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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Going Beyond Amazon: A New Model for Authors, Retailers, and Publishers

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As many of you know, I have a keen interest in the future of digital publishing.

One of the reasons we started FG Press was to give control and transparency back to the authors. Specifically, at FG Press the author gets 50% royalty on all books sold (up from the traditional 15%) and we employ the latest technologies, promotions, and marketing efforts to help the author build a personal audience who they have a direct relationship with. Ultimately, we want to create the foundation for how future long-form content (e.g. books) will be created and consumed as well as how the connections between reader and author will be established and managed.

But what about sales and distribution? It’s not enough to create great content. It’s equally important to get the content into the hands of avid readers. And, from our perspective, link the readers to the authors.

Right now, most readers purchase their ebooks from Amazon. But as Amazon battles Hachette and others, this could change. Amazon has no incentive to move away from their centralized online store where they own the consumer/reader and the data.

As an author, I’ve found Amazon’s lack of transparency on data to be frustrating. I can blame some of this on the traditional publisher, but given what could be possible, everyone falls short. As a reader, I find the lack of connection with the author infuriating. I know some authors don’t want to be bothered, but for the one’s who do, I’d love to interact with them directly. And, as an author who loves to hear from and interact with his readers, I often want to scream when I am confronted with the wall that is “the publishing industry.”

We’ve explored many different approaches. There are hundreds of startups working on a wide variety of things, many of which we are systematically incorporating into our infrastructure at FG Press. I’ve used some of them for my Startup Revolution series with many more coming now that we have a manageable way to deploy them, and a team to make it happen, versus just me in my spare time, which is basically non-existent.

One of these approaches is BookShout, a technology platform which can allow “any site to become a bookstore.” With iOS, Android, HTML5, and web apps, BookShout has created technology to power the sales and distribution of ebooks from nearly any site. It allows authors and retailers to do things that are difficult to do in the current publishing ecosystem, including:

  • maintain brand identity
  • generate more revenue
  • build direct consumer relationships and like-minded communities

BookShout has also taken the additional step to make sure the content is connected and the distribution is social. As BookShout CEO Jason Illian often says, “Content is king, but viral, connected content is King Kong.”

BookShout’s unique implementation allows every brand or author to use Twitter, Facebook, and other technologies to build audience and naturally stimulate re-occurring purchases and interaction. As an example, not only could Ben Horowitz sell his great book The Hard Thing about Hard Things from the A16Z site (beyond just a banner ad that clicks through to a landing page with a link to Amazon and other places to buy the book), he could also leave notes and create conversations with readers, allow those readers to invite others into the fold, and create new offers and promotions for his next book.

If an e-retailer wants to sell ebooks alongside any of their products on their own site, they can now do so with Bookshout. If a media company wants all of their largest brands to provide ebooks, each brand can build its own community and stay connected around ebooks. If a bestselling author wants to sell her next book from her own site, she now has the tools to generate more revenue and build an audience. Ebay, Urban Outfitters, Nike, James Patterson, NPR, Walmart, Alibaba – they can now each control their own future.

I’m not an investor in BookShout, but I’m a fan and I believe they are on to something big. Look for more from them, and more from us with them.

Our Latest Book – Sleep Your Way to the TOP – Is Shipping

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Sleep Your Way to the TOPJane Miller‘s first book Sleep Your Way to the TOP is out and available in digital and print. This is Jane’s first book and FG Press‘s second one.

Around the Foundry Group Offices we’ve been referring to Jane as “Sheryl Sandberg meets Chelsea Handler.” If you happened to catch my interview with Jane during Boulder Startup Week, you know exactly how smart, funny, and authentic Jane is. She’s a great CEO (who just sold Rudi’s Organic Bakery) with an incredible amount of experience on the front lines building and guiding businesses. Her writing style is funny while packing a serious punch.

I first met Jane on a street corner in Boulder in the rain. It’s not that random – my partner Seth Levine knew her and was talking to her when I ran into them. Jane sent me over a draft of the book – I read it in one sitting and loved it. We had just started FG Press and I told her immediately that this is the kind of book we want to publish. Fortunately, she was game to take a chance on us.

We’ve had a great time working together to get the book finished and launched. If you want a taste of the Sleep Your Way to TOP launch party at eTown, take a look.

Get your copy of Sleep Your Way to the TOP here, http://bit.ly/sywtbook, or buy it directly below.

“Sleep Your Way to the TOP!” by Jane Miller on Ganxy

And, if you want to learn a little more about Jane, in her own words, here you go!

Launch Party for Sleep Your Way To The Top And Other Myths About Business Success

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Jane Miller’s launch party for her first book (and FG Press‘s second title) Sleep Your Way To The Top And Other Myths About Business Success  is happening in Boulder this coming Tuesday, 5/20 at eTown Hall.

Profits benefit the CU Leeds Professional Mentoring Program.

Around the Foundry Group offices we’ve been referring to Sleep Your Way To The Top as “Sheryl Sandberg meets Chelsea Handler.” Jane is an awesome CEO (who just sold Rudi’s Organic Bakery to The Hain Celestial Group) with an incredible amount of experience on the front lines building and guiding businesses. Her writing style is hilariously funny but packs a serious punch.

Jane will reveals the tips and tricks she learned on her journey from small town Illinois girl to shattering the glass ceiling at more than one male-dominated corporation. She’ll cover myths such as:

MYTH: Size Doesn’t Matter
MYTH: You Have Nothing To Learn From Barbie
MYTH: Only Extroverts Win In The Corporate World
MYTH: If She Plays Dirty, Play Dirty Back
MYTH: Bad Guys Are Just In The Movies

Jane offers specific steps and practical advice for grads, pre-grads, and new or seasoned execs. She shows us where it’s easy to get tripped up, who might trick us, and how to make it past the pitfalls on our way to the corner office.

If you’d like to join Jane and the FG Press team for the celebration of Sleep Your Way To The Top’s Book Launch Party – rsvp here: http://janemillerbook.eventbrite.com

I’ll let you know as soon as Sleep Your Way To The Top hits the virtual book shelves or pre-order your copy here: http://bit.ly/sywtbook.

The Heart of the Start

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It’s been a blast to get to know and work with Eliot Peper. His book, Uncommon Stock, is the first one that we published at FG Press. If you want to read – and comment – along with me, grab a copy of Uncommon Stock on BookShout.

I asked Eliot to write a short post about how he’s feeling and thinking about the category of “startup fiction” now that the book is out in the wild and he’s getting some great feedback.

Following are his thoughts.

Business case studies have wrestled through many different components of entrepreneurship. Bloggers and Quora have picked up the slack for the situations those case studies miss. Management books delve into every nook and cranny of strategy and tactics. Talking heads discuss the ins and outs of everything from product development to investment theory. Gurus wax lyrical about vision and lean, focused execution.

But there’s one critical piece of entrepreneurship that these experts miss. Their analyses emphasize the rational. They draw out lessons-learned from business experiences and try to share best practice with aspiring entrepreneurs. Knowledge is important and many experts are happy to share their thoughts (whether you want to hear them or not!). But they too often focus on the brain at the expense of the heart.

Building a business is a human experience as well as an institutional one. That’s why I love Brad and Amy’s frank discussions in Startup Life. In thinking about growing an organization it’s easy to forget that it’s all made up of individuals. These people lay the groundwork and set the course for the companies they found. They also struggle constantly with work/life balance, relationships, burnout, and team dynamics.

It’s a truism in venture capital that startups fail most often not because their product explodes, but because their team implodes. If you think high-school had a lot of drama, try a high-speed tech startup. Inspiration, betrayal, falling-outs and last-minute-comebacks are par for the course. Everyday I’m blown away by the incredible entrepreneurs I know and work with. Their passion fuels them through the equally challenging rational and the irrational halves of company building.

The emotional reality behind the scenes in every startup is what inspired Uncommon Stock. I thought that fiction could give an intimate peek into the minds of founders. Early readers have pointed out something that I find hugely cool: the other benefit of Startup Fiction is that its so damn accessible.

People who read non-fiction books about entrepreneurship tend to already be engaged in the startup world in some way. We’ve worked for a startup. We read Techcrunch regularly. We go to SXSW.  Living and breathing that world, it’s easy to forget anyone else is out there. But readers that aren’t engaged with tech and picked up Uncommon Stock simply because they wanted a good page-turner are reaching out to say how awesome it is to steal a glimpse into our startup boudoir.

We are blessed to live in a magical world filled with some of the most talented people on Earth. Hopefully together we can help to illuminate the heart of the start.

Uncommon Stock – The First Book From FG Press

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Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0 is officially available today and can be bought online at Amazon and pretty much everywhere else. It’s the first title from FG Press and is in a category we call “startup fiction” and expect to be publishing a lot of. Think of what John Grisham did to the “legal fiction” genre. That’s what we are doing with Uncommon Stock and startup fiction.

Mara Winkel and James Chen are undergraduates at CU Boulder. Mara is pre-law, James is a computer science major. James comes up with an idea for a new machine learning technology that he creates a prototype for using the game Go as his starting point. James asks Mara to join him as his partner in the new company Moziak, which they launch against the protests of their parents but the surprising emotional support of Mara’s boyfriend Craig. Early on Mara and James start applying the technology to forensic accounting and get tangled up with some bad guys.  As Mara tries to get funding for the company, James cranks on the product, and Craig goes off the rails, endangering everyone. Then things start getting really complicated. And interesting. And then the VCs show up.

I love this book. This project started about a year ago when Eliot Peper send me a cold email. I didn’t know Eliot, but he sent me a thoughtful note and attached a few chapters of a book to read. He was upfront that this was his first book, that is was tech fiction, and that he wanted my opinion. I read it that night on my couch in my condo and I can still remember turning to Amy after I finished, saying “wow – this is really great!”

Eliot continued writing and I continued giving him feedback. About six months ago I told him about the idea we were cooking up for FG Press and asked if he wanted to publish with us as an experiment. He jumped at it and our relationship, which now included Dane McDonald (FG Press’s CEO) deepened. Eliot finished his first draft in January and over a period of a few weeks I read through the book several times, making significant edits, adding a bunch of local Boulder color, and tuning up some of the story. Eliot was amazing during the edit process – working closely with me, my wife Amy Batchelor who also provided an editing pass, and then our formal editors who did a tight copy-edit of the book.

During this period, we worked together with Eliot on the launch of FG Press as well as his book. We’ve used Uncommon Stock as the alpha test for our process and have improved a lot of things. You’ll see some obvious things from us, like a 10 chapter free giveaway (if you want to sample the book before you buy it). You’ll also see some not so obvious things, like the ability (soon) to buy the book using Bitcoins.

You’ll be hearing a lot from Mara Winkel on Twitter. She’s an amazing entrepreneur – just the kind of learning machine I love to back.

Grab your copy of Uncommon Stock: 1.0. Or, if you just want a taste first, download the first 10 chapters.

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