Andrew Lipstein is facing the kind of problem every creator of a small literary press encounters: how to get readers. An author himself—he writes for McSweeney’s and runs the microfiction website thickjam.com—Lipstein is hoping to tackle his audience problem by becoming a retailer.
Lipstein’s new press, 0s&1s, has released its first three titles, with a fourth announced and publishing in the fall. All are novels and don’t necessarily differ from the kind of literary fiction one might expect from a small, ambitious literary press. Among the launch titles is Canadian writer Victoria Hetherington’s I Have to Tell You, which Lipstein called a “searingly honest” novel about relationships among 20-somethings; he said the novel is “like HBO’s Girls, but three-dimensional.” Shying away from the reference to 0s&1s’ titles as “experimental,” Lipstein said he instead would classify the books as “unconventional.” The publisher’s approach to selling its books is also unconventional, at least for a small press.
In an effort to bring a wider readership to the titles it publishes, 0s&1s also sells a curated selection of titles published by other presses, direct to consumers. All the titles (including 0s&1s’ original works) are DRM-free e-books. Currently, Lipstein has agreements with 13 other presses, including Dzanc Books, Red Hen Press, Black Balloon Publishing, and Arcade Publishing. Some of 0s&1s’ partner presses also sell direct, while others do not. The attractive feature that Lipstein is offering, though, rests in his promise to authors.
0s&1s sells all of its titles (which, at this point, are e-book only), including those of its partners, at a fixed $6 price, and gives its authors the higher-than-average royalty of 80%. A diagram on 0s&1s’ website details where the money goes in typical book transactions, and lists the cut that publishers and retailers usually take. Through this visual, 0s&1s shows that it offers competitive pricing, while giving authors a bigger share of the revenue. (At the 80% rate, authors get $4.42 for each book sold via 0s&1s.)
Lipstein hopes that the traffic generated through the retail component—partner presses will also send readers to 0s&1s via links on their own websites, as well as through buy buttons—will allow 0s&1s’ original titles to gain a readership.
Lipstein, who has a background in advertising, will officially launch the press next month. 0s&1s is now his full-time focus and, while he’s the sole employee, he said that he does rely on a group of readers, numbering between six and nine, who help him evaluate manuscripts; all of these readers, he noted, are “other writers.”
Ultimately, Lipstein hopes 0s&1s will become a place to find great books—be they original titles from his press, or the curated list of titles from his partners—while providing more financial support for authors.
Lipstein also thinks the site can address some inefficiencies in the retailing of indie literature. “We see ourselves as giving a tool to [other] independent presses,” he explained. For his partners, the choice to join was easy. Billy Goldstein, publisher of Red Hen Press, said Lipstein initially reached out to him, explaining the business model and expressing interest in “a few of our novels.” Since Goldstein is always looking to try new things and also looking for new retail platforms that are easy to use and require little startup time, 0s&1s appealed to him. “Getting set up with 0s&1s has been a piece of cake,” he said. “And, in our experience, this is not frequently the case with new e-book platforms.”