Great news for budding literary types: These days, you don’t need to go through the laborious process of finding a publisher.

With a little cash, why not distribute your book online in a manner akin to 50 Shades of Grey, the self-published smash hit that was developed from Twilight fan fiction? While erotic fiction may not be your cup of tea, the novel’s runaway success proves that anything is possible with the right marketing and distribution.

Since 2006, the practice of self-publishing has nearly tripled, according to a new Bowker report. It has grown 287 percent in the past six years, and numbers are expected to continue to escalate. The study also found that that while production increases have occurred in both print and digital formats, the latter is responsible for the greatest percentage gains.

“It’s provided everyone who has a story to tell with a method for sharing it and leveled the playing field to an unprecedented degree,” said Beat Barblan, the director of identifier services for Bowker, an affiliate of research provider ProQuest in a statement. “This is no longer just vanity presses at work – self-publishing is out of the dark corners and making its way into the mainstream.”

If you don’t have the cash to publish your work, authors are increasingly turning to Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites. These campaigns are not always successful, as Mashable reports. However, we’ve seen a number of recent successes — one author raised over $15,000 last month for a book about “10 startups with 5 CEO girls, 5 CEO guys and their race for funding and fun.”

The ideas that tend to strike a chord with backers address the topics of business and entrepreneurship. Read more here about whether Kickstarter can help to replace traditional book publishers.

For online distributors, the indomitable rise of self-publishing means more ways to make money.  Smashwords, a site that sells e-books from independent authors, produced a massive 40,608 titles (nearly 47 percent of total self-published e-books) in 2011, says the report. Novelists can also distribute their book on Amazon or the Apple Store.

That said, barriers to entry can still stymie the self-publisher: It takes time to write a book. Traditional publishers are willing to front the “advance” — the $20,000 to $100,000 it takes to forgo a salary. But if Kickstarter users can convince enough people to commit to purchasing a copy, the equivalent of an advance could be generated through crowdfunding.

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