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Aug 9, 2011
When all is said and done, book publishing is a business, and even the most artistically committed independent publishers try to make sure they get more money from selling the books than it costs to make them. But that's not something they worry much about at Concord Free Press, a nonprofit organization with a uniquely Character Approved way of getting their books into readers' hands.
It's simple, really: Concord gives its books away for free. No strings attached. They'll even mail a copy to you, if they have one when you ask. They only ask two things from you in return: When you're done, pass the book on to somebody else; then take the money you would've have spent on the book and donate it to a charity of your choice. (The Concord Free Press website invites readers to report their donations, and it's said that their books can raise up to $50,000.) How can they afford to work this way? In addition to keeping expenses at their small Massachusetts office as low as possible and accepting charitable contributions, Concord relies upon book designers and printers to donate their services to produce small print runs--usually about 2,500 copies.
The writers, starting with Concord Free Press founder Stona Fitch, are also working for free, but under an agreement that allows them to keep all the rights to their books, allowing them to go on to work with commercial publishers attracted by the buzz from enthusiastic readers. That's what happened with Give + Take, the novel Fitch used to launch Concord, as well as The Next Queen of Heaven, a comic novel by Gregory Maguire, the bestselling author of Wicked.
There's also the recently launched Concord EPress, which sells electronic editions of some Concord titles as well as original books, all for under $8. Half the proceeds go to the authors, and the rest goes right back into the print business. One of the EPress titles, Matthew McBride's hard-boiled crime story Frank Sinatra in a Blender, got a quick flare of publicity recently when no less a celebrity than Charlie Sheen tweeted that he'd read it in a day and loved it. If even 1% of Sheen's 4.5 million followers acted on his recommendation, that'd raise just over $175,000 each for the author and the publisher--enough to ensure Concord could keep giving away free books well into next year.
[Image: Concord Free Press]