I want our translator co-op want to sell ebooks, and likely we will, but what I want even more is to see our translations on paper. And, of course, my preference is to work with worker-owned and operated publishers, or at the very least, small, independent publishers. The idea of print-on-demand might make sense for an author with one or two books, but I see our platform co-op doing lots of books.
I’ve had an idea about how to work with publishers, and I have yet to find any examples of anyone doing it. It’s hard to say if it’s been tried and failed, or if it’s never been tried.
The idea is: instead of negotiating a percentage of sales, we negotiate to estimate what the total royalties could reasonably expected to be (over, let’s say, a year, or maybe two), and use that to sell the book to the publisher in a one-off transaction. Half the proceeds go to the translator and graphic artist, minus a portion for the patronage fund, and the other half goes to the original author or publisher. This allows the publisher to actually make more money than usual, if sales exceed the estimates, and it could even do a second run with no additional payment to us. But the sale of the file does not confer exclusive rights, so the co-op can sell the same file to another publisher somewhere else—say, in another country. And instead of going back and forth about content, dimensions, and art, we take care of all that and offer the publishers a press-ready PDF. This would give greater power to the translators and artists, and as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility, and higher pay. There could be two or three options in sizes, and at least two in dialect (i.e., US and UK English).
Another supporting idea would be to offer the book as an ebook for sale initially. This would allow us to catch any lingering errors that somehow happened to survive the proofreading process, and more importantly, both develop and measure the popularity of the book before we try to sell it on paper. The co-op would advertise the publishers of the paper version in the electronic version.