(Caution: here lies crazy speculation. For a backgrounder, the casual reader should probably read my Common Misconceptions about Publishing series of essays; otherwise you're going to fundamentally misapprehend what I'm talking about.)
Trade fiction publishing is a supply chain business. At the back end, out of sight, a trade fic publisher takes raw inputs from a large number of small businesses (mostly sole traders). It transforms these inputs, packages them, and then—at the other end of the business—distributes them via wholesale and retail channels. You or I then buy the products, which are micro-branded and highly idiosyncratic. The author is the micro-brand; despite centuries of striving there are few sub-sectors of trade fic publishing where a reader might go to a store and buy half a kilo of a particular publisher's product range without reference to the authorial brand.
Like all supply chain businesses, trade fiction publishing is dominated by contracts—contracts with suppliers (such as authors, copy editors, typesetting bureaux, print shops, cover artists), and contracts with customers. (You and I are not these customers: I'm talking about Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, et al.)
These contracts lock in certain types of business practice. And the first contracts in the chain are author/publisher contracts. And so it occurs to me to ask: what new business models might be possible if author/publisher contracts were drafted differently?