I have a publisher, Zeitgeist Press, that is small and has not the resources a huge publishing house might have, but they have the freedom to publish work that they like, not just work they think can sell a boatload of copies. Because they cannot send me a $10,000 advance and put me on the John Stewart show, I have to do some of the work if I want my book to sell. And I do want to sell copies of my book, as well as copies of any other books I might write in the future. In the traditional publishing model, or at least the most recently dominant model, I would try to parlay the reputation gained early in my career, via small but prestigious presses, into a contract with a larger publisher. This larger publisher would then print and distribute my later books, set up publicity campaigns, and so forth; in return, I would get a small percentage of the profits of each sale, called a royalty, as well as positions on the boards of poetry journals, increased reading fees, and so forth. The internet, however, has made the exchange of media so easy that this old model is dieing (thankfully). A number of new models have cropped up, most being variations on marketing models that predated the big publisher model, and these new models allow for greater author control over their work and a much larger share of the profits for the author as well, but lack the resources large publishing houses can muster. For example, large publishing houses can offer a dedicated editor to help shape a written work; because it is so easy to make one’s book available as a pdf, say, or via print-on-demand publishing, a lot of not-so-polished work is offered to the reading public using these forms of distribution, and a lot of just plain shitty work, too. So, finding excellent writing is harder under these new distribution models, the argument goes, because there is so much more crap to wade through. Of course, much of what was published under the old model–most of what was published, perhaps–was also crap, albeit crap polished to a high gloss, and finding alternatives to the shiny turds offered by big publishers was much harder. The biggest problem a new author faces under new models, like the street performer protocol, is gaining enough name recognition, enough core readership, to make releasing further works economically feasible.
Most of these new marketing models have risen up around music and software production, I’m not sure how many authors have tried this with written work. I know that strayform, for example, has a text area, and my own book, and eventually podcasts of readings, will be available as Creative Commons copyrighted material, but I need to spend the next few days trying to find out what other resources exist. I will post what I find.