Publish Your Book

tips and tools for writing, publishing, and marketing your book from Pete Nikolai (Publisher of Elm Hill and WestBow Press at HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Relationships Matter – Traditional Versus Self Publishing

In this day of social media, one of the factors that determines success for any author or publisher is having direct relationships with readers. Traditional publishers that have large platforms including popular websites, large email lists, and other large followings can use those resources to contribute to the success of their authors’ books.

series title of Traditional Versus Self-PublishingHowever, relying on a publisher’s resources builds a codependent relationship that is difficult to break, and most authors are expected to make substantial efforts and investments to reach their audiences even if they are traditionally published.

A self-published author is free to engage with their readers rather than being intermediated by a publisher (and usually by retailers too). Readers expect a high degree of engagement with authors so it is relatively easy for any author with readers to build their own platform rather than somebody else’s. However, doing so has both costs and benefits. Building and maintaining a platform can be time-consuming and expensive but gives you the opportunity to sell direct at high margins and provides a mechanism for immediate feedback.

By testing your ideas you can avoid spending a year or more writing hundreds of pages only to find out that very few people like your main character or feel the need for a book on the subject you’ve chosen. As you continue in the writing and publishing process, many other aspects of your book can be tested including cover, title, price, features, and even individual chapters. Bloggers have the luxury of knowing which of their blog posts have gotten the strongest response and can allow that understanding to guide their book’s development. When your book is published, your network of readers can be your best sales force if you give them tools to talk about your books and encourage them to do so.

How ready, willing, and able are you to engage with readers and continue to build your platform? Do you have a substantial platform that facilitates communication and relationships with thousands of readers, or do you need to utilize a publisher’s platform?

Do you have any questions or concerns? Shoot me a message via the About/Contact page and I’ll do my best to help.


The previous post in this series contrasts the benefits obtained from utilizing the expertise of traditional publishers with the control retained by self-publishing. The next post discusses the potential return on investment for authors that manage the publishing process themselves versus being traditionally published.




  1. Excellent advice Pete.

    Have you read ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries‎? The principals you espouse are very similar to what he suggests, although his focus isn’t publishing. But small, inexpensive testing, iterative development and so on.

    Alongside blogs, I would suggest a Facebook page. It takes a lot of work (as does a blog) to build up, but once you have the audience, you can test your writing with almost immediate feedback.

    Do you think there would be any interest if I were to write something about how authors might use Facebook, blogging etc.. to promote their writing?

    God bless,


    • Sure Mark–I would love your insights on how authors can promote their writing! I’ll have the team link to the post on the WestBow and Nelson social media too. I’ll reach out via email to work out the details. Thanks!

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