Alternative Routes to Publishing

Alternative Routes to Publishing

As the writer types The End at the conclusion of her novel, her thoughts naturally turn to getting her work published. Her first instinct, naturally, is to look for an agent or publisher, the traditional route to literary stardom, but the world has changed so massively that these opportunities are diminishing. The fact of the matter is that there are too many writers writing too many books and publishers, running a commercial business, are unlikely to take the financial risk involved in promoting the work of an unknown author, no matter the quality of their work.

It is inevitable then that the new writer, having invested so much time and effort, will look for alternatives and luckily modern technology now offers these.


The first option would be to self-publish and this, at one time, would only have been available to those with a substantial bank account. To self-publish to a professional standard would once have required the services of a proof-reader, an editor, a typesetter, a printer, a storage facility, a distributor and some means of publicity and promotion.


Print On Demand (POD) technology has taken some of the pain out of this scenario and companies such as Createspace and Lulu exist to help writers with their self-publishing journey. Some financial investment will still be required, but not on the order of the thousands that would be required to publish traditionally. The POD system works on the principle of a book only being printed and bound once a buyer has been found for it and this will inevitably lead to delays in the retail process.

Some of the financial investment required will go towards an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) but note that this not an absolute requirement, merely a cataloguing system allowing bookstores and libraries to find a particular book. Assuming that the writer takes on the tasks of proofing and editing their own work and a POD company assumes responsibility for the actual printing the flaw in this system lies at the end of the supply chain, in marketing the book.

Using the vast reach of the internet some writers have attempted to promote their work through websites, blogs, forums and social media such as Facebook or Twitter. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of this, but it does have the major advantage of being free. If a book is lucky enough to build up a core readership who, in turn, promote it through the net there is every possibility that news of it will go ‘viral’ and lead to further sales. A small outlay on Google Adwords might also attract potential readers.


The second option is to take the book away from the world of print all together by publishing an e-book, thereby bypassing printers, storage and distributors. With a cover designed and some free software it is very easy to create an e-book in Adobe’s pdf format. Other e-book formats such as html or Mobipocket can also be created with free software but some, such as Desktop Author need to be bought, though the price is not particularly high.

But again, with an e-book created entirely at no cost, the writer now faces the challenge of getting the book into the public eye. The individual author is never going to be able to match the financial clout of the promotional budget of traditional publishers, so the prospects of a self-published best-seller are slim.