Budget cuts, coupled with a decline in sales, is putting pressure on the major publishing houses to produce blockbusters written by authors who don't need much in the way of an advance, or royalties for that matter. And those authors need sturdy platforms to market their own books which they have edited at their own expense because there is no money for promotion to be had.
Except for one thing.
As the Big Five (it was six at this time last year) publishing houses limit their acquisitions to celebrity ghost written tomes or the prose of academics teaching creative writing, more and more small houses are popping up. The founders do not expect to make a huge profit because they know there is no money in publishing. They start up new sources of books as a labor of love, to keep the mid-list author from dying, while preserving what is best about reading.
Has anyone done a study to determine if the decline in book sales is entirely due to a depressed economy, or have readers left because they don't all want the blockbusters and why waste money on some drivel just because the novel is perfectly contructed from a technical aspect, arrived at the publisher not needing editing, but is boring?
Small houses with limited resources face a daunting task in getting their books noticed, as Mr. Robinson has no doubt discovered. O/R Books is very much a niche publisher, promoting itself as a source of books with a particular philosophical bent. Like O/R Books, there are small houses cranking out conservative tomes, neither of which is intended to reach a mass audience salivating over the latest Stephen King novel.
There are no advances to be had here, either, so conditions are sadly similar to the reception a mid-list author would get from a major house. The only benefit is that the niche house will publish a book worth reading, even if the audience is small. It is in the niche publishing houses that books can be art as well as business, where taking a risk on something that could turn out to be brilliant can be done without shareholders calling for the publisher's head.
Now if someone could figure out how to get noticed without an advertising budget to generate buzz, we wouldn't be so worried about losing the sort of writer who can craft beautiful prose, even without an MFA or a trust fund to the writer's credit.