Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

Exciting Press is Exciting

I’m going to tell you about an awesome club. And you can’t join. But that’s okay: You can start your own.

The club is a small publisher called Exciting Press. They call themselves a “nano press,” even smaller than a micro press. I highly recommend reading their FAQs. Maybe I’m a geek, but reading this gave me goosebumps. Especially the part where they say you don’t need a publisher these days. That honest admission says so much.

Exciting Press pays 70% net on e-book sales. And they only license your work for seven years. SEVEN YEARS! After that, they stop selling your work and give you your rights back. Unless you want to renew or renegotiate. It’s up to you. You own the rights.

Before you rush off with your manuscript, Exciting Press is closed to submissions right now. It’s the model I’m excited about.

Now, for those of you who self-publish, you might wonder what the point is. Why not get 70% of gross on your own? The way I see it is this: Nano presses are a way for the reluctant and wary to learn how self-publishing works. And with these royalty rates and limited terms of license, there practically no risk. A nano press becomes an agenting/editing service but with a 30% fee instead of a 15% fee. My agent has taken over many publishing duties for her clients. And I’ve met companies at publishing conferences that are setting up boutique publishing houses that blend these ideas.

A nano press can be run out of a living room or a basement. There is almost no overhead. All the advantages self-publishers have apply here as well: Books are permanently available; control over price; worldwide distribution; POD physical books; etc.

In fact, it occurs to me that my editor, David Gatewood, is involved in a nano press. He recently contacted me about a short story that I quietly published. I’m not sure how he found it, but he wanted to include it in an anthology. He helps curate and edit the work and presumably gets a cut of royalties. This isn’t his first anthology. If he gets enough of these going, he can enjoy the lasting trickles of royalties that authors see (and that editors deserve). Even better: David and company don’t take ownership of these stories. You still own the rights.

The potential here is dizzying. And then I realize that I have a nano press as well. The three anthologies I’m editing with John Joseph Adams work similarly. Is this the future of publishing? It used to be that successful authors, editors, or celebrities might get an imprint in a major New York house. Why won’t they simply start their own? Using KDP, they can get 70% of gross. They can then offer 50% or 70% of net. The low overhead allows them to offer what major publishers seem unable to when it comes to payment and ownership.

When someone pulls this off with advances thrown into the mix, that’ll be something. Most of the advantages of traditional publishing combined with most of the advances of self-publishing. Exciting times, yes?

22 replies to “Exciting Press is Exciting”

Hey there, Will Entrekin here. Director of Exciting Press.

First, thanks for the kind words and attention. Given how savvy you are, really appreciate your thoughts here.

You highlighted the two things I’m trying to solve for, in fact. I run Exciting Press in my spare time — given I have a full-time job, makes it difficult to open for submissions. Working on it, though. Hoping to once I get through my backlog.

Advances is the other. To be honest, I considered either doing a seed round or opening to investors (I had a few offers) to raise capital, but my issue there was that I didn’t want to be beholden to anyone. On the other hand, I’m a little against the ideas of advances-against-royalties — too much paperwork and prediction of the unpredictable. Instead, last year I offered bonuses to my authors. Nothing major, mind you, but it was nice to send at the end of the year, and it was a payment that came with no strings and didn’t affect their other revenue. What I’d like to ultimately be able to do is offer a signing bonus on receipt of the agreement, and then just pay regular royalties.

Thanks again!

Hi Will!
I love the idea of your press. As far as advances go, have you considered crowdsourcing? A lot of people are afraid to break away from traditional publishing because they don’t want to do *everything* themselves. And that’s understandable. I’m doing it for the first time myself. But that reluctance could net you some capital. Either way, I agree with Hugh. You have an exciting model going. Good luck!

Thanks Liz! And I have, yes. I have a couple of ideas there, but I’ve been wanting to focus on those backlist titles I mentioned before I add ever more to the mix. Definitely worth consideration. And best luck on your own first time. I’ll keep an eye out.

As I’d intend it:

Say you get an advance of $5000 from a publisher. The other two words far more rarely mentioned are “against royalties.” Say your contract gives you 50% royalties (you were smart to sign with Amazon rather than one of the big five), and let’s further say your book’s price is $5, so you get $2.50 of every sale. (Just plugging in numbers.)

If you sell 2000 copies of that book, you’d make $5000 — which means you’d earn out your advance. That means that, on the 2001st sale, you get your $2.50. So basically you get royalties on every sale after that 2000th.

As I mean it, a signing bonus is simply “not against royalties.” What I’d really like to be able to do is give an author, like, $1000 the moment they sign an agreement with me, and then ensure that they start earning royalties with every sale — not just after the 2000th.

Like I noted, I sent my authors a bonus at the end of last year. It wasn’t against their royalties.

I view this model as the future of publishing, where publishing is done as a service bureau or agency for writers, rather than a conglomerate. Not every good writer has the skill set needed to self-publish. I suspect there are many self-publishing writers now who would rather just focus on the writing side of things; self-publishing takes a great deal more effort than just writing. The problem is, the current conglomerate model of traditional publishing is just too expensive for the writer, both in time and money.

As far as advances go, I’m actively looking for an investor/patron at this point. I even tried a Kickstarter campaign which proved unsuccessful. My idea for a patron investor is they get a cut of the profits for X number of years or up to a set return value in exchange for fronting money an author needs to survive and remain financially viable until the book(s) become successful.

I am confident that when my own books find their audience, I will do quite well. But I must admit, that probably won’t start to happen until my third book is released next year. (I’m hoping the second will catch on, but my prediction is it will be the third that does it.)

My plan is that if my books do prove to be a hit and I become financially solid, I will set up a fund that does just that kind of investment mentioned above. The applicants will have to pass certain criteria:

1. The book must be self-published already for at least six months
2. The book must pass a review by a panel of readers chosen by me. Online reviews will also be taken into consideration, but I need to know from people who enjoy the genre that the book is in that it is a good read. If I enjoyed the book myself, I can waive this requirement.
3. The book must have at least a few hundred copies sold.
4. The author must provide a plan for how they intend to actively promote their book.
5. The author must hire a Certified Public Accountant to help them set up their business arrangements. (This actually helps the author in many significant ways and helps teach the author to look at their book selling from a business point of view.)
6. The author must agree to one of two plans:
A. They will pay back the amount given plus 20% within 10 years, or from proceeds from subsequent books. This is the loan approach and guarantees the fund will continue to grow so it can subsequently help more new authors in the future. This puts the risk on the author to pay back what was loaned.
B. No required payback, but must agree to return 25% of proceeds from income derived from their story for 3–5 years (determined by me on how long I think it will take). This is the investment approach. (This includes all aspects of income from a book: digital and print sales, audio, movie deals, etc.) This could be the most lucrative, but puts the risk on the investor. The author would agree to have their accounts audited regularly by a CPA who reports to the investor.

The goal behind the fund/trust/foundation is twofold. First, to help new, self-publishing authors get started by creating a vehicle by which an advance can be made. Second and perhaps more importantly, it creates a model by which wealthy individuals who have some extra money to throw around can be shown they can make money by becoming a patron for new authors trying to get started. To be quite frank, for someone who has hundreds of millions of dollars in wealth, $50,000 is less to them than a nickel is to me.

If a new book really takes off, that $50K investment could turn into $250K of return, even millions if the book turns out to be a hit. If the book turns out to be a well-written flop—we all know how fickle the market can be—then it can be written off as a business loss. I’ve lost nickels in the past…

Hey there, David Gatewood here, Director of Lone Trout Nanopress. (Just kidding, there’s no such thing. But maybe there should be… ;)

I’m glad to see someone highlighting the evolution of these micro-presses and “assisted publishing” services, because I personally think there’s a huge demand for them, yet at the same time I sometimes observe a tendency, among those active in self-publishing, to be a bit dismissive of them. After all, goes the thinking, self-publishing is already so ridiculously easy—how much demand could there possibly be for “help”?

But lots of things in life would be easy to learn and easy to do, and yet none of us does it all. We pick and choose, learning how to do for ourselves the things that we find fun and interesting, and outsourcing those activities that we find uninteresting or tedious, simple as that. The kind of people who are reading blogs like this one, visiting forums, taking an interest, having these discussions—we’re a self-selected bunch. We’re the people who have the time, the resources, and the inclination to learn what we need to learn about this particular subject. So we do it all ourselves, as we should.

But I work with a lot of first-time authors, and I find that what many of them want is that single, comprehensive service that will “take care of everything”—the editing, formatting, design, and especially the marketing. (And if that service could also assist with the start-up costs, even better.) It’s not traditional publishing they’re looking for, nor is it technically “self”-publishing, in the way that term is used today. I think of it as “assisted publishing,” and it may well be the wave of the very near future.

I’ve used the term nano-press for a while and wish you the best. My first release was through such a press and I was impressed with the editing and cover art. I was less impressed when they folded without warning with only an email that said, “your rights are returned to you, royalties to follow,” and, of course, they never followed.

But, like when eBay went totally asshat, I like seeing all the upstarts and start ups being spawned. They tried and failed by the dozen. But without eBay taking the stupid pill, there would be no Etsy. I’ll be interested to see what is still standing when Amazon and trad pub finally settle.

I know another small start up that is going after backlists and finding that the pubs are suddenly slapping together an ebook and claiming the title isn’t OOP and subject to reversion. It is that factor that is pushing me over the edge to self-pub. I spent 7 years in federal court defending the family business in an IP war. It left me sensitive about the issue.

Knock ’em dead, I hope you are the next Etsy: Terri

Hugh, exactly what is Exciting Press doing as a publisher? I’ll assume they’re not providing shelf access. So, what are the value added services they’re providing to justify their 30% cut?

I didn’t see any details on this, so am curious to know.

Rick Chapman
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Hi there Rick. Thanks for the question. You’re right about shelf access — we’re entirely digital, so no shelves involved. (I do print of my own books through CreateSpace, but it’s not like those are getting into bookstores unless a customer specifically orders a copy.)

I do a variety of things. I proofread and do some light editing; my wife handles heavier editing (which I’m terrible at) when required. Some of the books we handle were formerly published by places like Vintage and Random House, though, and they require less in the way of editing. What I do there, though, is code HTML, create ebooks, design covers, and handle uploading.

What I further do is marketing. I have an MBA in it, and I’m convinced that now that publishing is a button, marketing is more crucial than ever (but then, I would believe that, wouldn’t I?).

For example, one of the authors I work with is named Nick Earls. He had three books published from the 1980s through 2001, called Bachelor Kisses, Zigzag Street, and Perfect Skin. The first two were available only in print, so I converted them to digital. After that, though, besides the coding, I created a campaign around them and a new strategy; the books are quasi-related, so we made the connections explicit and published them as the Brisbane Rewound trilogy. Backward (with the chronologically latest book published first) and with new covers.

Nick’s latest ebook The Fix just came out from an Amazon imprint. He’s got deals with a variety of different publishers (corporate publishers, Amazon, and me).

It seems to me that leveraging author resources in support of this idea would be more productive than an ‘indie author’s union.’ Crowdsource not just funding but knowledge & talents to create a vertically integrated press/marketing/sales portal.

I wonder if there are nano-presses out there that operate as cooperatives, pooling the risks and taking advantage of multiple people’s skills? Seems like it’s a lot to ask one person to handle!

I remember a placed called Backward Books (I think) that did something like this. I think it was more like a collective, though — not where there was a division of labor. But that’s a terrific idea.

Glad to see this excites you, Hugh. My publishing company (Grey Gecko Press) has been doing this for several years. We license the rights for ten years (a little longer than Exciting), and pay royalties based on net sales of the book in a staggered “tier” system – once the book earns enough, we move from one tier to the next. We start at 50% and end at 75% for the life of the contract (including renewals).

Our contract was designed with the help of our authors, so we know it’s as fair as we can make it. I’m happy to see that others are coming to the same conclusion, or already have.

I like the idea of the busines model, what I don’t like is some of the comments by readers, sounds like people looking for money, seeing this as a way to start a company. Hugh and Will are solid, but some of the others??? I will follow Hugh’s lead, there are lots of fake companies out there that will publish your ebook for 400 bucks, you write it, you format it and all they do is put it on the kindle, something you can do yourself for free. I worry that some commentors are trying to do the same thing, invest money and maybe you will make some?

I love Exciting Press! I’ve actually been thinking of doing something similar one day, if there is still a need by the time I get around to it: a business that sort of holds the author’s hand and shows them how it’s done, then reverts all rights to them after a set period of time. It would be a useful service for authors who are reluctant to try, or for those who don’t want to do the annoying grind part of publishing (and after writing HTML since 7 a.m. to format my next ebook release, I sympathize. Boy, do I sympathize.)

I hope more presses like this one spring up! Maybe my own Running Rabbit Press will join Exciting one day with a similar business model. (But that’s only if my husband agrees to do the annoying work so I can still write full-time!!)

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