Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing: Which is better?


Posted on 3rd October, by Sarah in General. No Comments.

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Author Becky Wicks and I are guest speakers at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival this week, where we’re discussing all things “marketing” as well as YA and NA books. We’re also taking a look at traditional versus self-publishing…

Being a successful author these days means knowing how to market and promote yourself and your book, and let us tell you, it doesn’t matter whether you’re traditionally published or going the indie/self-publishing route – you’re going to have to work your booties off to get noticed. With our latest new adult novels, I published with Pan Macmillan and Becky chose the indie route. What we discovered was that the PR and book marketing efforts required to make our books a success was pretty much the same.

1. Marketing your book is going to take TIME. LOTS OF IT.
It sounds crazy, especially if all you really want to do is write, but you should be investing as much in your PR and marketing as you do in actually writing the book. We were both spending 15 hours a day on social media in the month before our books launched. Now we both spend on average 2 hours a day scheduling Tweets, connecting with readers and bloggers, and writing posts.

You might loathe the idea of having to spend so much time on marketing, but if you want to sell books and you aren’t JK Rowling or Lena Dunham, with a publishing house throwing gazillions in marketing support your way, then you’re going to need to bust a move to make it happen. And if you’re signed to a mainstream publisher, forget it if you think they’ll do it all for you. You will still need to do 99% of it yourself.

2. Create a website with engaging content
Your book might be the greatest on the planet, but who cares? There are millions of books out there. You need to prove yours is worth your readers’ time. How? By making sure everything else you put out there into the world is top quality. Blog every day, offer interesting insights and make sure your website is SEO optimised. Your website is the gateway point for publishers and fans to find out about you and your books. Once you start offering the good stuff, trust us, people will be back. They’ll ditch you quick-smart however, if you simply talk about yourself, which brings us to the next point…

3. Do NOT just talk about your book
There’s nothing more annoying (or boring) than an author who talks about nothing but their amazing/bargain/99c/5-star reviewed book. Intersperse your online plugs with interesting blog posts and Tweets. These can be about anything – your life, your interests, your thoughts on other books and current events, Justin Bieber (hey, he gets a lot of clicks). Once you start offering content that people enjoy on a regular basis, they’ll be more likely to support you when you start selling your new book. Why? Because you have become a source of wisdom and superiority (ahem). We made a few fun YouTube videos for kicks that mixed things up a bit. Don’t judge us.

4. Build your mailing list
A mailing list is your number one tool for selling books. In an ideal world, these are the people who love your work, who can’t wait to hear from you, who will support you till the end of time. But building an email list of this type of reader takes a while. The best way to build a mailing list is by writing a book that’s so good, people beg for more by emailing you and ordering you to inform them of all updates. Another way is offering free content. We both have a download link on our homepages, giving away extra stuff, like bonus chapters and excerpts of new work. This allows us to capture emails. Running a Rafflecopter contest also helps you gather email addresses. However, make sure that the prizes you offer are things that people who read your books would like eg; Amazon vouchers, signed books and swag. Otherwise you’ll end up with a mailing list of people who are outside of your sales demographic and they’ll simply unsubscribe.

5. Make your mantra “Give give give“.
Social media should be 90% giving. We found a lot of success and support through offering free content to our readers. We also interact a lot. We re-Tweet people’s Tweets. We share their blog posts. Creating interesting posts on specialist subjects or just sharing stories that entertain or inform helps you become a useful resource for others. It helps to do a free or discount promo with your book, too. If you’re self-published this is easy with the Amazon’s KDP Select option, but if you’re with a publisher it may be tricky as they won’t want to lose sales. Talk to them about a marketing plan that incorporates giving away some kind of free content. Connect. Communicate. Entertain. Inform. Share.

6. Build your online relationships
Both of us have spent a lot of time building relationships in the reading, blogging and authors’ communities out there. It’s fun as we’re talking to people who love the same things we do, and there’s nothing better than forming new friendships with likeminded people all over the world. If you want your books to sell, you need to start building relationships 6 months to a year before release, with key reviewers/influencers on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

Engage every day. Use Tweetadder or Hootsuite to schedule Tweets. Add their pages to your social media feeds and start getting involved. Interact with fans. Follow back. If you constantly self-promote you’ll soon lose followers.

7. Know your audience
Focus on just one or two social media platforms so you don’t spread yourself too thin and make sure you know who you’re trying to reach before you start. If you write Young Adult novels, focus on Instagram as many teens don’t have Facebook or Twitter accounts. Likewise, if you’re writing erotica, it’s pointless writing to Young Adult book bloggers or targeting teenagers, as they won’t be buying your sexy masterpiece. Do your research and then get involved.

8. Get reviews before your book goes on sale
Next to your mailing list, this is the most important thing for a new author to remember. Amazon is often the first point of contact for readers looking to buy new books. How often do you buy a book with no reviews? It’s a good idea to send Advanced Reading Copies to bloggers/key influencers a month, or even further in advance, and ask them to review you on Goodreads. The day the book is listed on Amazon contact them and ask them to paste their review to Amazon. If you can send them the URL, even better (make it easy for them). Don’t waste time asking friends to read and review. Personal experience taught us both this is a huge waste of time. Your friends aren’t your readers. Remember, know your audience. I offered a signed, limited edition bookmark to fans who reviewed the book on Amazon. You need 25-30 reviews (good ones) on Amazon within the first two weeks ideally.

9. Make the most of external resources
Whether you’re a self-published or traditionally published author, there’s a myriad of awesome people out there with skills to help you create and market your books. Going solo? Becky worked with a great cover designer to help her make her new adult books eye-catching and easily convertible to all formats. When it comes to shouting about it, advertise your promos with sites like Kindle Nation Daily and BookBub, and read sites like BookMarketingTools who offer countless free videos packed with information from social media and marketing experts, and best-selling authors. With help for formatting and admin tasks like organizing your mailing lists, sites like ODesk and Fiverr are invaluable.

10. Be yourself
This might sound obvious, but when you’re marketing your book, you’re selling a piece of yourself and you’d be surprised at the number of authors who sound like robots, sending plug after plug out into the Twitterverse. The last thing you want to be in the public realm is a nuisance to anybody, or to come off as an uninformed amateur. A little preparation goes a long way. Don’t just re-Tweet if you can add something to it yourself. Don’t just copy what others are doing when you can create your own twist or niche to a story/article/comment thread. Let your brilliant, creative self shine through in everything you do and hopefully with some time and effort, success in the publishing world will be yours.

See you out there, scribblers!

Becky Wicks and Sarah Alderson have published over a dozen books between them, with three of the biggest publishers in the world (Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Pan Macmillan). Their latest joint venture is a comedy romance – The Extraordinary Life of Lara Craft (not Croft) is coming soon under the pen name Lola Salt. (Subscribe to my newsletter for updates – it’s on my homepage).

For more tips on writing and publishing follow Becky and Sarah on Twitter.



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