This is one of the biggest questions facing authors when they think of publishing their work. No author in his or her right mind will send anything for publication if they themselves aren't satisfied with what they have done. Yet, is it sufficient for the author to be happy? How exactly does one decide that their work is good for publication?
This is a very tough question to answer because it deals with measurement, and any measurement needs a yardstick for comparison. You won't know how much a centimeter is without knowing how much a millimeter is and each one builds on the previous so to speak.
So what is the yardstick for measuring if your work is good enough?
Is it acceptance by publishing companies? Does this mean that authors who have been refused by publishers aren't good enough? If that is the case, what of John Grisham whose first book was refused by publishers who then changed their mind when he self published and met with roaring success?
There are many such examples of authors who have met with success after being declined by publishers. So obviously this isn't the yardstick that we should use.
Is it feedback by friends and family? If so, is there any chance that your family will actually tell you the truth as it is? They may push you to self publish even if they feel that the book isn't what it should be, just to spare your feelings. Of course, each family is different, but I'm just averaging here. Getting honest, constructive feedback from family and close friends isn't that easy.
So what exactly do you use as a yardstick to measure your work against?
There's no right or wrong answer to this and if you read posts by published authors, each one has a different take on this. My personal feeling is that publishing your work is a risk – like how marriage is a risk. You will never know till you give it a try.
How are you going to know if your book is good or not. Simply by publishing it and then finding out for sure. Till that time, you will never know, and whatever you feel is just that – your feeling.
The only thing that anyone can expect is that they have the right attitude when they enter into the self publishing world. And the right attitude means that you don't give up, and you keep learning constantly. You don't give up at the first sign of failure, and you constantly learn because only then will you evolve, both as a person and as an author. And only if you evolve, will you be able to improve your writing.
Writing takes more than just skill. A computer has skill and it can probably spit out better language and grammar than you can. But a computer cannot write a book, and the difference is that an author's writing is colored not only by his or her experiences, but by their learning from it. What differentiates a great author from an average one is in the amount of insight that they have into the common everyday lives of people.
And please remember two things.
You cannot please everybody. Even a best seller like J.K. Rowling has her detractors.
Know your target market. If you are writing for teenagers, don't expect middle aged people to like it. If they do, then good for you, but you should know who you need to like your work.
Beyond this, there is simply no advice that anyone can give you apart from “Take the leap”. There have been too many cases of people belittling someone's work and then finding that it is a roaring success for me to give you any tips or yardsticks for you to measure your work against.
The only word of advice that I will give you will be this;
Be prepared. Do your homework. Know what you are getting into and find out as much as you can so that you don't leave any page unturned when it comes to your book, such as not marketing it properly for example.
Success or failure is not in your hand. So don't try to predict or control it. Control what you do have in your hand which is getting out a great product and doing everything that you possibly can.
Success is just a by-product of hard work, not an expectation of it.