Concord Free Press – Overview (Updated – June 2011)

The company is a small independent publisher. The motto is: FREE THEIR BOOKS AND THEIR MINDS WILL FOLLOW. When a new title is published, the books are given away for free through a network of independent bookstores and an online bookstore (the compapany will mail the books anywhere in the world, within reason, for free as well). The authors are experienced and established writers of fiction and non-fiction and entirely happy with this model of business, just as the customers are delighted to receive the free books.
Founded in 2008 by novelist Stona Fitch, Concord Free Press is based in West Concord, Massachusetts, and the company’s office is on the second floor above the local bakery shop. The core philosophy is the love of books, community and goodwill. Concord accept that their model of business—if you can even describe it as a business—is an experiment in publishing and community with a view to expanding the definition of publishing and re-invigorating the book.

“We’re here because we love books. And not just ours. We think books are worth even more than Wal-Mart could ever know. And we’re trying to revalue books, not devalue books. We like the smell of ink. And mailing beautiful books (for free) to people around the world. We like seeing people try to figure out the catch (hint: there isn’t one).”

Concord do ask one thing of the readers in return for the free book. Readers are asked to make a voluntary donation to a local charity or to someone in need in their community. When they have finished reading the book, Concord suggest the book be passed on so that with each exchange, the book lives on, and can generate further contributions to the community and goodwill. Concord says that it is entirely up to the reader when they receive a free book as to where they should make their donation.

A non-profit organization, a shelter or food pantry, your local Community Chest, a neighbor in need, someone on the street—every community has a lot of groups and individuals that could use help.”

Concord operates entirely on goodwill. The publisher only considers submissions from established authors and make it clear that there is no advance, no royalties to share, in fact, Concord do not even issue a contract. The publisher is convinced most people who take a free book will give some kind of donation, either to Concord or their community. The Concord site features a ‘GivingTracker’to inspire, record and show the impact each title has when published. Two titles are published per year and the generated donations have been around $50,000, and these are just the donations Concord can visibly track.
An Advisory Board of writers decided on which submissions to publish. Each book is professionally designed and printed using recycled paper and published as a limited edition of about 1,000 to 2,000 copies.
Concord has no desire to commercialise the business and their unusual model of business is set up to support independent bookstores and the love of books.

“We love all bookstores. But we love independent bookstores a little more, since they’re local, integrated in the community, and the kind of places where people still care about reading. We received early, strong support from the New England Independent Booksellers Association, which includes some of the best bookstores in America. Our flagship store is the Concord Bookshop in historic Concord, Massachusetts, our hometown.

“… we keep our expenses incredibly low (e.g., our office rent is not exactly Manhattan-esque). Writers, designers, printers, and others generously donate their work and services for free. Our press runs are fairly short—2,000 copies or so—making our books limited editions. And to pay for it all, we ask people who like what we’re doing to support us via grants, checks, and the occasional wad of cash.”

In short, we are freed from the burden of profitability. That said, though our books don’t generate traditional profits, they create real value:
Authors who do publish with the Concord Free Press are not precluded from having their book subsequently published with a traditional publisher or selling any additional rights from the book. One of their titles, Give + Take, by Stona Fitch is to be published by Thomas Dunne in a hardback edition this year.
Some things in life really are free!

UPDATE – June 2011
Concord Free Press launch Concord ePress | PW

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