Further to the below . . . Logical conclusion: a sidelist alongside the main CBe books. For books which are absolutely good but which don’t exactly fit the CBe profile or/and for which I simply don’t have the money to fund myself. And for which the finances would be different: the writers themselves pay the printer and pay CBe a one-off fee for everything involved in producing and publishing the book, in return for which they get all the sales income.
In that the financial risk is taken by the writers themselves, this is self-publishing. In that the books have been chosen by CBe, come out under the CBe imprint, are sold through the CBe sales channels, etc, it’s conventional publishing.
Any publisher could do this. It’s very possible it’s happening already – but without the details being disclosed, neither publisher nor author willing to be associated with anything that smacks of self-publishing. Because self-publishing, for generally good reasons, is a term that booksellers, lit eds, everyone in the business, authors included, recoil from. But readers – as long as they like the book they’re reading, I don’t think readers give a damn about who’s paid for what.
When I try to put figures on this, figures that would mean it’s actually financially worth my while to put in the time and work, for books with small print runs the idea starts falling away. But right now there’s an increasing number of good books being turned down by mainstream publishers; and the smaller presses, while doing much of the work the big ones are giving up on (finding new writers, publishing for minority readerships, etc), have little money and can’t do everything; and in principle this seems to me a workable notion.
(PS: I did once suggest, to the Great and Good publisher I parted company from about four years ago, the idea of a Little Brother list – maybe half a dozen books a year; new writing, work in progress, the kind of work the estimate-sheets would normally tell the G-&-G publisher not to take on; single part-time editor, tiny advances, minimum production costs and publicity. Any work that was well received could move into the main list during the next season; and any work that failed to take off, well, at least it would have had its time in the sun, and no one would have lost any serious money. G-&-G, of course, wasn’t interested.)