Thursday, December 24, 2009

Alternatives to Major Publishers by Vivian Zabel

First, I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. A Christmas story written by me to share with you can be found on Brain Cells & Bubble Wrap.

I usually write about tips that tie directly to writing or reading mysteries. This time I want to talk about getting a book published, no matter what the genre.

Many authors dream, as well as work very hard, to get a book published. The problem is there are many more hopeful writers than available slots in the few major publishing firms. The number of major firms has shrunk over the years as one merges with another. Finally major publishers prefer going with authors whose names already trigger the attention of the public. What then should a writer do who wants to be published and have a book to market? Various alternatives exist to trying to go through a major publishing company: small-press companies; DIY, do it yourself; or independent publishers. The first step in marketing a book is for it to be published.

According to various sources on the Internet, only six to eight major large publishing corporations now exist, if their subsidiaries are not counted separately. However, Publishers Weekly estimates that more than 7,000 new publishers form each year, giving writers options for seeing their books in print.

Small-press companies don’t have the funding to pay large, or sometimes any, advances, but according to Judith Rosen in September 2006 The Writer, they can deliver big books. A small-press can be an alternative to the frustrations of a major company or can be a stepping stone to a large corporate house.

Independent presses don’t accept everything from fiction to non-fiction, from science fiction to science, from mystery to romance. They usually specialize in rather narrow areas. But one publisher or more covers every genre and area of publishing. One place to find small presses is through the membership of The Small Press Center for Independent Publishing. Another is page 52 of The Writer, September 2006.

Robert S. Nahas, in his book How to Get a Book Published states that a decade ago, self-publishing (or DIY) was viewed as a joke, and many people considered self-published authors were not really published authors. He goes on to write, “... but today there is a much different climate ... As more and more self-published authors have begun to reap impressive, and sometimes staggering, sales over the past seven or eight years, the world has begun to take notice of the amazing successes.” Note that he is not speaking of “Vanity Publishing,” but of works that have been professionally prepared with thorough editing and formatting.

Another type of publishing is electronic publishing, whether as DIY or through an electronic publishing company. Although books on line didn’t become the replacement for hard copy books as predicted in the past, they are starting to become more popular as time passes.

As with any business venture, a writer needs to research any company he or she considers working with. All should be careful of scams, but anyone willing to write and prepare a well-written manuscript has more opportunities than ever to take the first step toward marketing a book by being able to have it published.


1. Robert S. Nahas, How to Get a Book Published, pages 33 - 54.

2. Robin Nobles, Publishing companies on the Internet,

3. Judith Rosen, “Small-press success,” The Writer, September 2006

4. “Publishing,” Wikipedia

5. “Publisher,” Wikipedia

Vivian Zabel
Brain Cells & Bubble Wrap


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Great post, Vivian! Yes, there's many smaller publishers out there in very niche markets who are quite successful - and many more profitable than the big boys!

Merry Christmas!

Morgan Mandel said...

True. Some markets have closed, while others have opened up and gained more recognition.

Tenacity and talen are the keys to finding your niche.

Morgan Mandel

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Both my publishers are small who do both trade-paperback and e-books. I've been published by a major publisher and many other small publishers. I'm quite happy where I am today.

Marilyn Meredith

Vivian Zabel said...

I'm glad that there are small presses who do quality work, many times better than what is coming out of the major publishing houses.