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Does Self-Publishing Close Doors to Traditional Publishing?



Last Updated on September 20, 2022 by Ben Oakley

Self-publishing is a popular route to getting your book out there, but it doesn’t mean you won’t get a look in with a trad pub.

Many writers growing up had their favourite authors. No doubt, the authors in question were traditionally published.

For me, in the 1980s, self-publishing was mostly unknown, and kept for those who could afford large print runs.

Clive Barker, Stephen King, James Patterson, John Grisham, all were favourite authors of mine. All are traditionally published.

Writers dream of being published. For a long time, the dream involved being traditionally published.

Then Amazon changed the publishing world forever with the Kindle Direct Publishing program. Self-publishing, at least for a while, became the talk of the town.

And yet, traditional publishing rode the storm, and in recent years have increased their market share against the hordes of self-publishers.

But does self-publishing close doors to traditional publishing?

Self-publishing and traditional publishing are businesses

Ever wonder why a large publisher solicits a celebrity to write a book for them? It’s because that celebrity has a following and is marketable.

I remember reading Fear by Ranulph Fiennes, and in the introduction he writes about how his publisher asked him to write the book.

It irks some authors when they see a celebrity publicise their own book, one that has been clearly ghost-written.

So, why do traditional publishers solicit celebrities and hire ghost-writers to produce the book?

The answer is simple, they have a built-in following.

Does Self-Publishing Close Doors to Traditional Publishing?
Traditional publishing is big business.

It could be someone newsworthy, has amassed a huge following on social media, or the latest reality TV star.

Britney Spears signed a $15million deal with Simon & Schuster, and the book will use co-writers, another term for ghost-writers.

It doesn’t matter so much who or where they come from. As long as that person is relevant, has a built-in following, and more importantly, is marketable.

Proving yourself to a traditional publisher

Self-publishing is only one way to publish. We put together an entire guide on how to make a living self-publishing.

Self-publishing is not a last resort, and for many authors, it might be first on the list.

If you’re looking to land a traditional publishing contract, then self-publishing could also work in your favour.

Traditional publishers are savvy enough to know what is selling, what is relevant, and what works. Some seek out good self-published books and authors.

By establishing yourself as a popular author who can sell books, you have an edge over others seeking a trad pub contract.

Here are some steps to take to be ready for a traditional publisher.

  • Write a great book.
  • Learn book marketing.
  • Promote yourself everywhere.
  • Gain publishing industry knowledge.
  • Write more books.

Even with a traditional publishing contract, you are usually expected to take part in marketing. Knowing this beforehand can help give you a step up.

Self-publishing can be easier and more fulfilling

Self-publishing does NOT close the doors to traditional publishing. Far from it, in fact, it can help get you that elusive deal.

Going after a trad pub contract is not easy. Getting an agent is not easy. Being rejected multiple times is not easy.

Which makes self-publishing sound easy, except it’s not. Self-publishing becomes easier once you’ve taken the time to learn the ropes.

Writing the book is the first step of many.

Self-publishing skills include:

  • Formatting.
  • Editing.
  • Cover design.
  • Copywriting.
  • Software expertise.
  • Publishing.

Self-publishers who are serious about their work, can set up their own publishing company to publish their own books.

If you don’t have time to learn the skills needed, then you can outsource to freelancers and other creators.

Even if you decide to focus wholly on traditional publishing, it would be in your interest to understand how self-publishing works.

The more skills you build around writing, marketing, and publishing, the better chance you have at success across the board.

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Ben Oakley is a bestselling author, researcher, publisher, blogger, and mental health advocate from Camden, England. Usually found on Twitter or in the bars and parks of Camden. Agathokakological is his favourite word!