If you've ever thought of writing a book, making a film, producing your own music, here's an interesting scheme. You can now self publish on Amazon, at virtually no cost. Amazon CreateSpace
I see a kind of double irony here, in that what many will dismiss as vanity publishing might actually be of most benefit to established authors, and that the very mainstream that helped establish those authors is what makes it possible for them to use - or even switch - to this system.
For those authors who already have a presence on Amazon, thanks to success in the mainstream, it would be relatively easy to add an extra title or two to any existing list. Past promotion will have given such writers a profile, they get Googled, there's a ready and waiting market for their work. A 30% royalty is likely to be a lot higher than any publishing house can offer them, so what's to lose?
Standards, possibly. More bookshops probably. But there could be gains as well, and not just in fiscal terms. I've spent a working lifetime in children's publishing, and have survived by writing and illustrating to a 'market', always going for the idea that seems most commercial, always thinking in terms of the broadest appeal, always producing material that I hope will work in translation. No apologies for that, but this scheme provides an opportunity to be a little more experimental, and adventurous. Poetry, for instance, is an area I'd never go anywhere near, likewise short stories, likewise local history. No mainstream publisher will buy material for which there is no broad market, and I can't afford to spend time on work that I'm unlikely to sell. But the Amazon scheme makes it tempting to try something a bit different. OK, there are no advances on offer, and there's still time and money involved in producing any piece of work - professional editing costs, for instance, should be factored in to any project - but I would certainly give this some thought.
For years we've been bemoaning the fact that publishing has narrowed, that commercialism rules, and that the bestseller lists are the be-all and end-all. Could it be that Amazon, of all institutions, will be responsible for a renaissance in specialist and limited appeal works, and actually end up enriching a culture that many have accused it of helping to destroy?