Now that I'm back to thinking about publishing other authors for the twenty seventh or seventy second time this year, I thought of a new twist that would sidestep some of the business model issues. Namely, how to justify paying small advances to writers in return for a much larger than traditional royalty share, while retaining a chance of not losing my shirt (and getting abused as an "exploiter" in the bargain). A book publisher can't afford to invest in titles without having the exclusive rights to publish the works, but a magazine or newspaper publisher can and does with first serial rights.
I was a huge science fiction fan as a kid, mainly novels and older anthologies, I never found the "Award winners" anthologies from the 1970's and on to my taste. Science fiction is a great genre for short stories because it's often message driven or preachy, and building a whole novel around a single message rarely makes for a good read. From the 1930's through the recent past, magazines filled some of the gap for getting short science fiction published, though a lot of it seemed to be vam-p-orn or derivative swords and dragons tales.
While I only thought this up while installing windows up at my friend's timber frame today, I suspect the POD anthology as a magazine alternative would have a non-zero chance of success. First, the anthology could remain in print as long as there was an interest. Second, by purchasing first serial and perhaps first web rights only, the initial payment to authors could be quite low. Heck, I was thrilled to get a sci-fi story of mine published for no payment in a little 'zine ten years ago. Since each issue or book would contain tales from a large number of writers, it's unlikely that some other publisher could convince them all to sign up to do the exact same book for them if by some stroke of lightning it proved to be popular.
That would keep the cost low enough that I could fall back on the 50/50 net model, simply dividing up the half going to the writers by the number of stories used, or even proportional to word count. If the book did well, the writers would end up doing better than they would have through any trade or magazine. Whether it did well or not, they'd still be free to peddle their stories elsewhere, anytime, to anyone. I could keep the publishing costs way down by using some public domain photos (think NASA) for cover art, and probably get a few books out the door for around $1,000 each - plus a big chunk of my time.
I think it has potential. I'll see what happens in the next couple weeks with some of the recycled publishing domains I'm bidding on and give it some more thought. I suppose I should really join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, post something on their boards, and get abused:-)