- Each house is responsible for writing, selecting, editing, formatting, reviewing, releasing, and promoting its own portfolio of fictions.
- All publications are e-books, thereby minimizing both time and cost of production compared to traditional publishing.
- Collectively the writer-owners ensure the quality and the coherence of vision of their offerings, avoiding the scattershot approach of self-publishing on the one hand and the overemphasis on commercial criteria imposed by the for-profit publishing industry on the other.
- All revenues are distributed among the writer-owners of the publishing houses.
Writers in the e-book era have all the abilities required to take a book from initial idea to finished product. They are confronted with two options, neither of which is satisfactory:
- Traditional publishing takes on responsibility for performing many of the non-writerly tasks, but the writers cede a great degree of control over to the industry.
- The self-publisher exerts control but loses the benefits of organized collaboration.
By forming collective publishing houses, writers retain control over their work while gaining organizational efficiencies and collaborative synergies. The collaboratives combine the benefits of small and large organizations:
- Small boutique operations give shape to distinct house styles and editorial standards.
- Affiliations between boutiques build a critical mass of book offerings and extend reach into the world of readers, while also creating possibilities for spawning hybrid collaborative projects.
Challenges and Opportunities
Finding the writers. Writers tend to be solo practitioners, relying on agents and publishers to bring them together. However, writers do cluster together in creative writing programs at universities and in local writers’ groups. These already-existing collectives could form the basis for boutique publishing houses.
Finding the readers. The traditional publishing industry has access to a widespread distribution network of bookstores, selling books one at a time to readers. Because there is no cost to copy or distribute e-books, alternative economic models can be explored in cooperation with readers, treating books not as commodities but as cultural assets.
Finding the worth. Writing fiction is not a reliable way to make a living. The syndicate of boutiques likely won’t change that situation. However, in asserting collective control over their own work, writers can prioritize other sources of value: autonomy and collaboration, art and meaning, excellence and distinctiveness.