Foundry Group Looking to Disrupt Book Publishing With New Startup

The Foundry Group is getting into the book publishing game.

The Boulder, CO-based venture capital firm said Wednesday that it has formed FG Press, a startup publishing house.

The purpose of the new press will be to better connect authors and readers by upending the traditional role of publishers, according to the FG Press website.

“We believe there should be no barrier to entry for the creation of long-form content, quality should never be compromised to grow the bottom line, and there should exist a direct and continuous relationship between author and reader,” the site said.

Sounds idealistic, perhaps, but not naïve. Among the innovations the press will offer is a 50-50 split of revenue from book sales, help with marketing and distribution, and a commitment to be “uncompromising in using forward-looking technologies and approaches to create the best possible book,” the site said.

The press will produce traditional print books and digital e-books, and it will experiment with technologies that allow for interaction between authors and readers, according to the site.

Co-founder and CEO Dane McDonald said the company will work with authors from a variety of genres, but at the start it will focus on what its backers know best—books about startups, entrepreneurship, and business management, along with some science fiction.

The press already plans to publish eight books this year. It will be self-funded and is a separate entity from Foundry Group.

There are other attempts to disrupt the publishing industry, including self-publishing services. FG Press will be different by being more supportive of authors and not charging authors for publishing with the press, McDonald said.

“The vast majority of online self-publishing sites really just act as basic service providers. In this model, an author selects one of many packaged deals to produce their book,” he said. “This method certainly fulfills one aspect of the publishing market, but it’s our opinion that its impersonal nature often leaves authors searching for a more fulfilling experience.”

Ultimately, FG Press would like to build “a family of authors” who “collectively influence the direction of FG Press as a whole,” McDonald said.

In a post on his blog, Foundry Group managing director Brad Feld wrote that the project was born of his frustration with the traditional publishing process.

Feld is a prolific writer in his own right. Online, he writes a popular blog, Feld Thoughts, and he co-created the Ask the VC blog with his Foundry Group partners.

Feld has written several books, including “Do More Faster,” which he co-authored with Techstars co-founder and CEO David Cohen, and “Venture Deals,” a guide to venture capital he co-wrote with Foundry Group managing director Jason Mendelson. He also wrote “Startup Communities,” “Startup Life,” and books about startup management.

Producing those books led him to believe the relationship between authors, publishers, and readers is broken—and that publishing houses are at fault.

“The relationship between the reader and the author has an immense amount of friction in it. And that friction comes from the publisher,” Feld said on his blog.

Feld also emphasized the experimental nature of the project, likening it to the early years of the Techstars startup accelerator after it was founded in Boulder in 2006. Feld is a co-founder of Techstars.

“We are running an experiment in the first year. The experiment involves anyone who wants to participate. We expect to learn a lot and iterate very rapidly on what we are doing,” Feld wrote. “[We] will make mistakes. We’ll learn a lot. We’ll have fun.”

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  • robert gottlieb

    Always good to have another publisher in the mix but this business model is not new and has failed with companies such as Harper and Pegasus who are well established publishers.

    The question that needs further exploration is what does the author get for giving up 50% of their income and what is the definition of the 50% they keep?

    It is not a very appeal way to go for authors who can get advances for their work generally speaking.

    Robert Gottlieb
    Chairman
    Trident Media Group, LLC
    http://www.tridentmediagroup.com
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    • I agree with Robert. My first thought was “Ok, we’ve seen and heard this before.” My second was, “What is their distribution model?” A lot of people don’t realize that distribution can be and usually is the most expensive part of publishing a book, and it’s also really essential when it comes to sales to have strong distribution.

      Contrary to what seems like a general perception, the publishing industry is not filled with greedy money-grubbers who rob poor authors. If it is, then the majority of publishing professionals are being lied to and we should all have bigger paychecks :). Choosing to publish any book is a gamble, and sometimes it pays off for everyone involved, sometimes it pays very little, and sometimes everyone walks away with less money in their pockets. Not every book that is published is good, and not every book that is published will be a bestseller. It’s just reality. In this day and age, the reason to sign with a publisher is to let them shoulder the investment and time that goes into printing and distributing the book — two very expensive parts of the process — and in many cases, market the book (also potentially expensive, especially if you’re trying to run a bestseller campaign).

      A lot of people don’t know that there are fees that go into author events, bookstore display tables, airport bookstores, suggested reading emails, etc., and it’s very much a pay-to-play business. Some media publications and shows even charge for reviews and interviews now.

      I will say that I think Feld’s observation that there is a real disconnect between readers and authors is accurate. My experience has been that many, if not most publishers are trying hard to facilitate the connection, but the tools we’ve had to work with thus far haven’t quite made it, and there are several roadblocks that haven’t made it any easier.

      Of course, I wish Foundry luck! If Foundry figures out a way to make all of this happen and actually make money for their business and their authors, then I look forward to learning and understanding how it’s done. I’d love to see these changes, I really would!