0s&1s is pinging on quite a few radars right now. The brainchild of McSweeney‘s writer Andrew Lipstein, 0s&1s sits apart from other publishers, including some of their small press contemporaries, with its output format and laudable business practices. They’re also selling curated titles from such small press darlings as Black Balloon, Curbside Splendor, and a dozen more.
For starters, all their releases are digital. And they’ve done away with the pesky DRM-restrictions that traditional publishers are still wringing their hands about. Most importantly, they have a transparent business plan that hinges on two important numbers: 6, the set dollar price for all their releases; and 80, the heretofore unthinkable royalty percentage that authors receive along with the full material rights.
With Amazon and the Big Five locking horns so often, author-friendly practices like these can go a long way in convincing readers to check out publishers who favor quality over market saturation.
0s&1s released its first two titles, both by debut authors, last month.
Victoria Hetherington’s debut novel, I Have To Tell You, is a frank and funny book about the interpersonal dynamics of a group of female friends in their early 20s. The book includes diary entries and long passages of dialogue. It offers a frank and cutting, though perhaps freakishly familiar, look at modern romance.
The Making of Miasma by Henry Escaya follows a despondent ad-man who enters a government-sponsored medical testing program to expunge a criminal offense. As Os&1s describes it: “When he earns the worship of his fellow addicts, we find out what can happen when agency is taken from the abuser and given to the drug.” The writing in this thrilling novel is anything but simple; the reader is introduced to a full, surreal world.
An Interview with Andrew Lipstein
Even as far as indie publishers go, the business side of 0s&1s seems fairly nontraditional: $6 e-books, DRM-free, generous author royalty rates, etc. Was the company founded with ideas like that in mind? How did you settle on $6 as the price point?
0s&1s was initially conceived (before any real moves were made) as solely a publisher of literary fiction. Once we started to talk to other small presses out there, it seemed like there was really a need for a platform that favored the original, unconventional novel—and one that promoted fair retailer-publisher relationships. Because we give 80% of profit to publishers, the $6 price point was a product of being able to offer them a higher profit-per-book than their titles that sold for $7 or $8, while still giving consumers a price they couldn’t find anywhere else.
How did you find the publishers you’ve partnered with? Will that list continue to expand? What does 0s&1s look for in a partner?
In many, many ways. Talking to publishers we already have, looking at reviews, looking around in actual (mostly independent) bookstores.
The list is likely to expand, but at a rate we can be sure we’re still filling our shelves with very high-quality lit fiction. As of Monday, June 30th, we had 23 presses up there, a jump from just a week before, but only because we were on deadline—a promotion with Housing Works. From July 1 to July 7, 50% of our profits (0s&1s’ profit only) went toward their fight against homelessness and AIDS.
In partners, we look for presses that are absolutely committed to putting something new out into the world. Beyond that, those that put a premium on community outreach and design also get a lot of points.
The initial focus seems to be mostly on fiction, mostly of the “literary” kind. Is it fair to say that is the main goal for 0s&1s or do you foresee the Originals and partnered releases flirting with other categories in the future?
“Literary” is a hard word to use, and even define—as I quickly learned in explaining the venture to non-readers. As far as books we’ll likely see in the future, any title that would be labeled A00 as an opening chess move is eligible. Sci-fi, horror, crime, even romance—nothing is off the table that creates its own world and puts a premium on language.
by Andrew Wetzel