Blog Post (6/13/19): Traditional vs Self-Publishing (what I’ve learned so far)


My buddies at the Indie Street Marketing had a meeting not too long ago about indie vs traditional publishing and the difficulties that involve when you don’t have a traditional book. I wanted to throw my two cents into the mix since I couldn’t make it to the meeting that day so allow me to ramble for an unallotted amount of time until my heart is content. Ready? If you’re not I’m starting anyway, GOOOOO!!!!!!

I’m going to start off by being completely real, self-publishing is amazingly difficult, especially when it comes into the marketing department. While it has its upside such as creative freedom and control over what goes in and out of your book, it has one major downside. You’ll see it once you have your book published. You must get the books into readers hands. You gonna have to start marketing. What that means is that you’re going to have to learn to take (reasonable) risks and a lot of time and error getting your book up the charts in Amazon, generate buzz through social media, and learn things like Amazon or Facebook ads.

In traditional publishing, you have a juggernaut to help you with these parts. Self-publishing, this is all on you. You’re going to have to spend some of the money you earn (even very small amounts) on learning what works and doesn’t in your marketing scheme. But, there’s also plenty of other ways to make marketing easier for yourself without spending money. Develop a marketing plan. There are plenty of things that you can do to get yourself out there other than ads. You will have to learn how to network with other writers and readers. That means having a blog, having a website, frequent use of Instagram and Twitter, developing videos on writing and drafting, etc.  And you’re going to have to do some of these things every day. If that means making a tweet or Instagram post or even working on a video, you’re going be marketing at least one thing every day (it’s not even trying to sell your book most of the time). That brings me to my biggest point: your book isn’t always going to be the thing that sells your book, often than not it’s the author. You are what makes you marketable.

People are going to have to see you as an author. That means developing a brand for yourself. You’re going to meet people along the way. You’re going to talk to them, learn more of the craft, get yourself into the thick of it. I get it, we aren’t the most sociable bunch us writers. But as a self-published author, you don’t have the luxury of sitting back and having people stumble over figuring out who you are. There are sometimes you are going to get lucky and find a bunch of potential readers. There are going to be times where you’re going to have a dry spell.  But the main thing is that you’re going to connect with other people. Find people that you enjoy talking to whether those are reviewers, fellow authors, readers, and fans.  Have a good time doing this, make friends within your industry and genre. Remember, you were a fan of these genres before you were an author (well at least I hope). Talk about works you read, works your jealous of (I’m looking at you Jonathan French and Nicholas Eames), fine-tune your writing craft, and get to know people.

Traditional publishing puts you into this mindset automatically. Often than not, they share editors, cover artists, agents, etc. They swap ARCs back and forth; they get buzz around their books by meeting with their fellow authors. Indie authors are going to have to learn to be sociable to succeed. You’re going to have to meet with your fellow authors, give out blurbs, leave reviews for your author friends, have writing days with them. Over this week alone, I’ve seen several traditional published writers meet each other and just talk and chill with their fellow writers. Indie authors should do the same. After you spoke with them for a time (to make sure they aren’t axe murderers), ask them for a writing date or just chat. Learn more about people.

Back to the marketing itself, a good suggestion that I have learned with the ads is to start off small and learn keywords that will draw in your readers. Find authors that are like you or are within the same genre as you. As a fantasy author, that was easier said than done. I had to take the broad fantasy genre and chip it down until I found the exact genre that my book. Learn keywords that you would search on Amazon or look at targeted fantasy book ads that you get on facebook. Learn bits and pieces of what works and what does with a small amount of budget, then work your way up. If you’re serious about this process and already spent money on editors, cover artist and formatting, you’re also going to have to spend money on your marketing to keep up with the traditional publishing. Don’t put yourself into debt. Remember there are other ways to market your book first.

All in all, the marketing (and the self-cost of everything) is the biggest difference in traditional versus indie publishing. A lot of work falls on the author themselves when you’re self-published. You’re going to have to develop a street team for yourself, get friends and family involved, and learn more and more about how the genre works.

If you want to learn more, please join the Indie Street Marketing discord ( and talk with me there. I’ll be happy to answer any of your questions and brainstorm with my fellow indie authors about getting more eyes on our book. I’ll be happy to hear from you. I would like to thank @bettsican @ginnyzero @jaimistoryteller @sixstepsaway on tumblr for bringing this topic to my attention.

See you guys on the next blog post,

Deston J. Munden