Introducing FG Press

FG PressEvery year or so my partners and I at Foundry Group create a new company, or start a new project, that we believe had the potential to change the way something works in our world, while simultaneously helping the entrepreneurs we work with, and the entrepreneurs we aspire to work with.

For example, in 2006, we co-founded Techstars. At the time David Cohen, the co-founder and CEO, was unhappy with how angel investing worked. He was dissatisfied with his experience and had a hypothesis around helping a group of companies get going, surrounding them with active mentors, and accelerating their early growth. The Techstars Boulder 2007 program was an experiment – we had no idea if it would work. Looking back seven years later, I’m immensely proud and satisfied with the impact Techstars has had on the world of entrepreneurship, especially at the early stages of company creation, and look forward to our goal over the next seven years of building the most powerful and connected early stage startup network in the world.

Our 2014 project is FG Press.

I wrote my first book, Do More Faster, with David Cohen in 2010. We worked with our publisher Wiley, who took a chance on us. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and it was really fucking hard. I remember sitting at my kitchen table in Homer, Alaska in July 2010 at 2am almost crying with frustration. I was just grinding through the last bit of it and the tedium of the process was overwhelming. I kept thinking “there has to be a better way” even back then, but there was something magical about holding the book in my hands in October 2010 when it came out.

In 2011, when my partner Jason Mendelson and I wrote my second back, Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, I had figured out the writing drill, but I was still baffled by the publishing process. It was painful and tedious, and there were many steps along the way that made no sense. But I kept writing and learning.

In 2012 I thought hard about self-publishing everything I did going forward, but I didn’t feel like I completely grokked the publishing business yet. Venture Deals was a very successful book and Wiley increased their focus and attention on me. I had an expectation that somehow things would be different, better, more impactful, and more aligned, especially around process, promotion, and economics. So I decided to do four more books, which make up the Startup Revolution series, including the most recent one  – Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors (the third in the series) – which just came out. Along the way, my long time friend Matt Blumberg (CEO of Return Path) decided to write a book so we added it on to the Startup Revolution series, resulting in Startup CEO: A Field Guide To Scaling Up Your Business.

There’s a lot more history, which I’ll cover in later posts, but all of this led to a place in fall of 2013 where my partners and I at Foundry Group started having a discussion about doing something different around the book publishing industry. We all are extensive readers and believe the long-form book is something that is very valuable, especially ones like Venture Deals that we believe will have at least a 20 year relevance, assuming we continue to update it. We also think it should be easier for more people to write and produce high quality, useful long-form books. While we think the entire process and engagement model is completely broken, that leads us to the punchline of the thing that is really wrong.

The relationship between the reader and the author has an immense amount of friction in it. And that friction comes from the publisher. It’s not just that the economics are wrong (why should the economic split between publisher and author be – on average – 85% to the publisher and 15% to the author?) but that the publisher sits in between the author and the reader. Sure – industrious writers can build direct relationships with their readers around their publisher – which is what happens today, but that’s silly. Shouldn’t the publisher be in the business of helping facilitate these relationships in addition to theoretically curating and producing the content?

We spent a morning together one day talking about this stuff. We came up with a very long list of issues, like the ones above, and then put the key question on the table: “What should we do about this.” My response was “let’s start our own publishing company.” Hence FG Press.

As with all new ideas, we started looking for patterns in things in the world that we liked. If you are familiar with McSweeney’s, O’Reilly, or Granta, then you understand where our brains were going and some of the companies that inspire us. Ultimately, we realized that the optimal model for what we were doing was Techstars, specifically the Techstars of 2006.

If you are a fan of analogies, Techstars is to “angel investing before Techstars” as FG Press is to “traditional publishing.” 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. And we plan to share out ideas widely, as a way of open-sourcing our learning, engaging with other people working on similar problems, while taking an author and reader-centric point of view, in the same way that Techstars took an entrepreneur and mentor-centric point of view.

Like Techstars, this is a new entity. It has a full time co-founder/CEO (Dane McDonald), just like Techstars was co-founded and run by David Cohen. It’s a self-funded entity, just like Techstars was for the first two years. Our goal is that it’s deeply complementary and integrated into everything we do and our point of view about the world of entrepreneurship, as Techstars is.

Will make mistakes. We’ll learn a lot. We’ll have fun. We hope you’ll come along for the journey with us. If you want to get a feel for one of the characters from our first book, just follow Mara Winkel on Twitter. And we’ll take Bitcoin, once we get the damn software working right.

  • RBC


  • Fantastic – long form will always have a place in our culture. Short form is too ripe with snark and misquoted, short-fired brilliance.

    I’ll be keeping an eye on this for sure.

  • Congratulations !
    And very excited to be part of your initial set of guinea pig authors.

    • Psyched to be working with you.

  • Awesome. Honored to be part of the experiment as an initial author.

    • Dude – you have been an awesome inspiration for this and a joy to work with.

  • Need an editor?

    • Absolutely! I’ll reach out separately.

    • Kathy does.

  • DJ

    Congrats on the launch! Something tells me you thought about FU Press too.

    • Frank Underwood has that one covered.

  • Love this idea, and as an aspiring author, looking forward to seeing how this experiment goes.

    Not quite clear on the Techstars analogy though. My company went through Techstars Austin, and there were applicants from whom a “class” of 10 was selected–are you planning to do something similar with aspiring authors/book pitches for FG Press? Will you be paying advances similar to how Techstars invests in promising companies?

    I realize the reason you may have not written about this yet is because you don’t have all the answers right now, but I’m still insanely curious. Many of my friends have offered to intro me to agents, and I’ve also been approached by Wiley (I turned them down for much the same reason you state above–why should I do 90% of the work if they get 90% of the profit? I already have the audience and list to guarantee significant sales.)

    It may be too much for me to run a funded company and write a book (or I may have to hire a second full-time assistant, haha.) But I want to give it a shot anyway. Do keep us posted!

    • The Techstars thing is an analogy. We aren’t doing “Techstars for publishing.” Rather, we are using the same approach we used at Techstars to start FG Press. Many of the functional and tactical things will be different, but the “try it, experiment, learn from it” while “focusing intensely on the network being developed – in this case between reader and author, and among authors, and among readers.”

      • Gotcha. That makes sense. Thanks for the clarification!

      • How do I apply? I think I can do the unvarnished tales from just an entrepreneur. 🙂

        Best regards

        • I’ll email you.

  • Congratulations Brad!! This looks fantastic.

  • Big Like and I empathize to some extent, having been an author as well as having spent some time in the tech publishing biz in the 90’s, back when brick-and-mortar reigned supreme and the space allocated for tech books was probably 4-5x what it is now. What’s left of the big publishers haven’t caught up with reality IMO, although I believe there are people at those companies who are itching to enable new profit and distribution models. Likely they’re still up against Old Guards in some form or another. All the best on this idea — stellar!

    • Thx Ben. There are plenty of people in established publishing companies trying to change some things, and I know some of them, but they are pushing hard against a very stubborn and almost immovable wall.

      • Man do I have stories about that wall. In any event the site design is awesome. Love the Walt Whitman bit in the “Become an Author” area, too.

  • Very cool. I like how deep you guys go on the things you make.

  • StevenHB

    Best wishes to you and the FG Press team.

    Let me say that from this reader’s perspective, the entire ebook licensing system is messed up. Most ebooks are “sold” as perpetual licenses to a copy of the content, with greater restriction on the use of that content than one has with a physical book. For example, if I buy a Kindle copy of some piece of science fiction, I can’t transfer ownership of that license to you. For some books, I can lend it, but that’s only if it’s permitted for the book and only a limited number of times. My paperback copy of the same book can be given away, re-sold, and lent any number of times.

    Furthermore, there are very few books for which I have any interest in a perpetual license. I read them once and then I’m done. Why do I want a license to the content for any more than the period of time it takes for me to read it?

    And then there’s the pricing, which is frequently just incomprehensible from a reader’s perspective. My intuitive side expects an ebook to cost much less since there’s no tangible artifact to create and distribute. I am rationally aware that the costs of production and distribution in the traditional publishing world are a small percentage of the total, which doesn’t change my intuitive sense at all.

    Anyway, I hope that these are the sorts of reader issues that FG Press will tackle – and tackle successfully.

    • I completely agree with you on this. It’s insane and something we are working on.

    • The model is broken. In crisis, though, there is great opportunity.

  • Excellent. Pleased to help however I can Brad.

    • Phil – you’ve been a great help to date and look for including you / helping you / having fun together in the future!

  • Eddie Wharton

    This is awesome. Best of luck and I’ll be sure to support / read whatever you guys put out!

  • Ned

    Bravo. Disruptive innovation in action. Q: Could the model include connecting writers with experienced editors? Possibly on a “percent net revenue” basis. If not, ” no worries” the idea as presented has legs and will be successful. Best of luck/fun.

  • I followed the link from USV expecting to learn of Fake Grimlock’s latest venture.

    Congratulations. This is great!

  • Exciting news! I’m thrilled to be a part of this project.

  • Sounds like a plan.

  • I wish you luck with this venture as I would anyone that is starting something new. However….

    This sounds to me alot like sour grapes with your publisher. Getting books published is hard for at least two reasons. First, publishers have to wade through piles of dung before they find something that will actually sell. Second, they spend lots of money and time physically producing and distributing the book. They get what they get cuz they’re doing something for it. I find it interesting (and perhaps a bit hypocritical) that a venture capitalist would complain when he is on the other side of the equation about how much the publisher takes. Aren’t you in the business of taking huge percentages of companies from the creative entrepreneurs for basically showing up to a few meetings and writing a couple of big checks?

    And the next question is genuine and asked with respect but you might not like it. Perhaps your books are not selling as well as the publisher would like and they are balking at doing future books?

    • Frank – glad to always hear the contrarian view. But no sour grapes here – I’m happy with the gang at Wiley, I just think there is a much, much better way, for me, and lots of other folks. Also, my books are selling very well – I know they’d be happy to keep working with me, but I made it clear last fall that it was time for me to go down a different path.

      Also, “piles of dung?” Really? Do you have inside knowledge of the publishing business? Or are you just making an assertion from the outside looking in?

      Finally, as VCs, we don’t think we take a “huge percentages of companies from the creative entrepreneurs for basically showing up to a few meetings and writing a couple of big checks?” If any entrepreneur thought that was what we do, they absolutely should not take our money in any circumstance.

  • A huge problem with publishing is the author / publishing house split, and what you guys are proposing to do there is very exciting. Another problem is the “what becomes popular” problem, which is more of a societal problem than a publishing house dysfunction problem. That Kanye West has 10.3 mil followers on Twitter and The Handsome Family (who just got their big break from HBO, being the title song to “True Detective”) have 2,000 followers, despite having been around for 10+ years and having an unbelievable body of work? WTF? The same type of thing exists in the publishing world, to the extreme. I think highly of O’Reilly and Wiley – but part of the upside of this whole thing is that you guys become another trusted curator that ushers the people that need to be noticed into the discussion. Too much of “what becomes popular” is some random crapshoot, and I think there are a lot of hidden gems out there. I’m all for n- numer of additional publishers that can help the hidden talent bust through. I hope that’s a big part of your agenda, where your model surfaces the actual TALENT at a higher rate.

  • Rhonda Urbanczyk

    Very excited to hear this news! I’ve been investigating publishing for a client, and its a mess – Does FG Press plan on handling more than technical or entrepreneurial content?

    • We are starting with a tight focus on technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Non-fiction, fiction, science fiction, and professional development. We’ll revisit the category mix next year.

  • tamccann

    Congrats. You guys just keep doing unique and inspiring things! Like the music industry, it will be fun to watch the swing of value from publisher to artist! Will also be great to watch the role of networks and social amplification drive awareness, consumption, sales, sharing…

    • Thx man. Hope to have you involved in some way.

  • Filia

    So if the publisher keeps 85% and the author gets 15%, how much does Amazon get?

    • Mark Bloomfield

      well, their model says 50%/50% author /publisher – so must be all direct sales, right?

      • FG Press is 50/50 on NET revenue. So if Amazon takes 30%, then it’s 50/50 on the remaining 70%, or 35% to the author, 35% to FG Press, and 30% to Amazon. Of course, we have direct sales from our site so that would be 50/50 on a NET of the full price for digital, and a slightly smaller number for print (since the cost of the production is part of the NET calculation).

        Our goal is to be completely transparent about 100% of the money flows on the cost and revenue side.

        • Filia

          So when a traditional publisher pays 15% of the cover price, that’s not 15% of revenues – it’s 15% of the sticker price regardless of the discount to booksellers? If the bookseller takes 30% of a $25 book, then the author gets $3.75 and the publisher gets $13.75 – and the author’s royalty is closer to 20% of net revenue. Yes? And if the bookseller takes 50%, the author still gets $3.75 and the publisher gets $8.75 – author royalty then works out to 30% of net revenue. Yes?

          • They don’t pay 15% of list price. They pay 15% of net revenue.

    • The typical deal is 85/15 on NET revenue. Amazon takes 30%, so it’s an 85/15 split on the remaining 70%.

  • Very cool. Would love to help/get involved if I can be of use.

    • Love to have you involved. I’ll send a note separately.

    • kuffarmuhammed

      sounds great , lets support FGM – Sharia all the way

  • Neil Baptista

    Hi Brad. Exciting news. I’m intimately involved in the space of connecting readers with authors (from indies to # NYT Bestselling authors). Please excuse the plug, but Publisher’s Weekly called us “the pinterest of book discovery” and a “goodreads alternative”. We’d love to work with you on exposing your authors to a large audience. – Neil

  • williamhertling

    Good luck. It’s exciting to see new models for how publishers can do business and be in true partnership with authors and even more so to begin in an agile fashion.

  • dbriere

    Best of luck to the FG Press team on this. I’ve written more than a dozen books (just finishing my latest now), many with Wiley, so I have lots of thoughts to share over a beer. At least you got 15% – mine’s been a little less, ha!

    I’ve got an idea for a book for startups that I’ve been thinking about, next time we chat we could discuss perhaps. Thanks for the help on the other project! Emily has been following up on your leads!

    • Love to explore anytime.

  • If I may, I’d like to share my experience having spent over 30 years in management (now retired) in a traditional publishing house for non-fiction trade paperback and hardcover books.

    In traditional publishing models “Net” is defined as the retail sale price less discounts and returns. An author’s royalty is based on that Net sale. If a book retails for $14.95 and the publisher sells it at a 55% discount, the net available for royalty is $6.73. An author earning 15% royalty on that $6.73 net sale will receive $1.01 on that transaction.

    In traditional publishing, costs for editorial (inhouse editorial at the publisher, not what an author may spend to get the manuscript into a deliverable state), printing, binding, marketing/pr, distribution/fulfillment (avg 20% on the order net), accounting, coop fees, display allowances, etc.. are all overheads that the publisher pays from the $5.72 they kept in the example above. Financial risk remains with a publisher on getting a book on the market and dealing with the business transactions for the life of a title. When all is said and done, that $5 in the example above is reduced quite a bit.

    I’m now writing – so my author hat is on, which is why I find your news about FG exciting. If there’s ever an industry that needs fresh air, it’s publishing.

    Good luck and may the force be with you!

    • Thanks! Appreciate you putting the math out there. That’s as I understand it.



  • Question: can the process of a first time author getting published, ever be fun?

    Until seeing the announcement about FG Press, to avoid the monumental struggle of “getting published”, I pretty much had decided to just self publish my 1st sci-fi/action book (of 4 books planned) using the URL of the same name as my book series that I’ve purchased.

    I’m not as lazy as that statement may make me sound. It’s just that I’ve spent over 10 years of doing the huge struggle thing in building a start-up business to where it’s now starting to get some serious traction. I have absolutely no interest in turning my sci-fi writing hobby (which I love doing) into another big struggle in my life in order to get published.

    Definitely interested in learning more from your process. If you care to chat about my writing, I’m open to it.

    I love your guys VC video and am hopeful you’re bringing that level of fun to publishing!

    cheers, giles

  • jim

    I remember writing in my first book. I was around ten years old. Just comming out of first grade. I think the book i wrote in was dick in janes hand. Seems like it was yesterday. Was this helpful? If so please rate with stars. Golden stars. Like the ones these asses will never see.