Alternative Publishing 101
By Emma Regan and Jordan Maxwell Ridgway
Trade Publishing is often what first comes to mind in terms of the publishing industry, but there are many alternatives that might not be as well known. In this article, we will be exploring some of the many other types of publications that you can find.
Journals predominantly consist of academic research. Academic scholarship can be published in books and theses as well, yet recently there has been a transition from the print to the electronic format. When writing for academic journals, there are two distinct phases that begin after the author has submitted the manuscript: peer review and production. Journals are always peer-reviewed, whether it be a single-blind, double-blind or open peer reviewed by the journal editor. The production process is then controlled by a production editor, which includes copyediting, typesetting, inclusion, then publication. Papers can also be rejected; the higher the rejection rate, the more prestigious a journal is considered. The highest rejection rates are usually around 90–95%. Some examples of journals published in the UK are The Art Newspaper, Equinox Publishing, Oxfam Publishing GB and Berg Publishers.
Something that has arisen within publishing and popular culture is slash fiction. This is a genre of fanfiction that focuses on romantic/sexual relationships between fictional characters, primarily of the same gender. Because of this, slash fiction is considered important to the LGBTQ+ community. Fanfiction writers can either write about the characters in their own world or put them in a different setting entirely, creating separate stories for others to consume. Originally, slash fiction would be published in print and sold at fan conventions, but nowadays they can be found online for free on websites such as FanFiction.Net, Wattpad, and Archive of Our Own. The length can vary from “one-shots” (one chapter in length) to multi-chapters, and on rare occasions will even be published as physical books (with the characters and worlds tweaked to avoid copyright strikes).
Crowdfunding has become a more conventional way for up-and-coming authors to publish their work without needing an agent or advances from a publishing house to back their idea. It is similar to self-publishing, yet rather than publishing your book without knowing what will become of it, you will have already secured an audience that is highly anticipating your release and has essentially bought a copy before it has been published. Websites such as Kickstarter, Unbound and Pubslush offer this service with different variations on each site.
One form of alternative publishing that has seen a boom over the last decade is the publication of zines. Zines are self-published works, either by a person or a group of people, which tend to have a small circulation either in the hundreds or few thousands. Most zines tend to include short stories, poetry, short essays, illustrations and more. With its handmade quality, there is something unique and deeply personal about the zine. Often used as a platform for marginalised groups to find words and art that resonate with them, zines have allowed numerous people from a wide range of backgrounds to feel heard when they are otherwise made to feel voiceless or unrepresented in traditional media. Zines have provided outlets for the LGBTQ+ community, body-positive activists, science fiction and horror enthusiasts, the punk and feminist movements and Star Trek fans. Considered to have high academic value, zines provide a written tradition. Whether another effect of people needing a creative outlet during numerous lockdowns, the return of all things 90s or a sign of the burgeoning activism of our trying times, the zine is a treasured form of alternative publishing that won’t be out of print anytime soon.
Instapoetry and Twitterature
In contrast to the tangible copies of the zine, the rise of social media has led to the emergence of Instapoetry and Twitterature, forms of publishing that are only a click away. For example, Rupi Kaur’s self-published collection, milk and honey, is one of the most prominent examples of Instapoetry, and has served as an inspiration for what poetry can be. Many Instapoets come from unrepresented backgrounds, whilst Twitterature has drawn numerous well-known authors such as Neil Gaiman and David Mitchell into collaborative and experimental works. Social media provides both access and creative challenges for writers, and it is likely experimentation with social media as a form of publication will only grow.
Ultimately, alternative publishing is largely born out of a need for connection. It allows for the undocumented, the marginalised and the dismissed to finally be heard. It redefines what it means to be a writer by opening the possibilities of finding a readership. The alternative publishing team looks forward to being able to connect you to all the different and wonderful forms of alternative publishing the world has to offer.