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Reality Checklist for Self-Publishers — 20 Comments

  1. I think your portion on having realistic expectations is quite sobering and could definitely be explored a bit more. As important is your target market and pricing appropriately. I think the pricing structure could make or break your sales.

  2. Excellent and informative article, Dave! Thank you. Do you have any advice on where to get a better sense of what is entailed in what you call “industry design standards”?

    • The personal answer is that as a design professor, I’m a bit of a snob about the topic. My tendency is to dismiss most of what I see as lacking standards altogether. A practical answer—at least from a typesetting perspective—would be to look at the standards I propose on this blog. Then grab a trade published book and compare. For reference, grab a book published before 1920 and you’ll see it comes much closer. If you want a handy reference for industry standards, my answer will be disappointing. If you’re willing to spend some time with the article and evaluate an antique book and a new book, you may find the experience revealing. Are there actual standards? No. They vary from publisher to publisher and even from book to book. Has the quality of print declined since digital typography took over? I think so, though the problem is with the typographers rather than the type or the tools.

      But since I’m throwing around generalities like “industry design standards,” it’s more than fair of you to call me out on it. Mostly, I felt that saying “lack of industry design standards” had condescending overtones I hoped to avoid.

  3. I hear you Dave. As a first time self-published author, I am fast learning the pitfalls of same – namely no credibility and no publicity! The one thing I do feel good about is the quality of my book which I published through Xlibris. I gave it my best shot, spent as much time and money on its production as I could, and the rest, to a large extent, is in the hands of the gods… As you say, the ‘product’ will bear the author’s name forever and should be presented as professionally as possible.

  4. Dave, my fan-ness continues to grow. I’ll be requiring every new author client I take on to read this, and tell me where they stand on each issue you raise. Clear-headed without killing the dreams. Excellent. Clearly born of experience and deep thought.

  5. Dave, you have done an excellent job in detailing out all of the challenges that we face in order to have our works published. I am presently addressing many of these in order to see the writings of my dear late friend become published, and a promise I made to him is being fulfilled. As you so eloquently have written in your Reality Checklist…Don’t Stop Dreaming.

  6. I belong to an organization of writers and editors, and I’ll be posting this to that listserv. It is an excellent article on what to expect if you want to publish your work.

  7. This is really a reality check for those concerned primarily with profit or loss. As an indie author of non-fiction, I would have to include the cost of travel and research to determine the breakeven point, if that were what I was looking for. But, how can one place a value on the experiences I have had through my research? The memories are priceless.

    For many, writing the book is a work of love. Too few first-time authors consider the audience, the genre, etc. when they start to write their book; they are not concerned with a business plan and how to market the book before it is written. Had they figured this out before writing the book, the book may have developed differently and have had a higher potential for sales.

    Having a professional editor is also crucial. Too many self-published books are laden with errors. But, if these authors cared about promoting there book, it is not too late, after being published, to polish the book, get a book designer, define a marketing strategy.

    • I’m like you, Jane. For the books I most enjoy writing, I scrape together funds for travel, research, whatever it takes. Writing a book is a grand adventure. After professional editing and an 1890s style typesetting job, the book goes out to Amazon and whoever wants to read it can go enjoy themselves. As an artist, I measure success on how satisfied I am with the journey that led to the book. For my nonfiction work, I think much more about the strategic values discussed in the article. I think the reason I continue to enjoy publishing is that I’m very clear about what my expectations are for each book.

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