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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

New Ends & New Beginnings: Reflecting Upon the Groundwork Laid Out For Us By Our Predecessors

By Chloë Marshall, Natalie Klinkenberg, Frankie Harnett and Mishelle Kennady

 

For The Publishing Post’s 100th edition, we look back to our very first article covering the alternative publishing space, an ‘Alternative Publishing 101’, where we explored five publishing models which diverge from the traditional ‘trade’ presses we might be more familiar with. We wanted to revisit this piece to update it and to give our own take on these original, often innovative and sometimes markedly contemporary alternatives to big commercial publishers.

 

Journals

 

While academic research makes up a large portion of journals within alternative publishing, literary journals and magazines make up a hefty amount as well. These publications were made to foster literature and differ from commercial magazines by publishing short fiction, poetry, book reviews and author interviews. One of the most notable literary journals is The Paris Review which emphasises fiction and poetry, undermining the criticism that this literature belongs in the back of other magazines. Their inaugural issue states that they “welcome [writers] into its pages…so long as they’re good” (The Paris Review). Literary journals are a gateway for writers to showcase their work and build an audience if they’re just starting out. With thousands of literary journals out there, each with different missions and messages to share, there is bound to be something for every writer and reader to indulge in.

 

Slash Fiction

 

Slash Fiction is a fanfiction genre highlighting romantic or sexual relationships between fictional characters of the same gender. The first ever published slash fiction was A Fragment Out of Time by Diane Marchant, which centred around Kirk and Spock from the Star Trek fandom and popularised the sub-genre. The piece was published in an adult Star Trek zine called Grup, however, many people in the Star Trek fandom space don’t regard the piece as the first published slash of Kirk/Spock. The two-page excerpt was not meant to be printed but due to a miscommunication, Marchant’s words circulated and inadvertently created the Slash sub-genre.

 

Crowdfunding 

 

The crowdfunding of literary projects is a model that has been around since well before the internet: an early example is the Enlightenment-Age poet and translator Alexander Pope, who used a subscription-reward model for his translation of Homer’s Iliad into English. Crowdfunding publishing looks very different today, due to its reliance on complex, decentralised campaign models facilitated by technology, but the principle hasn’t changed. There are just more players in the game! For both emerging and established authors, crowdfunding allows community support to drive projects which might not otherwise receive recognition.

 

However, crowdfunding isn’t always as democratic and ‘alternative’ as it sounds. Some well-known platforms such as Publishizer work more as a ‘precursor’ to more traditional publishing streams; gathering audience contributions to fund the marketing of a book before its submission for publication, then working primarily as an agency, sourcing funding for pre-orders and publishing deals. Unbound, on the other hand, offers more comprehensive editorial services and for this reason is quite selective – not all campaigns will have the opportunity to crowdfund and the onus is on the author to drum up interest for their project. However, Unbound also holds a partnership with Penguin Random House, which takes care of their sales and distribution in the trade market, as well as offering a “back-door route” (Medium) for crowdfunded authors to be recognised by traditional publishers. Crowdfunding is low-risk, market-sensitive and potentially very profitable for both authors and the platforms, but not all sites suit all projects, and not all projects succeed.

 

Zines

 

Another popular form of alternative publishing are zines. These are usually handmade, self-published works with a small print run. Being circulated for very little or for free, zines are printed as an outlet or as part of a conversation, rather than being motivated by profit. They usually feature unconventional topics, including sci-fi, punk and rock movements and the LGBTQIA+ community. 


Dating back to the 1930s, most people identify The Comet as the first zine, which began a long tradition of sci-fi zines that has continued to this day. As attitudes shifted, so too did the central topics of the zine. They became a form of expression for the rock music community in the 1960s and the punk movement in the 1980s, before taking shape in the form of the Riot grrrl phenomenon in the 1990s. Today, the largest collection of zines is housed at the Edinburgh Zine Library and designated zine fests have developed internationally to celebrate the medium, a list of which can be found here.

 

Insta-poetry and Twitterature

 

New media such as Insta-poetry and Twitterature have solidified themselves as legitimate forms of writing since their onset. One famous example is Ryōichi Wagō’s Pebbles of Poetry. What first started as a thread on Twitter was eventually published in one of Japan’s most important poetry journals: the Handbook of Contemporary Poetry. 

 

Ryōichi Wagō’s Twitter poetry shared his personal experiences and insights amidst dealing with the Fukushima 3/11 accident, which included the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. By exploring Twitter as a medium, the immediacy and character limitations within the features relay a narrowed but meaningful and highly personal look into living in Minami Sōma and the northeastern Tōhoku region.

 

Twitter’s unique position as a social app helped pave the way for Wagō’s content to be consumed by those outside his intended audience. Pebbles of Poetry offered a mode virtually unachievable within traditional printed media and broke the constraints placed on length or genre – not being limited to telling only a narrative-based or informational story. Freedom of speech and the ability to make infinite posts granted an opportunity to cover the disaster unbridled through his eyes.

 

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