Marketing strategies for traditional vs self publishing – is there a difference?

Two posts yesterday really got me thinking:

Jody Hedlund blogged about the effectiveness of free books on sales.

For some indie authors it has made a huge difference, shooting their books up on the charts and creating lots of sales for their other books. Or at the very least getting their book titles on the virtual shelf, on bestseller lists, so readers can see them.

But maybe that’s not as important for traditionally pubbed authors. Maybe readers are less likely to make the jump from free or 2.99 to 10 dollars than they are from free to 2.99. What do you think?

If that’s true, then offering free books could be a wiser strategy for the self published author.

The YA Highway blogged about authors disappearing from social media after they have book deals or are published. The comments show a variety of opinions.

So many different perspectives.

The NY best selling author probably doesn’t need to be online as much, well, because their career is pretty much established. Though fans love it when they do participate.

The midlist author, who is barely selling through, probably should be online, interacting, friending, promoting, being themselves and attracting new readers to their blogs and hopefully their books. Especially when their books aren’t in bookstores anymore or never were. Why wouldn’t they do everything possible to get their names out there?

Even if it’s not their thing or comfort zone.

Even if they don’t feel they have the time.

There are so many posts about how to approach social media so that it doesn’t eat up writing time or family time.

The self published author’s career might possibly die a slow death without the author braving social media, leading the charge, getting out there, not spamming, but interacting.

Of course, there are always exceptions. I can think of several. Because as we know social media doesn’t mean automatic success. The book haz to be good.

At one point in time, it could’ve been said that our only responsibility as authors was to write the next book. Do you still feel that’s true? Again, I’d say it depends on what perspective you’re coming from.

And what would happen if a traditionally published author promoted and marketed like a self-published author? If they truly felt the complete responsibility for the success of their book? Would they still retreat after being published? Would it make any difference? Or do they truly need to market in completely different ways?

Here are Angela Scott’s sure fire suggestions for book promotion for all kinds of publishing, in case you missed it.

What do you all think? (Of course, feel free to use the argument that social media is still so new that we don’t know what actually works besides writing a great book.)

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29 Responses to Marketing strategies for traditional vs self publishing – is there a difference?

  1. anne gallagher November 30, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Having recently self-published I can tell you that my reason for falling off the social media radar is because there is incredible pressure to put the next book out, and then the next, and the next.

    Following blogs and trying to keep up with social media sucks away from writing time, no matter which one you use frequently. We’re told to have friends, we’re told to build on-line relationships. That takes time. Time away from writing.

    I think traditional publishers have the same problem, the pressure to write the next book is held over their head as they’re writing for “someone” else.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know several authors who blog, and FB and T, and do all they do, have kids, write books, are super women in the digital age. It seems to me they also have a super support system behind that machine. For me, I don’t and I can’t do it all and write a book at the same time.

  2. Natalie Aguirre November 30, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    I think most of authors, traditionally published as well, are not so successful that they can give up the social networking and marketing through the connections they make through blogs. Though of course once you’re published, you probably don’t have as much time to read others’ blogs. If you’re super popular you could give up the blogging and other social networking, but it is a way to connect with your fans.

    Now for all of us the challenge is finding the balance so there’s enough time for writing. I have to admit I have not found my balance yet.

  3. Kris November 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    I don’t think there’s much difference–if you want people to buy your book (traditional, self-pubbed, whatever)–the author needs to participate in promotion. You have to find a way to start the ball rolling–give word-of-mouth a chance to pick up. Granted, you might have a publisher doing some of that if you’re traditionally published, but we all know that it’s happening on a smaller scale than it once did.

    I think the real challenge is going to be finding the niche market, the something-different, that will set a book apart from all the others. If the buzz is good enough, it won’t matter if its $2.99 or $10.00. Likewise, if the buzz is bad, it won’t matter if it’s free.

  4. Donna K. Weaver November 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Author Brandon Sanderson said at a lecture last year that one of the hardest obstacles an author has to deal with is obscurity. Obviously he’s not dealing with that anymore but it took him a long time to get there. People can’t read you–or want to read you–if they’ve never heard of you.

  5. Jessica Bell November 30, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    I think being online an interacting with others has benefits no matter whether you’re bestselling or not. I like to see the “people” behind the brand. When I don’t get any sense of “humbleness” I kinda get turned off.

  6. Stina Lindenblatt November 30, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    These a great points, especially the part about the middle list author whose book might not have even made it into the store. The question is, is the target audience paying attention to social media by the author? Or are they paying attention to blogs that talk about books? If it’s the latter, then social networking doesn’t seem all that important. Maybe that’s the mentally a lot of authors are now taking.

  7. Sherrie Petersen November 30, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    I think social networking can have a positive impact, but I also think people put too much stock in it. There are plenty of people who have never been on Twitter, who don’t have Facebook accounts, who learn about books the old fashioned way: from friends and people in book stores. Blogging and tweeting can probably raise your profile, but human interaction still plays a very important part. That, and having a book worth reading in the first place!

  8. Susan Kaye Quinn November 30, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Per usual, you’re right on top of the most pressing issue of the day. Because I think this IS the biggest question as so many authors are feeling their way through this self-publishing/trad-pub dynamic, putting out their first books (or third or fourth) and trying to figure out how to make it all work in a sustainable way.

    My post today talks about putting writing first, and the social-media-promotion vs. writing battle is raging in my head pretty much daily.

    I have too many thoughts about this for a comment! So I may have to do another post about it soon as I finish the writing I have to do and as soon as I figure it out! 🙂

  9. Susan R. Mills November 30, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    I think every author, self-pubbed and traditionally pubbed, needs to have some responsibility in the promotion of their books.

  10. shelley moore thomas November 30, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Lots of great comments here. Just as there is no one way to write a book, there is no one way to use social media to promote it.

    I have to agree that the actual writing of the book is more important than anything else!


  11. Laurel Garver November 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    I get the sense that self-pubbed authors have become the pioneers in book marketing in the digital age and the legacy publishers are trailing a bit behind. As the e-reader market grows, traditional book signings make less sense and social media has a more crucial role in putting authors where readers naturally go.

    • Laura November 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

      You are all so wise. And so many good points! Again, if most readers aren’t online and on Twitter, does it even matter? I think it depends. If a book is good, then word of mouth is very powerful and Amazon rankings. Especially with ebooks, even if mostly writer friends buy the book or blog about it, your book gets boosted to where other, non writers, can see it. I would think the same is true for any book on Amazon, no matter who publishes it. So the blog might not always attract readers outside our bubble but Amazon ranking might.

  12. Patti November 30, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    I agree with our mid-list author point. I have a friend whose in that category and hoping to bust out and her agent told her to get on facebook and interact since she didn’t have a book coming out for a while.

  13. Elle Strauss November 30, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

    Thanks for another mind stretching post. I’m in that position now, wanting/needing to get a second book written and out there, and trying to keep up with Social Networking. I know I’m not doing that great with either at the moment.

  14. Lydia K November 30, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    How totally interesting. Recently, an author just had her book published and I noticed she hasn’t posted a single blog post since then. I wondered–what’s going on behind the velvet curtain?

    Great post Laura.

  15. KarenG November 30, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    Well, I know that James Patterson is one of the sweetest guys answering Facebook queries and so forth. Not sure what other social media he does but I’m always surprised to see a bestselling career author like that interacting online. Like you say, it’s not like they need the sales or exposure, right?

    I believe it’s a mistake to think that social media alone will bring the book sales. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t enjoy it. It’s not for promotion as much as it is for being part of a community of writers, which I don’t have in my real life.

    As for the free ebooks, if it’s part of a promotion plan then go for it. Same as .99 ebooks. I wouldn’t expect to see a publisher giving out free ebooks which is why it seems like a strictly self-publishing thing to do.

    Really enjoyed this post, Laura!

  16. Southpaw November 30, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    Interesting post and comments. I don’t know how people keep up with social networking online and all those article that tell you how to do it fall short, in my opinion.

  17. Heather Sunseri November 30, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    You make a great point, Laura. It so often depends on where you’re coming from. If you’re dropping off of Social Media because you’re fighting like crazy to get your next book out and your books are selling like crazy, then I get it. I’m super envious and exicted for that writer, but I get it.

    If you’re dropping off of Social Media sites because you’re scared you’ll say the wrong thing (which I believe was a point made in yesterday’s post), then I have to wonder if fear is leading the way. And I don’t think fear should ever lead our decisions. No fun in that!!

  18. Anita Miller November 30, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    I think the mega, mega, mega authors (of which there are about five) don’t have to do a bit of their own marketing and they’ll be fine. The rest of us, self and trad, have to market. And for me, it’s a fun break from the writing and the cleaning. Bring it on! (p.s. I get annoyed by people who go waaay overboard, so if I ever do that, let me know)

  19. Laura Josephsen November 30, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    I think whether traditionally published or self-published, most of us have to get out there and be active. But it can be really hard to find that balance between everything! When I’m pushing hard through a section of writing and I need to keep the momentum going, it’s really difficult to stop and blog. I’m still learning the ropes and figuring out how to do all this, though–maybe it will get easier and smoother as time goes on. 😀

  20. Kelly Polark December 1, 2011 at 3:50 am #

    Both traditionally or selfpubbed should be promoting for themselves. Yes, the writing the book is most important, but you do want to stay connected and not let others forget you. Also, you don’t want to just pop in only when you have a book to sell either.
    I enjoy the social networking, but I do realize there needs to be a balance.
    I follow many musicians on Twitter and those that are active on Twitter seem to have fans that become even more loyal after much interaction. I think it helps to be personable and approachable.

    GREAT TOPIC, Laura!!

  21. Traci Kenworth December 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    You bring up very good points. I think a traditional author has to promote as much/if not more as a self-published one. Because, let’s face it, if your book doesn’t bring in a decent return, publishers aren’t going to want to work with you again. So, yeah, promote, promote, promote!!

  22. Leigh Moore December 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    well, I think the whole “writing a good book” thing is first and foremost. I don’t really blog to sell books as much to find that much-needed support. I can see, though, that after a publishing contract there could be much less time for blogging. But I think some form of social media is necessary. I’m checking out that “10 Ways” post you mentioned. As always, great thoughts, Laura~ :o) <3

  23. Jill Kemerer December 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    Great arguments here. Maintaining and growing a presence using social media is hard work, and I think many authors simply get burned out. They figure they have a book deal, why not focus on that? But I think it’s a big mistake. We need to regularly (even if it’s a scaled-back version) connect on our social media sites. Publishing isn’t a typical job. It’s not 9-5, and it doesn’t come with a weekly paycheck.

    I think all authors are smart to keep up their social media efforts, regardless of where they are at in their career.

  24. Marcia December 1, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    I don’t like the IDEA of disappearing once you’re published, because it makes it seem like you were only on as advertising.

    But I’ve written series fiction on deadline and I know how hard it is to write faster than you ever thought you could and still do anything else (like sleep every now and then).

    Today, though, the fact is that we have to promote like never before, and I like honest relationship formation to go along with that, which social media can help with. Plus we can do our online networking without the time suck of having to physical travel somewhere, and without much expense. So, since we need to promote anyway, I don’t think ditching social media makes a whole lot of sense at any point. It’s just that it’s easier when you’re a big deal and thousands will greet your every tweet as gospel. 🙂

  25. Lisa Green December 1, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    I think it’s clear that self-pubbed authors need to use social media. Midlist authors or newbies? IDK. It’s possible to do it without, but becoming harder and harder I think. They “disappear” most likely because they are overwhelmed. But that’s just an assumption on my part! I really don’t know and it’s probably different depending on the person.

  26. becca puglisi December 2, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    Unless you’re wildly successful, I don’t see how you can effectively promote today without social networking. There’s probably a way, but I don’t know what it is. The balancing act can be overwhelming, but I have to remind myself to look at it differently by focusing on the freedom we have in publishing today. Yes, it’s hard to divide time between writing and social networking, and it’s hard to know exactly what social networking to embrace, what’s effective. But there is no one right answer. there are a million ways to promote as a writer, and I can do whatever works for me. Now, to figure out what that is…

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  27. Stacy December 2, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    Thanks for the links for marketing. I’m working on my marketing strategy so I can submit to an e-pub, and these will really help. Marketing is kind of a big question mark for me, because I’m still figuring out the best way to talk about your book without spamming.

    Obviously it’s vital to self-published authors, and I’d say in a market that’s so saturated, it’s important to just about any traditional author, too, unless they’re in the small group of big name authors.

  28. Stacy December 2, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    LOL. I just actually read the ten links. Too funny!

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