Earlier this year, I reviewed A Country of Refuge edited by Lucy Popescu. This book caught my attention for two reasons. First of all, the aim of the book was to add a positive voice to the refugee crises, bringing together authors and poets to write about immigration through the centuries and Britain’s role in supportive those in need. But the second thing that intrigued me was that the book was published through crowdfunding, via website called Unbound.
Unbound is a crowdfunding site for literature. Founded by authors Dan Kieran, Justin Pollard and John MItchinson in 2010, the idea is simple. If you are a writer, you can pitch your idea to Unbound’s editorial team. Whether your book is just started, or finished and ready for editing, upload as much of your manuscript as you have and what makes your story special. If the editorial team think your pitch has potential it goes up on the site where readers get the opportunity to pledge money towards your idea. If it reaches the target, Unbound help edit and produce the book before selling them in bookstores through Penguin Random House. Work can be fiction or non fiction.
As a reader, Unbound allows you to support projects which strike a chord with you, making the reader an important part of the journey. It all sounds quite exciting.
The company owe a lot to author, historian and python Terry Jones who provided the company with their first book back in 2010. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength. The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth, funded through Unbound, was listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2014. They have also been shortlisted for Independent Publisher of the Year Award in 2013 and 2014
There appear to be advantages and disadvantages of the system for writers. You don’t need an agent, but your book can’t have been self-published previously. Unbound assist with the editing and the publishing, meaning a first time author gets practical help navigating through this potential minefield. And any profit is split 50/50 with the author, which is a higher return than many traditional forms of publishing. In addition to this, readers get to actively engage with your book.
Conversely, some critics have pointed out a low output in terms of publication: 97 books published by Unbound since its launch compared with 184,000 new and revised titles published by the UK as a whole in 2013. Add to this a high crowdfunded target (Dead Babies and Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly required £10,000 in order to be published) and it’s clear you need to have a lot of support as an author to get your work completely funded.
But what is the process like for a reader? I decided to pledge my support towards one of the 295 books currently on the website. The main page shows thumbnails of each book which includes the name of the book, authors, logline and how far towards their target they are. By clicking on a link you are taken to the books main page which includes a synopsis, extract, author information and opportunity to ask the author a question before you pledge.
In addition to this, each book promises different rewards for certain pledge amounts with all supporters getting their name printed in every edition of the book. For example, by pledging £25 to A Long and Messy Business by Rowley Leigh, I would receive access to the authors ‘shed’ or their private blog which keeps supporters up to date with the author’s creative process. (which, by the way, is an offer open to anyone who supports this book) a 1st edition hardback book and e-book edition. A pledge of £500 would get me a 3 day kitchen-101 with Rowley as well as the perks open to those who pledge £25 (although the student masterclass is only available to the first 16 people who pledge £500.) Each book, each author will offer different rewards in the hope of attracting a higher pledge.
I pledged to support The Glorious Dead by Tim Atkinson, a novel about a group of soldiers who remained in France after the end of the first world war, burying the bodies of the dead abandoned by the roadside. For my pledge I will be rewarded with a special hardback edition of the book when it is published, a poppy badge and the knowledge that 10% of the proceeds of my pledge will be donated to forces charities. Not only that, but I have supported an author in helping get his work into the world, and that feels pretty good.
The process might not be successful for every author, but as a reader it does give you a more intimate connection with the book. If your chosen book doesn’t meet it’s funding target then your money is returned to your account as credit so you can try again. I am, however, positive that I will see my copy of The Glorious Dead soon!
Charles, David. (2016) Experiments in Publishing: Unbound Crowdfunding. Available at: www.davidcharles.info
Flood, Alison. (2014) UK publishes more books per capita than any there country, report shows. Available at: www.theguardian.com
Jolly, Alice. (2015) Crowded House: Why I Crowd Funded My Book. Available at: www.alcs.co.uk
Rooney, Mick. (2014) Unbound- Reviewed. Available at: www.theindependentpublishingmagazine.com