Does It Matter How You Publish Or Who Your Competition Is?

how you publish

The motivation for writing your book should be to give the world a great story and a memorable experience — no matter how you publish or who you’re competing with.

Don’t write to get credit

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” —Harry Truman

There’s no doubt about it: publishing is hard. But sometimes authors get so caught up in the publishing aspect of the profession that we forget the reader doesn’t give a darn how the book was made, researched, written, published, or promoted. A reader wants to find a good story and feel that it is theirs. They’ve taken this story into their lives and committed hours and days to reading it in the hopes that it might improve their quality of existence — or at a minimum, provide an experience to remember and something they can recommend to others.

While this may sound weird to you, after committing so much time and effort into creating this story, the endgame is not to get credit for the book. The real endgame is to give the world a great story experience.

With this in mind, books that I’ll usually pass up, are promoted FIRST as:

  • Free (why did the author work so hard to give it away?)
  • Cheap (yeah, OK, but what’s the book about?)
  • Self-published (how a book is published isn’t an issue to a reader)
  • Five years in the making (or some other big number)
  • An author’s greatest achievement (compared to what?)
  • A great first book (not everyone wants to test-drive an unproven author)

Books I’ll give a second glance are promoted as:

  • A great story about…
  • An award-winning story about…
  • A poignant story about…
  • Recommended by (fill in the name of an established author)
  • A wonderful beach read, by-the-fire read, vacation read, weekend read, etc.

I want the author to care that I have a great time reading. I want the author to promise me a treat for investing my time. I want the author to make my life better. This is why we write. To fulfill a promise to the reader. It isn’t about us, the price, or how the book was made.

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Does how you publish matter?

I’m still deluged with questions, comments, and concerns about self-publishing. Many people still have a misguided idea that self publishing is a second-best option, or that self publishing is for those who cannot traditionally publish. The amazing part of these misconceptions is that most of these folks have no idea how traditional publishing works. They are going with the route that most people go with, that carries less risk (or so they think).

After some back and forth, here’s an email message I received from an author.

Hope— At first, I had the notion about self-publishing being a second option because this was what I’d been told and made to believe by some published people in the writing business, but I beg to disagree now because you are the proof that it is not true. Self publishing is second to none. In my own experience, it was hurtful to hear that a self-published work is not considered “published.” For me, money is the only thing that differentiates traditional from self publishing only because publishers are willing to spend money on your book. I look forward to that day that self publishing will ignite the same excitement as the traditional.

First, whatever the method, publishing is simply a tool. Forget any stigma affiliated with self publishing. I don’t tell ANYONE that I’ve self published one book or traditionally published another. A reader doesn’t care. Only when I’m asked do I state which is which.

We become so entrenched in the publishing industry, we forget that readers just want a good book. Amazon has helped balance the playing field for self-published authors, and I commend them for that. However, I blame writers for how they use and misuse that opportunity. Mistakes self-published writers make include:

  • Publishing prematurely.
  • Designing bad covers.
  • Drafting bad cover copy.
  • Formatting unprofessionally.
  • Neglecting to edit enough.
  • Not proofreading enough (which is different from editing).
  • Not marketing themselves well.

The reputation of self-publishing isn’t what hurts you. Nobody knows how you published if you don’t tell them. It’s all about how you present and sell yourself, and especially how well you write and present the book. It’s on you, the author, to create a phenomenal book.

The main point is simply to choose which way to publish, use it, own it, and don’t lead with how you published, but with how good the book is.

Be customer driven

If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering. —Jeff Bezos

All too often, authors watch what other writers are doing in both writing and marketing, then try to snare which gimmick we can copy to work for us, writing and self-promoting based upon our competition.

Early writers didn’t start off that way. Most wanted nothing more than for readers to flock to their stories and gobble them up. It’s why they started writing in the first place: to share a tale.

Then there’s reality. Readers have an abundance of material to choose from. How can a struggling writer be seen, heard, or better yet, read in the face of so much competition? It’s no wonder writers gravitate to those who are successful in the field, emulating the ads, the touring, the whatever-else they are doing. It becomes all about the numbers — but the numbers aren’t easy to come by.

Then we commiserate with other writers. We join organizations, newsletters, and Facebook groups comprised of writers to learn how to be a more successful writer. But we have limited hours in the day.

What goes lacking is the communication with potential readers. We forget we’re supposed to be customer-focused instead of competitor-focused. The goal is to reach out to where readers are:

  • libraries
  • schools
  • book fairs
  • radio, podcasts
  • niche organizations
  • your local paper

Do not stray from your reader being right up front in your writing world. Once you write the best story you can write, satisfying yourself, then think about your readers. Slowly and steadily, keep reaching out, respecting and adoring them. Readers are your market, not your competitors.


Find your way to self-
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Related Posts
Your Book Needs Editing, Design, and Marketing (even if CreateSpace no longer offers these author services)
What Type Of Book Editing Do You Need? And When?
Before it was vanity, there was self publishing
Your Book As A Product, And Other Takeaways From The Creative Penn/BookBaby Interview
How Independent Authors Are Promoting Their Books



  1. “Nobody knows how you publish if you don’t tell them.” So true! The problem is that self-published authors give themselves away with bad covers and sloppy blurbs. And that’s before the reader opens the book. Trust me, I’m a self-published author and I’ve made – am probsbly still making – these mistakes.

    Unfortunately, there is still a lot of prejudice within the author community itself. Such a shame.

  2. Although shortish, this is a comprehensive blog on publishing that must strike a cord with many self-published and aspiring authors.
    Hope has nailed every issue here, from pride, vanity, hard work, to the core of the matter – the story! Thanks so much for being concise and informative.
    If the tale is great, then everything else must follow, editing, proof-reading, reviewing, publishing and marketing.
    One issue is not discussed – $ finance! Who will finance the bestselling book?
    Stumbling block for many indie-authors that cannot be ignored!
    Catch 22 – publish to bring home the $ or hope the creation (title) will bring in $K to fund the next project or pay the bills.
    Either way, authors need to know how much to invest in their dream, or when to ‘get off’ the indie-wagon.
    Traditional publishing may be the answer for a few, but not everyone for many reasons.

  3. I have what I feel is an excellent read. My dilemma is such. I need to know on average how much it will cost from start to finish to publish my book. I would hate to run out of funds only to have the book fall by the wayside, finding myself with that much less money, and no results.
    Can someone offer me some concrete figures?

  4. You want to know why I gave my first novel FREE after fretting on it for five years. Because I live on a liberal government pension and the PenCAN rep told me to earn no money unless I am happy to live with no income for two years, because that is how long it takes to settle an appeal. I don’t need the money, if any from a first novel, so I am far ahead to give it away.

    Incidentally, the FreeBie went viral after 6 months until the download copy got scrambled. I shall republish under a different title and cover.

    The most important condition of publishing is a story worth reading.

  5. What is the cost tp publish a poetry chapbook for children/adoldecents? I am currently working with an illstator and have finished the second draft of my chapbook.


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