Giving It Away: Scout Publishing

(Every now and then I have ideas that I think I’ll do something with, but, for some reason, they never really materialize the way I want them to. So, I’ve decided to simply give them away. All I ask is that you think of me fondly if you make it rich off one of these ideas.)

Scout Publishing is an idea I had once I realized I could make ebooks on my own with an inexpensive program called Jutoh, and that it could answer three issues I thought were important. The first was that the Big Six publishing houses (Random House, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Macmillan, Hachette, Harpercollins – it could be stretched to 7 if we include Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) were cutting back on the number of first time authors they were signing. The second was that no matter how valorous and adventurous the smaller presses might be, they are only able to publish so many books a year and, perhaps, are even more reliant upon their first-time authors turning a profit – especially considering the cost of traditionally published books – than the big publishers. The third issue was that at the same time a number of organizations and writers were wringing their hands over the fate of the literary novel, we have also been losing print outlets for other fictional forms (short stories & novellas) that could, if we presented them properly, compete with other entertainments.

There are already a number of publishers that produce ebooks only. There are even a number of “independent authors” (a nice euphemism I may write about later), who simply release their own books on places like Smashwords, or through Amazon’s self-publishing model Createspace. And, of course, a rare few are successful and get the attention of one of the Big Six publishers. However, that profit comes after those successful writers have paid cover designers, freelance editors, and perhaps online marketing groups to help them shill their product as professionally as possible. Consequently, those same people, when offered a contract by a traditional publisher, jump at it because, despite some indy writer’s paranoias about copyright, they realize they can spend a whole lot more time writing if someone else handles that layout, design, editing, and marketing of the books they’ve finished (as for rights, well, any contract is negotiable, and if an indy writer has the chutzpah to self-publish well enough to get the notice of one of the big publishers, then I’m sure that person has enough savvy to properly negotiate a contract so the author’s rights to his or her work are properly protected).

My concept was to take the ebook-only approach and publish unknown, previously unpublished, or under published authors and make “micro-collections” of short stories (3-5 pieces, no more than 100 pages combined), novellas (120 pages max), micro-collections of poetry (5-10 poems, no more than 20 pages combined), or “epic poems.” These ebooks would then be sold on iBooks, Amazon, Google, etc and would cost between $2.00 and $4, depending on length. There would be no advance, but the author would immediately be eligible for royalties. I hadn’t decided on the contract language or a royalty structure, but was considering anything from 50/50 up to 70/20 for the author.

Here’s why it would be good for writers: It would allow them an outlet for their odd-sized writing and give them a way to build an audience and turn a small profit while they are trying to get a longer work published.

Here’s why it would be good for readers: All readers like to discover “new” writers, but sometimes, even a $9 dollar, 300 page ebook might be too much of an investment of money and time when there’s a risk of it being terrible; however, an ebook of three short stories under $4, might be something an adventurous reader might take an chance on.

So, there it is. Take it. Run with it. See what you can do with it.


About Jason Quinn Malott

I am the author of "The Evolution of Shadows" (Unbridled Books, 2009), host of The Outrider Podcast, and the one-time publisher and editor of the now defunct not-for-profit indie 'zine called The Project for a New Mythology. I have a BA in creative writing from Kansas State University and an MFA in writing and poetics from Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. View all posts by Jason Quinn Malott

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