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Venture Capitalists Turned Publishers - It's All About Scratching Your Own Itch

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Traditional publishing is in a state of turmoil. As the Chinese say, though, in chaos there is opportunity. To this end, I recently sat down with author, venture capitalist Brad Feld to talk about his new venture Foundry Group Press.

Q: You and your partners recently dove into an entirely new market as early stage venture capitalists: book publishing. What led you to spin up FG Press?
A: Well I wouldn't say the market is new to us. All of us at Foundry Group - Jason Mendelson, Seth Levine, Ryan McIntyre, and I - are authors, soon-to-be authors, and voracious readers. I have published five books and am currently working on two more. For my first five books, I worked with a traditional big publishing house. The people were great but the process and the overall experience was disappointing. What do you think working with a publisher means? I used to think it meant quality editing, both developmental and copy, a marketing powerhouse, and digital expertise. Through my first couple books, I learned it was just piles of red tape and on the other side of that red tape, misaligned incentives between the author and the publishing staff. While the team that I worked with tried hard, they were shackled by a system that I decided was completely broken.

Q: So, at a high level, what's the different way?
A: Realignment of economics, digital first, data transparency, and a direct relationship between author and reader.
Q: Tell me more.
A: The realignment of economics stems from my perspective as an author. Instead of paying out an inconsequential advance and using that as a negotiation point for royalty splits, which is traditionally somewhere around 85/15 in favor of the publisher, we start with a 50/50 split. Hugh Howey recently put out a great piece explaining why this should be the case which you can find on authorearnings.com. The author community response to this has been overwhelmingly positive.

Q: Let me jump in here. Of course the response is positive, you're effectively paying them more. How do you guys stay in business compared to a big publisher?
A: This ties in with the idea of digital first. The traditional publishers have a ton of overhead both in terms of personnel and cost associated with printing books. By going digital first and creating quality e-books before physical books, we keep the process lean.

Q: Now that FG Press has been live for a month, I have to ask: How are things going?
A: Our first title, Uncommon Stock by Eliot Peper, launched as a top 10 book in its Amazon category, just under some Tom Clancy books. We are close to releasing our second book, Sleep Your Way To The Top and Other Myths About Business Success by Jane Miller. We've got a great pipeline of stuff coming and we're loving the experience of working together as an extended author / publisher team.

Q: I've had a chance to read Uncommon Stock. It's a good read but the genre is...unique. Care to comment on that?
A: We call it "startup fiction" and Eliot did a dynamite job with it. We're going to try to do for startup fiction what John Grisham did for the legal fiction genre. I've long thought there was a huge demand for this genre, but have been surprised that it never really emerged beyond cyber thrillers.

Q: What's next for FG Press?
A: Books, authors, and readers. We have a number of titles lined up and I can't wait to get them in the hands of readers!