The Three Paths to Publishing


Since announcing that I’m going to have a fiction project published, curious friends and acquaintances have peppered me with questions. The one that comes up most often is “Why choose a small indie press?

Right now, the publishing industry is in flux. For writers looking to get their projects into bookstores, there are three viable paths to publishing. All three of them have their own advantages and disadvantages:

  • Self-publishing
  • Indie publishing
  • Traditional publishing

The self-publishing path is pretty much what it sounds like. Print-on-demand (POD) technology means that writers can get their books into print, and even get an ISBN number (necessary for getting the book into bookstores). The explosion in eBook readers like the Kindle and Nook means that a physical book isn’t a requirement to get your writing into the hands of readers.  Social media has made it easier for good writers to connect to readers and build a following to promote their work.

Independent publishing has always been around. But now, small presses benefit from the same technological advances that have made self-publishing a more viable option. Small presses can offer their strengths–professional editors and good distribution relationships–with lower overhead costs and greater agility than larger publishing houses. Especially for niche sub-genres and emerging markets that don’t have the volume to make sense for a larger publisher, indie publishing can work really well.

Traditional publishing is beginning to adapt.  While it’s been a slow transition, there are more opportunities for writers even at big traditional publishers now. The low cost of eBook production and promotion have caused traditional publishers to start digital publishing imprints. They’re also using the other two paths as a testing ground for talent: writer’s who’ve proven they can produce  work that sells on their own are a low risk investment.

I’m planning on writing more detailed posts on each of the three paths. I’ll also share a more of my personal “path to publishing”  including the story of the nonfiction book I didn’t write (why it didn’t work out, and why it might still work out eventually).

Stay tuned, campers. If you’ve got questions, drop me a comment. 🙂 I’ll be happy to offer whatever answers I can.


  1. ·

    My experience has been that self / POD is ok to get books into small indie bookstores, but don’t expect bigger stores and book store chains to stock POD books.
    I think if you’re self publishing you’re better focusing on the e-book unless you’re just jonesing for a hard physical copy of it.

  2. Kat French

    I agree, Chris. I see a lot of nonfiction POD from business guys who want a physical book to hand out at conferences and speaking engagements. And there’s nothing really wrong with that. But eBook makes so much more sense.

    Especially for fiction, and especially if you’re really prolific or write short stories or novellas, eBook self-publishing has a lot of advantages. There’s just not enough margin on short pieces to split it with a publisher…EXCEPT…

    Man, it’s good to have a professional editor, and a cover designer, etc. involved. You can hire those roles out when self-publishing, but I’m not sure if it makes more sense from the math standpoint.


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