After only two years of publishing, Utah’s Future House Publishing has seen a fair amount of success. Its book Marrow by Preston Norton not only hit the #1 bestseller spot on Amazon in the Teen and Young Adult Superhero Fiction category, but also won this year’s Utah Book Award in the YA category. Two additional Future House titles – Storms and Caretaker – were finalists in the same category.
Future House was founded by Adam Sidwell after his book Evertaster was shopped around with no success. Sidwell had worked as an animator on Hollywood films for over a decade but decided to return to his love of writing. Evertaster, a middle-grade novel about a boy in search of the most delicious thing in the world (“Indiana Jones meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) was shopped around by his agent, Alyssa Henkin at Trident Media Group. Despite interest from several publishers, nothing came together. So Henkin recommended he self-publish. Sidwell took the leap, saying, “After years of working on it you just want to see your work out there.” Evertaster, the first in the Evertaster series, debuted on Amazon as #1 bestseller in “Children’s Mystery, Detective, & Spy” on its first day of release and #51 overall in print, giving it a top 100 bestseller status on the site. The series has sold nearly 40,000 print copies, is in its fourth printing, and Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game, has purchased the movie rights. Sidwell attributes the unusual right-out-of-the-gate success to two factors: he launched an ambitious social media campaign before every other self-published author was doing it, and he had an attention-grabbing cover by Goro Fujita, a well-known artist from the film world.
Sidwell continued publishing his own books and touring, where he encountered other aspiring authors looking to get published. They asked him so many questions that he saw an opportunity to become a publisher, because his own experience in self-publishing had exposed him to the ins and outs of the process. In 2014, he formally organized Future House Publishing and opened the doors to new authors.
That year the press published a picture book called Floater by father and son team Rick and Ryan Goldsberry. Then came middle-grade title Sherlock Academy and teen novel Marrow. For the first six months, Sidwell said it was difficult to find new authors, but as soon as Future House titles began having success, “that’s when it got easier. It’s been phenomenal for us because now we’ve had thousands of submissions and we actually just had to shut down our submissions line because we are overwhelmed and need to catch up with what we have.”
The press generally tests titles with print-on-demand and ebooks before deciding on a print run. Sidwell used the same process for Evertaster, which began as a POD product. “We definitely embrace that process for the titles that we have now,” he said. “It makes it easier to test the waters.” He adds that there’s another benefit: “It’s a quicker turnaround and helps our cash flow as we’re creating more books.”
Future House focuses on middle-grade, YA, and adult titles that have a sci-fi or fantasy feel. “Those are the things I really love and everyone at the company is passionate about. I think a lot of it comes from my background making films.” Sidwell said while the press “dabbled” in titles closer to romance, it quickly discovered that it wasn’t “our voice” and returned sci-fi and fantasy. While the press’s first book was a picture book, Sidwell discovered that picture books are difficult to get sellthrough for, and are so expensive that it didn’t make sense for the new company. “I love picture books and I would love to be able to see us go back to them eventually,” he said, “but right now the audience for some of our YA and middle grade is just so much wider than picture books that we’ve found much greater success in that area.”
In two years the company has published nearly 40 titles and is distributed by Independent Publishers Group; most of those titles have come out in 2016. While Sidwell is keen to scale the operation he wants to balance the cash flow wisely, and so the plan for 2017 is to “slow down a bit. We’ve got six to eight titles planned for 2017 and we want to find a balance where we can be producing the right amount of books for what our team can handle.”
Sidwell attributes the young press’s success to finding new ways to sell books outside of and in addition to normal channels. One of those ways is sending authors to schools where they sell directly, and another is via Kickstarter. “We have built an audience there, and are excited to build more of an audience there,” he said. He added that the company is on the lookout for titles that tie in with other media such as film and television, because those properties have a built-in audience that will throw their support and dollars behind book spinoffs. Using Kickstarter also allows the press to vet titles before publishing them. “If we can’t get enough of an audience to support the project,” said Sidwell, “we probably shouldn’t publish it.” So far the five projects Future House has launched on Kickstarter have all met their funding goals. The press is also focusing on “gaining traction in ebooks” and having its authors tour extensively to schools, which allow for direct sales and quick revenue. “As I’ve heard many publishers say, it’s a game of managing your cash flow,” Sidwell said. “We eagerly hunt out that cash flow so we can find ways to keep ourselves fed and growing.”
As Sidwell sees it, the key to success for Future House is not trying to duplicate the big houses, “because if we try to do that, that’s a recipe for failure.” Instead they are trying to “find niches where the large publishers may not go.”