The dreamer in you may already have started to imagine a single digit place on the NY Times best seller list or a book signing where security guards have to be brought in to manage the crowds. If these thoughts are filling your head, you may want to take a step back and temper your expectations.

The reality is a very small percentage of books make the NY Times list and the biggest crowd pullers these days are YouTube makeup artists. With over the top expectations comes almost certain disappointment. And disappointment is responsible more than anything else for making people give up.  

So what kind of questions should you ask yourself to gain a better perspective and build a more realistic picture? Here are some points to consider:

    • Remember nothing comes with any guarantees, but how we approach something and the effort we put into it can certainly help create more favorable odds.
    • As a self-publishing author you are building a brand. As with any business your goals and targets must be realistic and you must work diligently towards attaining them. A bit of self-honesty goes a long way.  
    • Decide why you are writing the book and what you hope to achieve from it. It may be that having the good fortune just to share your story is enough or it may be a lifetime ambition to see your name in print.
    • What is your definition of success? A traditional model of literary success may not be a good fit but in the e-world you may find far greater possibilities.
    • Do you want this to be the start of another career? Do you have the resources to fund it? The truth is that it is unlikely you will make a sustainable living from writing – certainly initially – if ever.   
    • Do you have the time to devote not only to research and writing but also to widely promote your book?  
    • Do you fully understand all the processes and steps involved?


Armed with this knowledge will help you view your self-publishing journey in a more realistic light and set the bar at more manageable and attainable levels. For example, if your goal is to sell 200 books rather than 2000, then you have a far greater chance of achieving it. If you set yourself a target that is likely to be out of reach then not only will you experience disappointment but you may suffer financially too. There is nothing to be lost in setting out small BUT this does not mean, however, that you can skimp on all the necessary steps. Success will depend on a compelling well-written, well-presented book backed by a killer marketing strategy. Furthermore surround yourself with expert help such as a good print consultant who can provide valuable advice and recommendations.

For a new self-publishing author the whole process is very much a learning curve. As you hone your writing skills, better understand your audience and become more promotion savvy then you can always reset your expectations. Remember that you are writing your book for yourself as much as your target market – they don’t want to be cheated by a poor performance and neither do you.  

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Mary Vaux-ClarkMary Vaux-Clark is a freelance editor, proof-reader and writer. Her areas of interest include current affairs, travel, history and sport. She has travelled widely and worked in Hong Kong as an editor and ESL teacher for over ten years.