[OPINION] Traditional Or E-Publishing: Options For First-Time Authors


Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Ultimately, the dream of every writer is to get published. But the odds just seem all ganged up against you: no publisher is prepared to invest in your manuscript; no veteran author is willing to give you a referral; you have little or no capital to self-publish; and there is no guarantee that anyone would read your book for free, let alone buy it.

Can you relate?

You know what they say about the rich getting richer and the poorer sinking deeper into penury? Sadly, it applies to authors too. Everyone wants to read big-wig authors. No one listens to the beginners, even if they write better.

In my opinion, there’re two alternative publishing paths you can thread as a first-time author: traditional publishing or electronic publishing.

To go for the traditional publishing, you’ll need: a huge capital (or publishing contract); a strong network of bookshops, literary clubs, writers’ groups, etc.; lots of marketing time; and a prominent name within the literary circle (of course it’s possible to break big into the market without the name, but that’s the exception, not the rule)

My guess is: you have no huge budget, no raving fans, no publisher’s support, no connection with influencers … and no famed name in the publishing industry.

My first published book – an anthology of poems – was published traditionally. Even though the book made a great read (no bragging!), it was published on debt and it didn’t sell well. Why? Because we lacked the above prerequisites of traditional publishing. I know a couple of friends who have threaded this path too and tasted failure.

Ultimately, the bitter irony about traditional publishing is: if you want real publishing success, get loyal fans first; if you want loyal fans, get publishing success first.

E-publishing on the other hand, offers a first-time author more chances of success. But it’s neither a lazy man’s path nor a get-published-quick scheme. The gains will come slowly, but surely.

To go for e-publishing, you’ll need: a platform (blog) where you build and engage with readers and fans; generous and regular publishing of valuable blog posts to prove your competence; and the patience to slowly earn the trust of your audience (the Internet is congested with bad guys; so they won’t hand you cash if they don’t trust you).

This model works excellently for first-time authors … any beginner author at all!

And going about it is simple as eating fried rice. All you need do is:

  • Open a blog
  • Choose a niche (area of focus) that would interest the type of audience you want to build
  • Write and publish quality contents for free daily, or twice weekly, or weekly
  • Help, inspire and impact the lives of your audience
  • After building a sizeable audience (e.g., 1500 email subscribers), publish your manuscript as an ebook without spending a kobo.

You’ll not sell up to 500 copies of the book instantly. But you’ll definitely sell an encouraging number of copies. I published my second premium book, Vertical Writing, this way, and the process works so well that anyone can do it.

Many first-time authors are realizing this and taking this path. The good news: your ebook can become a passive stream of income in the long run. Within few months, you could publish another ebook and still sell more.

Your blog and ebooks (if they have great values) will fetch you money, raving fans, connections with publishers and influencers, and a prominent name in the literary circle. And these are the exact prerequisites you need for traditional publishing.

Ultimately, e-publishing can be antecedent and complementary to traditional publishing. If you ask me, it’s the surest path to traditional publishing success, aside being a great, independent publishing option in its own right.

So don’t be scared of e-publishing. It works. And it starts with opening a blog and giving away quality contents for free.


@Oxygenmat is a writing coach and social entrepreneur. Find him on his website, Naija Writers’ Coach and on Twitter, @Oxygenmat


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