Traditionally publishing? Yes, you still need to do marketing

This post has been churning in my head for a while.  I’ve had a number of writers tell me openly that they want to go traditionally published so they “don’t have to do marketing”.

There are many good reasons to go the traditionally published route, unfortunately, this is not one of them.  Gone are the days when a traditionally published author would get to sit back and let the publishing house sort all the marketing.

Traditionally publishing?  Yes, you still need to do marketing.  Image: Books on a shelf

There is no right or wrong answer regarding how to get published, you have to make your own decisions about what works best for you.  Yet knowing what each option entitles is important as both have their own pros and cons.

However, the biggest thing I see is people believing that they don’t have to market if they go traditional and so blatantly ignore all opportunities to build their platform.

If you want to go traditional, you should at least be aware of the industry and what is expected of you.

The Myth about Marketing

All the Marketing

Despite the changes that happen in the industry, a lot of people still think that the one big bonus of going traditionally published is that the publishing company will do all the marketing.

Don’t get me wrong, they WILL do marketing.  But how much marketing is where the issue lies.

I know writers who are convinced all marketing will be done by the publishing house and they don’t have to do anything.

This is extremely unlikely.  Many publishing houses now want to see what you are doing to boost your own books and brand.  Some will want you to have a following before they fully decide to invest in your book.

Book Tours/Signings

Few publishers will send their new writers on book tours or signings.  They are not the most efficient way to sell books and unless you are a big name or writing something mind-blowing or controversial, it’s just very unlikely to happen.

Some publishers will support you if you want to arrange your own book tour or book signing, but these days, few will arrange them (or pay for them) for you.

Website

I was shocked when someone told me they haven’t got an author website and that when they go traditional, their publisher will “probably” sort it for them.  Not sure why they think that, but that is not really something they should be banking on.

Again a publishing house isn’t likely to spend resources and time creating and maintaining an author website.  That really is something you need to do yourself and do it before you are published!

The Pre-Launch

This is when a publisher will do the most marketing for you.  The hoopla before the book comes out.

Which is good because this is important, however, for a book to keep making money it has to be marketing continually.  People need to remember it.

However, usually after the launch, the post-launch marketing is pretty minimal.  So if you want to keep the momentum going, you need to do some of your own marketing.

You’re not a big name

If you are just starting out, chances are you aren’t a big name.  Which means publishing houses will not be throwing the same kind of cash at your marketing strategy as they will for their big-name clients.

This is where a lot of new writers fall down, they assume they will get the same level of support as other writers but the publishing house will have top billing author clients and these are the ones who get the most investment and support.

This does not mean you won’t get any support.  You will, but it might not be what you are expecting.  There will be a difference in what attention you get from your publisher.

Work with your Publisher

I know a number of traditionally published authors who have done great because THEY did a lot of their own marketing.

If you want to go traditional, you need to push away the mindset that you can just hand over the marketing to your publisher.  That isn’t the way any more.

However, what you can do it WORK with your publisher.  If you know your launch date, come up with some ideas for marketing.  Make sure you have plans for at least 6 months before the release date.

Take that list to your publisher early and see if they can give you any support or advice.  Firstly, this shows you are serious about your book’s success.

Secondly, this helps to make sure anything the publisher is going to do, is not being repeated by you and they may be able to work your marketing ideas into any pre-launch plan they have.

Thirdly, they can often come up with additional ideas to develop your strategy and are more likely to give you support to complement your ideas.

You may also want to let your publisher know about any guest posting/speaking opportunities you’ve found/been invited to.  Work in partnership with your publisher.

Why building your own platform is important

If you are pitching to a traditional publisher, then having a platform established can work in your favour.

Yes, your book needs to be good enough to grab them but if you can also state that you have an active platform, loyal followers and interested readers, this can go a long way with showing the publisher that you will do what it takes to make your writing career a success.

My Thoughts

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 8 and all through my early years I wrote.  I also contacted publishing companies (I didn’t send them anything, I asked questions) and some even wrote back with answers (thank you Titan Books and Penguin Books). 🙂

I’ve been studying the industry for a while, and things have definitely been changing.  Not surprising since the advent of more and more social media platforms and things like self-publishing.

Originally, I wanted to be traditionally published because there were a lot of benefits (and it was the only methods years ago!). 

Over the years, I’ve found those benefits have dwindled and what you gain from traditional publishing doesn’t seem to be worth (for me) the loss of creative control.  However, that is my personal preference and it won’t be right for everyone.

I came to this conclusion following lots of research into the industry as well as knowing my own abilities and limitations.

My advice is, no matter which way you want to go, take the time to look into the industry for yourself so you know what is needed and expected.

Also, check out posts and videos by newly published authors, experienced authors, those who’ve worked and do work in the industry as marketers, editors, publishers, etc.

The truth is YOU are ultimately responsible for your writing career.

Have you decided whether you want to be traditionally published or self-published Drop your answer in the comments below

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I appreciate anyone who read all the way through this article.  Hope you found it useful and as always do drop me any questions or comments you have 🙂  I love receiving them.

So what are your thoughts on marketing?  Are you a fan?  A newbie?  Full of ideas? 

Happy writing

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36 thoughts on “Traditionally publishing? Yes, you still need to do marketing

  1. Pingback: What NOT to do in your marketing | Ari Meghlen – Writer | Blogger | Bad card player

  2. Pingback: Traditionally publishing? Yes, you still need to do marketing – Written By Ari Meghlen – Writer's Treasure Chest

  3. Thanks for this informative article. Funny, I self-published my first three books because I did NOT want to be required to do all the marketing I expected a traditional publisher would require. Were they blockbuster hits? No, but they brought in some nice income for awhile. I’m in process of writing several non-fiction books and guided journals, which I do plan to self-publish. Fiction might be another story. I appreciate all the options out there and the chance to evaluate which work best in which scenarios. Best of luck to you with your writing and publishing! Thanks again for this post. 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Tania Marie and commented:
    Today’s Monday Musings ~ The Writer’s Corner comes to us from author, Ari Meghlen. Ari has a wonderful blog with great info for writers at all stages of the journey. This particular blog I felt was an important one to share, especially for writers just beginning to think big about getting their work out there for more to enjoy. Of course the first key is to write and weave the best work that you can challenge yourself to rise to. And yes, there’s a lot to do about alignment and timing, but there’s also a writer’s platform and brand that is key to be thinking about and establishing even well before you actually publish your book. Ari shares about marketing and its importance whether you are self-publishing or traditional publishing. It’s a myth to think that you don’t have to do any of this if you get a traditional publisher. I think you’ll find both her blog post and the comments by readers, after, to have some nuggets of wisdom and food for thought. You’ll get a little insight on the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Besides some great writer’s blogs, there are also a lot of books out there about the industry and that have great advice for writers and share about the literary life. Thanks to Ari for highlighting this. And as she says, ” The truth is YOU are ultimately responsible for your writing career.”

      • you’re most welcome Ari, but thank YOU again for sharing it. i know a lot of writers that are just getting started, so i do think this will be insightful, or at least get those wheels turning. i want to see everyone successful and happy with what they’re doing. and sharing the journey and experiences is one way to do that.

  5. I’ve always wanted to be traditionally published. I’m game for promoting my own work, but I’d love to be in a partnership with people more experienced than me. So I can grow from that knowledge. At least, for the few few releases.

  6. Such a great, important and valuable post Ari. Thank you for sharing it, as I feel many don’t fully understand the scope of this – I know I didn’t in the beginning either. I have also found it interesting how many writers don’t have websites or anywhere to see their work, let alone are aware of the need to build a platform. You’ve put together such a great post and I would love to reblog it on my Monday Writer’s series. Thank you again! Love your blog.

    • Hi Tania, thanks so much for reading and for your kind words.

      Yes, I was surprised how many writers were telling me they “wouldn’t need to bother with marketing” once they went traditionally published, I felt I had to write this.

      It is surprising about websites, especially with so many free platforms and ones like Wix where you can just drag and drop features.

      I remember when I had to build a website with HTML if I wanted it up and running 🙂 So there really is no reason not to get a site sorted, even if it’s just a simple landing page.

      I appreciate you wanting to reblog, I hope your readers find it interesting 🙂

      Take care, Ari

  7. It is new territory for those experiencing publishing for the first time. I’m the kind of person who likes to experience the situation, makes mistakes, learn and improve in the next go around. it’s not always the best system but it works for me.

    This is intimidating for many but as we grow our confidence will grow as well. That’s one thing we all need to keep in mind. Thanks, Ari.

    • Thanks for reading, Bryan. Yes, that is it exactly. It is intimidating and the road is paved with many mistakes made. And each writer who makes them, shares them in a hope they can help another avoid the pitfall… yet we all find our own hole to fall in 😀

      I think your way of being in the situation and learning from it, is the best way to be.

  8. I know several traditionally pubbed authors (NYT best sellers) who do an enormous amount of their own marketing, and they do very well. Publishers, whether indie or Big 5, can’t be counted on to do the bulk of the marketing.

    • Hi Teri, thanks for reading. That is so true, while big name authors will get better attention from the publishers re marketing, it does look like many understand that what they can do themselves will make a big difference.

      Marketing is one of those things so many people just dismiss in a hopes someone else will do it, and yet while it’s not the best part of a writing career, it’s certainly necessary.

      That’s one of the reasons I started my Monday Marketing posts because I knew so many writers who didn’t know where to start and where just hoping if they trad published, they wouldn’t need to think about it.

  9. I didn’t realize that this was the case, so this article has been on my mind for the night. I had been planning to publish traditionally because marketing is something I truly despise doing, but now I’m like… why publish at all? I don’t want this to be taken as a ‘Oh, you wounded me, mistress! Woe!’ type question, but instead… I dunno, a real question? It seems like the publishing market is pretty bleak, whether going for self or traditional publishing.

    • Thanks for reading. I certainly didn’t intend this post to push anyone away from publishing completely.

      There are some great benefits to traditionally publishing, it’s cost effective as the publishing house will pay for editing, cover design and legal support should someone plagarise your work and they do SOME marketing (just not as much as what people think).

      Then again, there is benefits to self-publish, higher percentage in your pocket, creative control with cover and editing changes, control over different formats such as ebooks, audio, etc.

      I don’t think the publishing market is bleak and while it has been saturated by people rushing to publish things after a month of writing, there is still space for us all.

      I think the danger can come from seeing it as something more than it is and with the advent of the internet and social media, it can take more to get noticed.

      It definitely takes a lot of work to do well, but you can publish books regularly and while not become a big name or make a lot of money, can create a steady buzz and a steady income.

      I want to publish because I love writing and I want to be someone’s favourite author one day. I want them to love my book, like I love my fave author’s book.

      The best thing to do is decide on your reason for wanting to publish, if it’s fame or money, then that might not be the best reason because those things can either take time and require a lot of work or in the case of fame, never happen.

      What about marketing is it that you despise? Is it networking? Socialising? Giving time over to things like social media? coming up with marketing ideas? Maybe I can help.

      • Marketing, to me, feels like begging. There’s this element of pride that it seems to burst whenever I even advertise a blog post. I had originally wanted to use my blog, tumblr, and twitter as marketing platforms, but I’ve gotten to a point where I can’t stand the thoughts of peddling things to friends I’ve made online. It’s hard to publish, even for free, the longer works I’ve written because I don’t want to waste other writers’ time.

        I think I sound like a total loon, haha!

      • Thanks for your comment.

        I can appreciate that however, I think the “begging” sense comes mostly from the hard sell.

        Marketing isn’t just about saying “hey, buy my book.” In fact, some of the best marketing is just building connections.

        Your blog will be part of your marketing, sharing scenes or chapters of your work will be marketing.

        By giving people a “taste” of your writing, it can draw them in so they want to buy the book without you even needing to ask.

        I make sure my blog is an asset to other writers and bloggers, then if I am able I can add in an affiliate link to a product I like.

        If you are just tweeting and blogging and everything is “I have a book, you should buy it” etc then that would come across as begging.

        But giving value to your readers, sharing your journey, giving advice, talking about writing processes, throwing out some chapters or a book aesthetic is what can generate interest.

        My current book is still being written, I don’t have it to sell – however by talking about my characters, sharing aesthetics, scene snippets, I’ve garnered interest and have already got people wanting to be my beta readers and others wanting to read it when it’s published.

        There are a lot of writers out there who spam others, I get emails and DMs all the time, usually from writers I’ve never heard of – asking me to “buy their book”…and I never will.

        They haven’t built a connection with me, havent even checked I’m their audience. However, I have several new writer friends who I am excited to buy their book – they talk about their characters and scenes and I am so invested.

        I hope this (very long…sorry about that) comment has helped some 🙂

      • It was helpful – it at least lets me realize that worrying about trying might be what makes it worse. If I continue to do snippits and small stories, I’ll inevitably get better at writing – and, as long as I don’t quit, probably gain more followers who might be interested in reading something longer.

        You’re definitely encouraging, and that was very important to me!

      • Yay I am so glad to hear and I definitely think sharing more and talking about your work will most certainly bring you more followers and people wanting more.

        Definitely don’t quit, you can do this and there is a whole writing community around that would be happy to support and encourage you.

    • Thanks so much for reading 🙂 I think it’s great that the agent gave feedback, so few do these days. Yes, building a platform does seem to be a big part of it now. 🙂

  10. Pingback: Traditionally publishing? Yes, you still need to do marketing – by Ari Meghlen… | Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

  11. When I start to gripe about marketing, I think to myself, “Jane Austen didn’t have to do this mess!”, but then I remember her popularity didn’t grow until after she died. So, no more griping. (Okay, there will ALWAYS be a reason for griping)

    • LMAO Okay, what a great thought – I totally never thought of it like that, but yes, Jane Austin and countless more had to die before being popular.

      lol I think I’d rather do marketing 😀

  12. I’m strongly leaning towards self-publishing. The reasons are many but the #1 for me is staying in creative control. I did not want to become a writer, I took it up as a hobby. Thus, I do it to tell the story I want to tell – and I fear that losing control over the story would mean I’d not enjoy it as much.

    • Thanks for reading Tomas. I agree, creative control is important to me too. The only real benefit I could see with going traditionally published is a) they can get you into bookstores (harder for self-published authors unless they become best sellers)
      b) legal support should your work get plagarised. But there ARE writer collectives that you can join as a member that then give you access to legal support should that happen.

    • Thanks for reading, Shalini. I agree, they can make so many changes that the story can become something different.

      I’ve even heard of cases were a publisher signed a new author but then stifled their book because it was in a genre similar to one of their big name authors and they didn’t want the competition since the big name would generate more revenue.

      There are less and less reasons to go trad publishing, if you can save up and do it self-publishing

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