you’re close to breaking. If the actions continue, then they may choose to terminate the account fully. It’s very rare that they pull the rug out from under you. 

Bottom line, just play by the rules, don’t do anything stupid, and you should be fine."

Ready to Publish Without Having to Figure It Out All Alone? Here's Your Next Step

There you have it—the $100,000 mistakes even experienced publishers like Rasmus have made on their self-publishing journeys (and how to prevent them).

Check out our free insider webinar, where we'll reveal even more costly errors to avoid based on over $50 million generated for our students in publishing success. We'll also give you a proven step-by-step process to publish your book the compliant way.

You'll discover:

  • The self-publishing business model that yields the highest royalty rates
  • How to validate your book idea before you write a single word
  • The easy way to outsource your eBook cover design and editing to a professional book cover designer (at a fraction of the price traditional publishers get charged)
  • And so much more!

Don't miss your chance to get on the fast track to self-publishing success!

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