A common topic here is the difficulty new authors have of breaking into today’s market (even before the economy went south), and how a bad book deal can ruin a career if you publisher miscalculates too much how many books you’ll sell. The following concept came to mind:
New authors routinely are released in mass market paperback for about $8. People are far more likely to take a chance on something new for $8 than for $25, especially as the traditional book tour/newspaper review marketing system breaks down.
If the book earns back its advance, print Book 2 in the same format. If it does well and everyone makes money on the mass market paperback, move the author to trade paperback for about $15, with better support from the publisher. If that book pays off, then move the author to $25 hard covers.
Of course, authors might need more than one book to move up, and some could be jumped right to the top of the pyramid. If an author’s sales indicated he was at the level he deserved, he could stay there, earning a small but regular profit. If a book or two tanked, then the author could be dropped down a level instead of just dropped.
There are marketing opportunities here, too. Publishers could work with booksellers to discount the paperbacks of newer writers when bought with a hardcover by an author with the same house.
Publishers would, of course, compete and authors could make their best deals; the balance would always be precarious as sellers and buyers under- or over-estimated a book’s potential. It would have to be a change in mindset of all parties as much as anything else.
My question, to those who have far more experience than I: are there business reasons why something like this couldn’t work? Is it at least worth a publishing house giving it a try?