To a point, self publishing is fantastic. You get to put your writing, your creative genius, out into the world for everyone to experience (and ideally purchase) with total creative freedom. Congratulations! You’re a published author now!
However, after your friends and family have bought your book to support your endeavors there is still the task of getting your book truly out there. Unless you have been building an online personality and already have hundreds – or perhaps thousands – of followers waiting for your content, you’ll have to do your own marketing. Therein lies one of the hurdles in self publishing: sales.
Most self-publishing companies do nothing more than post your book onto their online store and provide paperbacks on demand. You won’t be walking into Barnes and Noble and seeing a beautiful display table with copies of your novel splayed out and ripe for new readers to pick up. There is a lot of legwork involved in making that miracle of marketing happen. Some of which require contacts in the industry to achieve.
Distribution is key to getting your book into stores and a good marketing team to work with distributors who will help network and setup events is as well. Much like the big publishing houses, distributors rarely accept unsolicited books or unrepresented authors. They don’t want to take up printing and distribution unless an author and their work has been properly vetted for quality, which is a process done by traditional publishers.
No one is perfect. Even the most well written person has a typo here and there, or misses a word because they are thinking faster than they can type. Sometimes an author has an amazing story to tell, but might not have the technical skills to get the words just right, or needs help with structuring their story. Traditional publishers have teams of editors that offer fresh pairs of eyes to go over your writing and offer constructive criticism so you – the author – can put out the most polished piece possible. Editing practices range from structural editing (helping ensure the flow of the piece is pleasing to the reader), to detail editing (crossing the “T’s” and dotting the “i’s”). The editors work with the author every step of the way to keep the piece’s original integrity, but grinding down the rough edges in the process.
They don’t just buff the work to a beautiful shine, the team often offers creative feedback as well. If something written 100 pages into the story doesn’t line up with events or something a character said in the first few chapters, the team will pick up on it and notify the author so they can work to correct it. A good tip for writing is to come back and read your work after you’ve had time to think of something else and “refresh” your eyes. The support teams in traditional publishing take that concept and multiply it, boosting the polish of your story and often confidence simultaneously. That polish and confidence in writing are exactly what distributors want to know already exists in a book before they will pick it up and start stocking shelves in bookstores big and small.
Traditional publishing will help you get your foot in the door of halls that would otherwise be closed off to a self-publisher, and relieve a lot of the stress involved in getting you down said hall. However, publishing is not a “send it, and forget it” industry. You have to want to get your book in front of everyone, yell it from the digital rooftops of the internet and find those little nooks and crannies you know your work will thrive in that a publisher might not be able to tap into. Traditional publishers will often gladly work alongside the author to market their work, to give you a bigger megaphone to shout with, but the author has to work with them throughout the journey to best-seller.