Big Idea: Bringing Instincts Back to Book Acquisitions
Why not create ebook imprints focused on editorially-championed titles, hoping that some books will find larger audiences than marketing and sales predicted. This becomes a form of affordable test-marketing for publishers (their own R&D) and allows them to bring their editorial expertise to authors who may deserve to be published, but not under the riskier hardcover and paperback advance payment pathways. Forget about crowd-sourcing and contests; do what you already do well but confined to the ebook realm. More breakout books in the publisher system would be good for overall business health, especially as the print and digital readership mix continues unfolding in ways no one can predict.
This is a recommendation to create a farm system in support of your own imprints, knowing full well how subjective reading tastes are. The costs to run these imprints should be kept very small. Two-person teams work well on new challenges. An ebook from the farm system must first prove it warrants subsequent release in paperback under this model. Possibly it will deserve print-on-demand availability as that method expands, but not pre-printed. This has the additional benefit to publishers of further building your own database of digital readers, which can be shared with other in-house imprints for marketing their titles. Learning can be shared both ways.
All this would allow for the rebalancing of artistic instincts versus market-driven book acquisitions, which many publishing people desire for the sake of a more entrepreneurial environment.
Caleb Mason is the Founder and Publisher of Publerati.