I left my position as publisher and editor-in-chief at a traditional publishing company to form Grey Swan Press, a publishing company that shares efforts and responsibilities with its authors. Actually, Grey Swan is an amalgam of the best of traditional publishing and author-subsidized book production: the costs are author-subsidized but the author retains all control and rights to the work, and no royalties are paid to us. Our authors keep all the profits after paying production expenses.
I believe that there are three attributes that self-published books must have: (1) they must not look like self-published books; (2) they must have traditional distribution, i.e., they must be on store shelves, not just on the internet; and (3) they must have an effective marketing and promotion program, which includes a great deal of author participation.
Our books do not look like self-published books. Period. In terms of distribution, we offer Grey Swan authors the services of a book distributor that will actively work to get books into bookstores. Marketing and publicity can be handled through our allied company, Kelley and Hall Book Publicity. The company has a long list of successes with author's like Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of Deep End of the Ocean, Oprah's first book club selection, medical thriller writer and NYT best-selling author, Michael Palmer, and Brunonia Barry, whose self-published novel, The Lace Reader, was picked up by William Morrow for $2.4. Kelley & Hall has been credited for the novel's success because they placed the book with a distributor that gave it distribution into bookstores; they got the book reviewed by Publishers Weekly that never reviews self-published books. The starred review the book received opened a bidding war among pubnlishers that resulted in the largest payment ever made for a self-published book. Another of their self-published authors, Lisa Genova, was just given a six-figure deal for her book, Still Alice. In the interest of full disclosure: Kelley and Hall is run by my wife, son, and two daughters.
Grey Swan Press produces very few books in comparison with other author-subsidized publishing companies, and we intend to keep it that way.