January 28

Is self-publishing the gateway to traditional publishing?


Are you going back and forth in your mind, wondering if you should pursue self-publishing or traditional publishing?

For most of publishing history, there has been a huge divide between the two. Even just a few years ago, if you chose to self-publish on Amazon, you were seen as “less than” an author or not a “real” author. Traditional publishers had very little interest in working with self-published authors. So, if you wanted to go the traditional route, you had to patiently shop your manuscript for 1-5 years, waiting to be chosen.

But traditional publishers have finally figured out that self-publishing is making money and that it serves as a testing ground for the best emerging authors. Think about it from a traditional publisher’s perspective.

A publisher wants to sign on an author who has the ability to sell at least 2,500 copies of her book.

Of course, the more copies she sells, the more money they make!

Two agents approach the publishing house. One agent is representing a first-time author. This author has a fantastic book idea, writes really well, and is a good fit for the house’s current catalogue, so they could certainly work with the author.

The second agent is representing an author who has self-published one book on Amazon and would like to publish a second, longer book with the publishing house. The publishers take a look at the author’s platform. They see 50+ Amazon reviews, an email list of 5,000 people, and a Twitter following of 5,000. They look at the author’s website, and it comes across as very professional and polished. They look at the book proposal, and it all lines up with their catalogue. The author’s not the best writer they’ve ever come across, but in reading the self-published book, the publisher can see that the author had taken care to get it professionally edited and designed.

Which author do you think the publishing house is going to go with?

Yep, the second one. Even if the first author was a better writer, the publisher would look at the second author and think, “Her writing is good enough that with the help from our editorial team, we’ll polish it up and get it ready for publication. What’s more important is that we know this person has some business and marketing savvy, so we feel fairly confident she can sell 2,500 copies or more.”

Self-publishing is becoming a way for a first-time author to show that she’s serious about her writing career. She publishes a book of professional level, gains a following, demonstrates her marketing savvy, and then the traditional publishers will take her seriously at the negotiation table.

There’s a new way to get into traditional publishing house, and it starts with self-publishing.

Here’s a step-by-step of how you can go from self-published to traditionally published:

  1. Write a book (at least 15,000 to 30,000 words) that highlights your philosophy, expertise, or experience. Make sure you’re writing to an audience that is interested in buying books on this topic.
  2. Put time, effort, and money into professional editing and design. The traditional publishers absolutely will read your first self-published book before signing you, and you want it to be a reflection of how seriously you’re taking your career as an author.
  3. Publish the book as an e-book, paperback, and audiobook. Again, this looks much more professional than just an e-book.
  4. Start building your author platform. Set up a landing page for your book or a simple author website.
  5. Get an email list (like MailChimp or Aweber) to capture the emails of your readers.
  6. Set up one social media account (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope, YouTube)
  7. Promote, promote, promote!
  8. Aim for 50+ reviews on Amazon and an your email list of 5,000+.
  9. Start getting friendly with an agent who represents your type of book.
  10. Then, pitch either the self-published book or a new book to an agent, and begin down the traditional publishing route.

Yes, it’ll take some time, but if you self-publish in a strategic, intentional way, you’ll give yourself a huge leg up when you’re approaching a traditional publisher.

Or you can shop your proposal for 5 years.

I prefer the proactive method of publishing.

What do you think? Are you planning to self-publish and/or traditionally publish? Leave a comment below, and let’s talk about it!


You may also like

Which "Publishing Path" is right for your book?

There are FOUR different publishing paths for the modern author. Ready to discover which one's right for YOUR book?