Modern technology, which greatly simplifies self-publishing, raises the possibility that the conventional market structure may be replaced by a new model in which the role of the publisher is reduced or eliminated. That future is here and I am there. My second novel, Salamander, is up on Amazon.com as a Kindle file and has received its first (positive) review. We will have to see whether it attracts enough readers who like it, review it positively and tell their friends to read it, to make up for the lack of a publisher's endorsement and marketing. I'm not quitting my day job just yet.
That is not my only experiment in online self-publication. My wife and I have produced a collection of medieval and renaissance recipes—about 350 of them, each accompanied by a description of how we make it—along with related articles, and are in the late stages of publishing it as a physical book using CreateSpace, Amazon's POD subsidiary. The process turned out to be surprisingly easy and inexpensive. By the time we are done, it will have cost us less than a hundred dollars, mostly postage for proof copies—it is amazing how many minor errors can survive one, two, or even three rounds of proofreading. Once we are done—real soon now as one friend likes to put it—the book will be available via CreateSpace or Amazon. All we have to do is collect royalties.
The project is not entirely new; this book is based on the cooking section of the Miscellany, a book on our medieval hobbies which we have been self-publishing for twenty-some years, nine editions and something between a thousand and two thousand copies sold. The great thing about doing it via CreateSpace instead of Kinko's or OfficeMax is that I will never have to fill another order.
Assuming that the next proof copy is, as I profoundly hope, the last, the book should be available in a month or so. The title, for the benefit of any of my readers who might like to try cooking from very old recipes, is:
How to Milk an Almond, Stuff an Egg, and Armor a Turnip: A Thousand Years of Recipes.
One way of replacing the marketing efforts of a publisher is online self-promotion. Blog posts, for instance.