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Do You Have What It Takes to Self-Publish? Take the Quiz

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.

Take the self-publishing quiz!

Take the self-publishing quiz!

Will My Book Be Successful? A Quiz

Writing your book is just the first step in your self-publishing journey. Though you might not believe me now, it’s also the easiest part of being a self-published author. So let’s see how ready you are for what comes next by taking the quiz.

Of course, even if you do well on the quiz, there are no guarantees of your self-publishing success. But I've found that authors who are serious about their self-publishing careers have these foundational skills, experience, and knowledge.

After you take the quiz, note any questions for which you did not have the right answer. These will be topics that you’ll need to investigate and understand before you begin self-publishing. A discussion of each question follows the quiz.


Take the Quiz

Answer yes or no to the following questions:

  1. Have you ever written or published anything before?
  2. Have you developed a plan for editing and proofreading your manuscript?
  3. Do you understand the difference between traditional and self-publishing?
  4. Have you researched and chosen a self-publishing platform yet?
  5. Do you understand what media liabilities apply to you and your book?
  6. Have you established an ideal reader profile for your book?
  7. Do you know how big your author platform is?
  8. Can you predict how many book sales you'll make in the first year after publication?
  9. Do you know how much it will cost you to self-publish your book?
  10. Do you know how to determine a good price for your book?

If your answer wasn't yes to all of these questions, you have some work to do before you're ready to self-publish. Let's look at each issue in detail.

1. Have You Ever Written or Published Anything Before?

Is writing and publishing experience required before you self-publish a book? Technically, no. However, having experience getting your writing out to the public is a huge advantage. By testing the publishing waters with articles, blogs, etc., you'll become accustomed to dealing with public praise and criticism. You'll also begin to understand what content resonates with your readers.

My biggest concern with inexperienced authors is that they are susceptible to self-publishing scams. From the inquiries I receive from many newbie authors, they’re often overly optimistic and unrealistic in their plans. So when they see scammy offers telling them they can achieve wild self-publishing success, they can easily get sucked into these programs that waste (steal?) their money.

2. Have You Developed a Plan for Editing and Proofreading Your Manuscript?

One of the reasons that self-publishing has such a bad reputation is that self-published authors often spend little on the important editing phase of their manuscripts. Some of them don’t even understand what editing actually is. Yet editing and proofreading are the key quality control efforts for your self-published book.

Self-editing is a skill that you need to develop as an author. That’s another reason why prior writing and publishing experience is recommended before self-publishing a book. Even if you also hire professional editors, you will be doing at least the first pass of editing on your own. You need to be able to look at your work objectively and critically. That skill only comes with experience and practice.

Beta readers may also be engaged to offer feedback on your book. These beta reviews are not book reviews on Amazon! They are done prior to publication so that you can make changes based on their feedback.

Be aware that editing and proofreading are not the same thing and you need both! Editing deals with the content, and proofreading deals with the mechanics of language. Hiring a professional editor is recommended, especially for authors with little writing experience. There are usually multiple rounds of editing and proofreading throughout the process of self-publishing.

3. Do You Understand the Difference Between Traditional and Self-Publishing?

In summary, traditional publishing is getting a book deal or contract with a traditional publisher. That means they shoulder the expenses of publishing, producing, marketing, and distributing your book. Self-publishing means that you are both author and publisher and shoulder all the expenses of the book in addition to writing it.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both traditional and self-publishing options. Explore both before you make a decision.

4. Have You Researched and Chosen a Self-Publishing Platform Yet?

One of the first and biggest decisions you need to make when self-publishing is what self-publishing platform you will use to produce, distribute, and sell your book. All of your next moves will depend on this choice.

My personal recommendation is to go with a reputable company that has been in the business for a while. The popular, reputable players in the self-publishing game are Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, IngramSpark, Lulu, and BookBaby. All of these have advantages and disadvantages, and you should research any self-publishing platform before signing on.

5. Do You Understand What Media Liabilities Apply to You and Your Book?

Media liabilities are legal issues relating to publishing. This could include libel, slander, invasion of privacy, copyrights, breach of confidentiality, and more. It also concerns disclaimers that you might need to include in your book to help protect you from lawsuits. Yes, even fiction needs to be concerned about all these things.

Don’t go it alone with these issues! Consult an attorney who specializes in media liability and intellectual property about preventive measures you can take to protect yourself legally when self-publishing.

Also, educate yourself on media liabilities. I recommend the Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook by Helen Sedwick. This is not a sponsored mention. This is just a great resource!

6. Have You Established an Ideal Reader Profile for Your Book?

I have been absolutely stunned by the number of authors I’ve encountered on social media and as clients who have given zero thought to who will read their books once they’re self-published. This is at the heart of why many self-published authors fail to make book sales. They don’t know who they’re selling to.

Yes, you can write a book for your own enjoyment, with no regard for who will read it. But if you plan to make some money with your book, developing a profile of your ideal reader prospect is a critical initial step.

Who is that reader? What is their age, educational level, marital status, job, sexual orientation, hobbies, fears, values, etc.? Make a list. Then target all your marketing and social media efforts to reach that ideal person.

7. Do You Know How Big Your Author Platform Is?

You may have heard this term bandied about as you’ve started to investigate self-publishing. Your author platform is your fan base for your work. Your fans are all your loyal followers on social media, your blog, your YouTube channel, etc.

Building and connecting with your fan base is going to be your primary book marketing activity from the time you self-publish (actually before that!) until you decide to take your book off the market. Sometimes that may include advertising on social media.

8. Can You Predict How Many Book Sales You'll Make in the First Year After Publication?

Based on my experience and observation, I’ve estimated that only a couple percent of your author fans will actually buy your book. Ouch! Though there are no guarantees, that is a realistic forecast of how many books you might sell in your first year after self-publishing.

9. Do You Know How Much It Will Cost to Self-Publish Your Book?

Related to the question of self-publishing platform choice is cost. You could even self-publish for almost free on KDP. But that doesn’t mean there are no costs to self-publishing.

If you need help with editing, proofreading, interior page formatting, or book cover design, that could add hundreds or thousands of dollars to your total self-publishing investment. And you need to weigh those costs against how much you might make from book sales. From my 2016 and 2018 Thorne Self Publishing Surveys of real self-published authors, 73 percent of them make less than $1,000 a year from their books.

Don’t forget, too, that self-publishing is a business. You’ll also have costs to run your author adventures, such as website hosting, advertising, internet service, office expenses, and more. While those expenses are not a cost to self-publish, they can dramatically impact your net self-publishing income.

10. Do You Know How to Determine a Good Price for Your Book?

I’ve encountered so many authors who don’t have a clue about how to price their books. So they end up either overpricing or underpricing their work. But I do have sympathy for them because setting prices for any product or service is both a science and an art. Most self-published authors don’t come from a business or marketing background, which makes book pricing a confusing guessing game.

That being said, pricing your book is a skill you must learn, even if it's tough.

What's Next?

I hope you’ve discovered what you need to help make your self-publishing adventure more satisfying and successful while avoiding embarrassing and expensive mistakes.

As you continue to build your self-publishing skills and knowledge, you might want to revisit and retake this quiz to see how you're progressing.

I also invite you to follow my articles on this site, as well as my weekly podcast and YouTube videos (search for The Heidi Thorne Show), for more insight on the self-publishing game.

Good luck with your book!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2020 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 25, 2020:

Hi Raymond! Glad you found it interesting and useful. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Have a wonderful day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 25, 2020:

Hi Donna! Don't worry if you "failed." This isn't a good/bad type of quiz. It is, as you note, a reality check.

Thank you so much for taking the quiz and sharing it! Have a lovely weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 25, 2020:

Mary, indeed editing, whether done by oneself or by hiring the pros, is critical. But I fear that many authors don't take the time or expense to do it. I do hope that authors will get a better picture of their self publishing adventure from taking the quiz.

Thanks so much for sharing your perspective! Have a lovely day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 25, 2020:

Peggy, it certainly was my intent to give authors some food for thought. It's so easy to self publish these days that authors can launch headlong into it, only to run into some difficult walls later on.

Thanks so much for reading and chiming in! Have a great weekend!

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on September 25, 2020:

Thank you for this interesting article on self-publishing. It is useful that, in addition to the possibilities, you also mention the pitfalls. Very useful.

Donna Herron from USA on September 24, 2020:

Hi Heidi - This is a great, quick quiz to see if a writer is ready to self publish. I failed miserable, but I took the quiz with no plan to publish anything soon. Thanks for this eye opening reality check. I'm pinning this article to educate others. Thanks again!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 24, 2020:

I am with you in highlighting the need for editing. We often employed an editor for our final reports for our projects. It is so important. You have shared the key points in self-publishing. I hope authors will take time to do these.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 24, 2020:

I have never given thought to the writing of books, as much as I enjoy reading them. From everything you have written on this subject, it is not an easy path towards success. You have given the people who read this food for thought.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 24, 2020:

Flourish, those titles are oh so appropriate! If I even give a few authors pause to consider the enormity of their investment in self publishing before they start and get stuck, I'll feel like I've accomplished something.

Maybe "no one" said it was easy. But you should see the "some ones" that do! One of my author friends on social just reported on a guy who said that authors can make like $100 a day from slapping together a 100-word children's books with almost no effort and no money. (Side note: She had invested plenty and had crowdfunding for her done-right kids book.) Do you realize that's over $36K. What's that Dire Straits song, "Money for Nothing." Yeah, don't work like that.

Anyway, thanks for thoughtfully and humorously chiming in, as always! Have a lovely day!

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 23, 2020:

I like the comprehensive and matter-of-fact nature of this article. For some maybe it should be called, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job.” For others it might be, “Pipe Dreams Are Made of This.” However, there are others who do well at it after tempering expectations and doubling down on effort. No one said it was easy.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 23, 2020:

Hi Pamela! Life has a funny way of getting in the way, right? ;) But at least you made a thoughtful decision to not pursue it. There are some who just push forward anyway. Though it depends on the situation, forging ahead when the universe is telling you stop is a road to nowhere.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! Have a lovely day!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2020:

There was a time when publishing was my goal but life had other plans. LOL I think this article has a wealth of good information that authors should consider before trying to be a successful, published author. This is another good article, Heidi.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 23, 2020:

Yeah, Bill, for some this will be a "you can't handle the truth" realization. And thought I haven't made a vow to poverty, I'm glad I'm not relying on my self publishing income to pay the mortgage.

Anyway, when you're done with the rain, we'd like some more. So send it our way. Got some, but so not enough. Happy Fall to you, too!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 23, 2020:

Great information, as always, a real slap in the face for some, but true all the way through your presentation. I'm sure glad I embrace poverty as a lifestyle. lol

Rain and more rain and more rain. The Pacific Northwest has quickly slipped into Fall. Have a great Wednesday and beyond.