Book Marketing: Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishers

Marketing SupportOne reason authors want to have their book traditionally published is to capitalize on the publisher’s marketing resources and experience. Traditional publishers, such as Thomas Nelson, have a staff that focuses exclusively on driving sales through advertising, publicity and other marketing tactics. They have connections with various media and sales outlets that very few self-published authors can even begin to develop. These connections can help make a book successful.

Although traditional publishers have a staff focused exclusively on marketing books, most new authors would sell more copies of their books if they were self-published.


It is simply a matter of focus and business decision making. A traditional publisher has several new books on their list each season. While every book is signed with the expectation of substantial sales, fewer than half will sell anywhere near its preliminary projections.

Acquiring books is as much an art as it is a science. Publishers acquire the best titles they can find and give each one a shot. Titles that sell quickly are given more resources, while titles that do not are analyzed so the publisher can avoid making the same mistakes again. Retailers prefer to focus their resources on books that are more likely to perform well—and so traditional publishers tend to focus on bestselling authors.

Authors that self-publish their books are able to provide a level of focus and intentionality in their marketing efforts, and they are able to obtain feedback to improve each aspect of their book. In the end, a high quality book is the best marketing tool.

Using Your Author Platform

When the book is ready, self-published authors can take their time and allow the buzz to build naturally as more and more readers recommend the book. If the author has put in the time and effort necessary to build a platform, they can reach out to potential readers who have already expressed an interest in the book. After 90 days, a traditional publisher is starting to receive returns on books that did not sell, and a self-published author is just getting started as they use each positive review to fuel the fire in building the buzz about their book. This buzz is what gets books noticed and drives sales.

The Possibility of Being Picked Up

As a self-published title builds momentum, it can attract attention from traditional publishers. That is one of the reasons Thomas Nelson started WestBow Press – to provide early visibility on self-published books that are beginning to sell well. By spotting these books early, we hope to acquire them and add additional fuel to the sales fire while the blaze is just getting started.


What is the most important factor in your decision whether to self-publish or pursue being traditional published?

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