We know the story a hundred times over. Published author doesn’t get his contract renewed – finds himself out in the big bad world – decides to start his own publishing press and self-publish, and maybe even make a few dollars by getting some other paying-authors on board. Sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?
David Fulmer is the author of six historical mystery novels with Harcourt Books. He is also an editor, broadcast producer and journalist. He has won a Shamus Award and a Benjamin Franklin Award and has been nominated for a LA Times Book Prize, a Barry Award, and a Falcon Award. In the spring of 2008, Fulmer’s publisher, Harcourt Houghton Mifflin, following a merger, decided not to take up their option on his next book. Stellar reviews for Lost River in the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly and many other national print media did not lead to stellar sales. No contract; an economic downturn in the publishing world; ball burst—game over...
“I couldn’t afford to leave my career up to the shifting tides of the publishing world. I had no interest in self-publishing. If I was going to release a new book in 2010, I'd need another strategy.”
Fulmer began to do the rounds of small press editors, store managers; anyone who knew more about publishing and bookselling than he did. He chanced on an article written by Malcom Gladwell in the New Yorker called ‘How David Beats Goliath’.
In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath. But then he stopped. “I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it,” he said (in Robert Alter’s translation), and picked up those five smooth stones. What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.”
How David Beats Goliath, by Malcom Gladwell, New Yorker, May 11th, 2009.
Fulmer decided if he was to succeed he would have to change the rules of publishing itself. With the help and support of two business friends, Tara Coyt, a writer, editor and marketing strategist in publishing, and Anna Foote, a financial services veteran, Five Stones Press was founded. Coyt and Foote felt Fulmer as an author had enough marketability and fan-base to make the publishing endeavour worth supporting.
The publishing strategy would break the normal rules of traditional publishing. Fulmer would sell one hundred shares in his next book, The Fall, a mystery novel, to thirty-two of his family, friends and supporters. If it worked, it would open the gate at Five Stones Press to other established authors left out in the cold by their publishing houses.
“We were pleasantly surprised at the response. We’re not asking for special treatment. As a legitimate publishing venture, we just want a fair shake. My last two novels were the best-selling since my first. (2001’s ‘Chasing the Devil’s Tail’). I don’t think what we’re doing is an option for anyone who doesn’t already have real momentum.”
Ball pumped back up—game on...
Five Stones Press is a share publishing venture based in Atlanta, Georgia. With Fulmer’s knowledge of the music industry and film broadcasting and production, it is no coincidence it has borrowed ideas and business strategies from these areas. The core model is in many ways the mainstay of the small independent film industry. Five Stones Press operate in exactly the same way as any publishing house once a book project is accepted. Their aim, like any publisher, is to only take on book projects with a reasonable chance of success and keep their financial risks as low as possible. Any writer submitting to Five Stones Press must have an agent and be previously published, bringing with them a proven record of writing experience and an established fan base.
“...we are accepting submissions only from agented authors. Also please note that for the foreseeable future we will not be publishing any first-time fiction authors. We will be considering non-fiction projects from first-time authors, but only those who bring with them serious credentials and marketable projects.”
Five Stones Press are currently using Fulmer’s network of colleagues to solicit and find their next book project. They are hoping to announce a second author and book before the end of this year. All Five Stones Press books will be distributed through Small Press United, a distribution program supported by the Independent Publishers Group and specifically for small press publishers.
David Fulmer’s new novel, The Fall, will be published by Five Stones Press on March 15th 2010 and launched at the Eagle Eye Book Shop with the The Atlanta Writers Club on Friday, March 10th, 2010.