10 Helpful Publishing Options to Expose Your Work to the World
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Often the writing, daunting as it may seem sometimes, is the easy part about writing. Even editing can be easier than deciding how to publish. There are so many options today and each has benefits and limitations. It’s important to understand each option and what it offers at what cost before choosing a publishing route. After all, getting your work out into the world for others to read and enjoy is the goal, right? Let’s look at ten different ways to get your work into the world.
Traditional Publishing with one of the Big 5 Publishers
Benefits: The first, and in some people’s minds biggest, benefit is the perception of legitimacy and having “made it” in the writing world. Also, because the big five publishers have in-house editing, cover design, etc., these become things authors no longer have to figure out on their own. Finally, because the publisher handles so much, authors may think they can focus more on writing more than other aspects of being an author.
Limitations: The biggest limitation is authors generally cannot approach a big five publisher without an agent. So, it adds a layer to the process that authors need to focus on—finding an agent. Between this and the number of authors trying to land that contract with a big five publisher, the next limitation is this can be a very difficult way to get your work published. Finally, authors may experience a lack of control with this method. The publishers get control over release dates, cover art, marketing, and the like.
Is this the right way for you? If so, here is some advice from Nancy Miller on helping you find an agent.
Small Press Publishing
Benefits: One of the bigger benefits of a small press route for publication is authors don’t need agents, they can submit on their own. This saves a significant amount of work for many authors, which leads to the next benefit. Authors tend to find it easier to get their work published by going to a small press. Because many small presses are founded and run by authors, there is often a sympathetic editor reading work and generally wanting to help other authors as much as possible. Another benefit is that small presses will have editors and graphic designers to do the editing, layouts, covers, etc. While authors will still need to help with some of this, authors find they get more input on these aspects of seeing their work in print. Finally, there is still that recognition of having “made it” in the publishing world.
Limitations: While small presses have some of the same ability to take some of the “non-writing” aspects of publishing on, authors will still have to help with this. Even the big five publishers are asking more of authors than they used to do. Marketing is one of the big aspects of publishing authors need to help with, particularly with small presses. Another limitation for some authors is the control factor. Because authors are selling their work to the press, the press gets at least some control over covers, editing, and marketing strategies, which can be problematic for some authors. Finally, even though it can be easier, it still can be a challenge to get in with a small press as there are many authors who work toward publication using this route.
Benefits: Many see the biggest benefit of this route to publication being it gets an author’s work out there with no waiting. As soon as an author has everything ready, he or she can publish it. Another benefit to this route is the author gets complete control over the project. Covers, editing, marketing, publication schedules, etc. are all in the author’s hands to make the project exactly what the author envisions.
Limitations: First, that control factor can also be a limitation for authors. Authors need to make all those decisions and do much of that work or hire someone. This can lead to feeling like more time is spent on these other things rather than the writing. Also, it means authors need to know quite a bit more than how to write a story. The other major drawback of this way to seeing work in print is many people don’t consider indie publishing a “legitimate” way of being published. The reasons for this go well beyond this article. Suffice it to say, there is a reputation out there that indie published books are not as high quality as books published by a press.
Do you think this route is for you? Here is a helpful article from Heidi Angell on marketing your work.
Benefits: One of the biggest benefits of a blog is that it gets an author’s work out there immediately with no worries about covers, layout, and the like. The feeling of progress and immediate feedback in the form of comments can be motivating for authors. Another benefit is this method can be entirely cost free, which can be an important factor for new authors. There are even options for monetizing a blog to bring in some income this way. Finally, this can be a good way to build readers. Having a solid fan base can be helpful when submitting to a press or agent.
Limitations: There are upwards of 152 million blogs out there right now. Many are dead, but that’s still a huge number, which means a lot of competition. So, getting those readers and that attention to a specific blog can be challenging. Another concern is making sure the blog looks good. For some authors, this can be scary and/or daunting, and an amateurish looking blog can turn readers off rather than attracting them. Finally, it can be limited in ways to present work. For example, novels published on a blog have to either be done as serial posts or tend to be too big to be posted on a blog.
Feeling like this is where you want to start? Here’s a helpful article from Julia Allen.
Magazines and Literary Journals
Benefits: Many of the benefits here are similar to publishing with a big five publisher or a small press. The press helps with editing, formatting, etc. Also, there is an automatic readership established through the subscriptions to the magazine or journal. Journals and magazines may be easier to get something accepted in for some, and there’s no agent needed.
Limitations: With magazines and literary journals, there are usually themes to the issues. This means authors need to write specific to a journal and an issue. The best way to get a rejection letter from a lit journal or magazine is to not follow the themes they’re looking for. Another limitation is length. Authors who like to write more will likely struggle with this avenue as space is at a premium in journals and magazines. Finally, this is an avenue that tends to have quite a bit of competition, so while some find it may be easier to break into, for others it can be challenging.
Formatting is a must with these submissions, so if you haven’t read it yet and want to try this route, here’s the link for the article on formatting again.
Benefits: This is the most rapidly growing area for publication out there. So, getting in on this wave can be a huge plus in some authors’ minds. More and more people are turning to audiobooks for their literary needs, which will give an author a greater chance at catching readers’ attentions. Another benefit for this avenue is that it changes the traditional writing process. Things like formatting are not as critical anymore, though it does not mean an author can skip the editing steps. Those are still vital to a successful writing project.
Limitations: One of the biggest limitations to this avenue is finding an appropriate narrator. The narrator will be the piece in this puzzle that will make or break a writer’s project, so finding the right one may end up challenging and potentially expensive. Another limitation is that not everyone likes audiobooks, just like not everyone likes ebooks. Doing an audiobook format only will limit how many potential readers an author can attract. Plus, the distribution potential is still limited compared to ebooks and hard copies, though growing, in this area.
If you’re considering going down the audiobook road, here’s some helpful advice from Joanne Penn of the Creative Penn.
Benefits: Writing competitions are numerous, thus reasonably easy to find one that fits just about any author’s work. This makes writing competitions a direction most any author can take. Often there are prizes involved, not just for first place but for other levels as well. This can be a good incentive and help authors fund other ways of gaining exposure. Another nice benefit is this approach does not need things like covers and marketing. Authors can focus on writing and editing before submitting. Also, this approach allows authors to be completely independent. Again, the freedom of scheduling, editing, where and when to submit, etc. is in the sole control of the author.
Limitations: Competitions, by definition, tend to have lots of competition. This means, again, there can be challenges to having work out for the public to read. Also, the editing is still something that needs to be done. Authors are on their own for this step when submitting to competitions. Finally, many competitions have an entry fee—this is where the prizes come from. Now, not all competitions do, so read the fine print to keep from being surprised.
Competitions sound like a good possibility? Here’s a link to Reedsy’s list of some writing competitions to check out.
Benefits: Yes, there are benefits to vanity publishing if authors go into it knowing what to expect from this direction. Foremost, it is a guaranteed way to get published. This is can provide a sense of success needed to keep an author writing. Also, there are often people at the vanity press that will help with things like covers and formatting. For authors that struggle with these pieces of publishing, this can be helpful.
Limitations: The biggest limitation to vanity publishing is the cost. Authors pay all of that up front. No contract means each service used through the vanity press will be an additional fee. Another concern for some is the quality of product received for the money. This will vary from press to press and should be considered. Check whether editing is an option with the press or not and how much it would cost to have this option. If not, don’t skip this step and it will be another cost associated with publication. Finally, there is still the marketing and such to do for the project. Vanity Presses may offer ways to help with this, but again there is likely a cost associated with it.
Want to try your hand at vanity publishing? Here’s some more information.
Benefits: What I’m talking about here are sites like Wattpad.com, Inkitt.com, figment.com, kindleworlds, amazon.com, and other similar sites. They can be a great option. Like blogs, gaining readers and feedback is instantaneous. A site like Patreon.com even allows for readers to “pay” in support of authors. The flexibility of these sites allows for fast publication and varying lengths, which can be appealing. Kindle Worlds is a good example of an immediate option for authors who write fan fiction and want to be recognized for this genre, which can be hard in more mainstream options.
Limitations: Perhaps the biggest limitation is that many presses, both small and big five, consider publication on these sites to be published. This means they cannot buy first rights to a piece. Not all presses will publish reprints, which is what it would be after being published on one of these sites for many presses. The other issue that seems to be bigger going this way compared to others is one of plagiarism. Now, each of these sites handles things differently so the risk of plagiarism varies from site to site. It is something to keep in mind going this route.
Benefits: Some authors go this way because it allows them to write in multiple genres without worrying about readers—how they may react, will they cross over to another genre for that author, etc. This can help authors hone their skills before publishing under their own name. Another benefit for some authors is that the person hiring the author can help lineup editors, publishers, cover artists, etc. This can let the ghostwriter focus on the content they are writing instead.
Limitations: The big limitation many see with this avenue is that the ghostwriter’s name is nowhere on the work. The work is the ghostwriter’s, but the public has no notion of this. Therefore, the recognition of being an author is limited to non-existent with this avenue. Also, while the ghostwriter can focus on the writing, he or she still needs to conform to the expectations of the author who hired him or her. Creativity and flexibility in the project may be limited, depending on the willingness of the author to allow the ghostwriter some control over the project.
Think this is an option for you? Here’s help from The Write Life on how to break into the ghostwriting world.
There you have it—ten ways in which to get your work out there. Each has benefits, and each has limitations. I am sure I’ve missed benefits and limitations to each of these methods, and there are always exceptions to the general rule. Just make sure you go into whatever option you choose with the information necessary to make a good decision. What is a great fit for one author may be a terrible fit for another, so weigh them out and decide what is the best fit for you.
Stacy Overby is a child-chasing, teenager-wrangling, author and poet who hangs out in Minnesota with her family when she’s not writing. She and her social media links can be found at www.thisisnothhitchhikersguide.wordpress.com and her work for sale can be found at www.thisisnothhitchhikersguide.wordpress.com/category/published-works
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