My agent, Rachelle Gardner, recently had a post about self-publishing, and she opened up the comments for people to share their experiences. I was fascinated to read the various opinions and experiences.
One thing that came up in a number of comments was the idea that there really isn’t much difference between the amount of marketing involved in traditional and self publication. Here are a few comments:
“I've been told by many beginning authors that even with a big name publishing company the author is required to do most of the marketing.”
“Marketing (for self-publishing) has been a non–stop, all-consuming undertaking but from what I’ve heard, that’s no different than if I had a traditional publisher.”
“I think the amount of publicity you have to do with your self-published e-book is exactly the same as you would have to with a traditionally published book.”
So, what’s the TRUTH? Do traditionally published authors have to put forth the same effort (or nearly the same) as self-published authors in order to market and sell their books?
According to Publisher’s Weekly, in 2009, 764,448 titles were self-published compared to 288,355 traditionally published books. I’m sure the numbers of self-pubbed have only increased significantly in the past year (although traditional has probably stayed the same or decreased).
With over 764,000 self-published books, it stands to reason that indie authors MUST put an incredible amount of time, effort, and even money into promoting their books in order to make them STAND OUT from the masses of other self-pubbed books.
I know a couple different self-published authors who spent weekend after weekend driving to book signings, craft fairs, and local events in order to promote their books. They put in endless hours of publicity, word of mouth campaign, approaching bookstores to carry their books, etc., and after about a year, they were each able to sell approximately 1000 books.
When I compare my marketing efforts with theirs, I come up short, by a long shot. That’s not to say I haven’t done anything over the past months since my debut book released. Those who follow me know I’ve done quite a bit (particularly online). But, when I look at the enormous efforts my self-published friends have gone to, I get tired just thinking about it.
Did they sell more books than me? After all, they did more marketing.
The truth is, self-publishing marketing is NOT equal to the marketing done by traditional publishers. For all the talk about how ALL authors everywhere have to bear ALL the burden of marketing, it’s just NOT true.
My publisher, because of their size and reputation, could collectively accomplish SO much more than I could as one individual. They were able to get my book in most major book stores, distributors, and retailer catalogs. They were able to send out ARCs and books to key book buyers, reviewers, influencers, bloggers, etc.
Those efforts alone have made the difference between selling tens of thousands versus a thousand or two (which is what most self-published authors do with their VERY BEST marketing efforts).
Of course not all traditional publishers are equal. Generally speaking, larger publishers will have bigger sales departments with connections to more distributors and more money to allocate on marketing and publicity. Mid-list and smaller traditional publishers or niche presses won’t have the same capabilities.
But overall, traditional publication still brings many benefits and securities that are just not available otherwise. Yes, all authors must participate in marketing (why wouldn’t we want to do whatever we can to help our book?).
However, when an author decides to self-publish they will bear ALL the work to sell every single book. Whereas an author who pursues traditional publication still gets the extra help, promotion, as well as reader trust that comes from working with a publisher.
What do you think? Do you agree with my assessment that not all marketing will be equal, particularly between traditional and self-published authors? Or do you think that the large majority of authors have to bear most of the marketing burden, no matter what type of publishing they pursue?
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