The question that came to my mind when I read this is why don’t the big publishers have an e-book only (or e-book + POD) imprint? Surely, all the editors who rejected that book for traditional publishing can’t be idiots, so lets assume that the book was too big a risk to publish the usual way. Why don’t the big publishers take the “not quite good enough for ‘real’ publishing” manuscripts, put them through a low-cost assembly line (copyediting, cover art, etc.) and send them to Amazon and B and N? They could charge a lower price for these ‘inferior’ goods and make a ton of money. I am increasingly convinced that if you are a stockholder in a traditional publishing house, you should be suing the company for corporate malpractice (that’s a joke, I know our host is a lawyer).
This prompted David Forbes to say:
I love William’s idea of e-book only imprints. Though the standard publisher stance at the moment is that it’s not that much cheaper *for them* to do e-books since only 25%, or thereabouts, is tied up with the actual physical media.
That’s what needs to change. Publishers have to *dramatically* lower some of their so-called “fixed” costs so that they *can* create e-book only imprints that can get books to market in weeks to a month or two rather a year to a year and a half. Time will tell if they realize this before Amazon and others eat their lunch.
Which in turn led Ockham to state:
If the publishers want to lie to themselves and say it isn’t much cheaper to publish e-books, there’s not much that can be done, but as our host points out, publishing is not a healthy business. The slush pile is an asset that can be converted very easily into a brand new revenue stream.
Remember, an editor has read these manuscripts and should have a fairly good idea which ones can be turned into a decent quality e-book for $5,000 or less. Pay no advances, but give the authors a 50-50 royalty split ($3 on our $6 e-book). If you figure the distributor (Amazon, et al.) gets $1, that leaves $2 a copy for the publisher. If these editors can’t pick manuscripts that will sell 3,000 copies in a year, why do they have jobs?
They should be able to do this with essentially zero risk. They need to start now while their name still means something.
I think this idea has merit. Anyone else have a reaction?