Much like today’s birds evolved from dinosaurs, the self-publishing industry has become a very different animal than its predecessor, traditional publishing. While similarities remain, they may not be evident unless you know where to look.

Among self-published writers, there is certainly an opinion that traditional publishing is the dinosaur, lagging behind the trends and technologies of today. But despite their differences, self-publishing still has some lessons to learn from its traditional counterpart.


1. Traditionally Published Books Can Be a Good Guide


Turn to traditionally published books for well-crafted examples of good writing, which can help you hone your storytelling skills. While holding the reader’s attention is important for any author, a particular focus for indie writers who are in Kindle Unlimited (KU) should be on hooking the reader with a real page-turner. Why? Because in KU, the author is paid for pages read, so you want to rack up the reading real estate. Analyze the traditionally published books you couldn’t put down to identify why they are so engrossing, then embrace those techniques in your own writing.


2. Editing and Design Professionals Are Essential


One of my favorite sayings is “The only page that doesn’t need editing is a blank one,” and it’s true. That’s why traditionally published works are always professionally edited, thereby making a good book substantially better.

And of course, old-school books are also professionally designed, to ensure top quality and an excellent reading experience. From a uniquely styled cover to the intricacies of expert typesetting, publishing houses rely on the creativity and experience of skilled book designers whose efforts contribute greatly to a book’s success in the marketplace.

While self-publishing is alluring for its inherent control of the process, that does not mean indie authors have to — or should — do everything themselves. On the contrary, working with professionals gives indie authors more control over their book’s success, by having a well-designed and edited book that can hold its own next to its traditionally published counterpart.


3. Non-Standard Formatting Is Usually Unnecessary


Think twice about whether you really need non-standard formatting. Although an odd size might seem like a good way to stand out from the competition, traditional publishers understand the value in giving readers what they are accustomed to seeing. And in the print-on-demand world, non-standard formatting will almost certainly cost more to produce and may not even be an option. 


4. The Earlier You Start Marketing, the Better


In traditional publishing, the tempo of production is much slower than in the self-publishing industry. That gives traditionally published writers more time to do marketing and build interest in their upcoming books.

Indie writers should take this lesson to heart, and start marketing as early as possible in the process. List building, cover reveals, social media page takeovers and other strategies work great for indies. Do not leave these promotional efforts to the last minute. The moment you decide to write a book is the moment you should begin marketing it. 


5. Publishing Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint


Writing a book is a long and complicated process, regardless of genre or the author’s experience and skill. The traditional path typically takes upward of two years, while a key benefit of self publishing is faster speed to market, measured in months, rather than years. 

That said, why rush the production of your book? Good planning and thoughtful execution, whether you do it yourself or utilize the services of editing, design and marketing professionals, are much more likely to positively impact the book’s success than cutting corners to save a few weeks or dollars.

Your book is your baby. Care for it as such and you will be proud to call it your own.