Unbound tests crowdsourced model for book publishing as top names sign-up

Unbound: crowdsourced publishing

Talking to people who work in publishing these days is pretty depressing – if they’re not lamenting the death of high street book selling, they’re usually in a fug about having to publish yet another celebrity memoir (or worse, a celebrity-penned novel).

So it is heartening to see the overwhelmingly positive response to a new online venture, based in the UK, that lets authors seek funding from the crowds for their new books.

Billed everywhere as a version of Kickstarter for publishing, Unbound.co.uk is the idea of three writers, Dan Kieran of the Idler, historian Justin Pollard and Co-founder of QI John Mitchinson, who are disillusioned with the current model for getting a book published.

Quite simply, the idea is to make sure that good books get written and read, even though they don’t fall into publishers’ requirements of being suitable for selling in Asda and are easily PRable.

Authors make their pitch to potential funders on Unbound, through video, sample writing and so on. Members are then asked to pledge money and once the required level of funding is reached, the book will be published.

At the moment, the authors whose projects are available to fund are pretty well established – Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, Tibor Fischer author of Under the Frog, and Amy Jenkins, who wrote This Life, for example. According to reports, however, there are plans to eventually open the site to unknown authors.

Members are asked to fund books at various levels, from £10 to £250 (or even a whole project, if you want). In return, they are sent an e-book version, at the most basic level, or invited to a lunch with the author, the launch party, signed, dedicated first editions and so on. Everyone funding a project also has access to what Unbound calls their ‘private area’ (snigger), where you can find out more about the project.

But the most clever part of Unbound might be that it is actively encouraging members to publicise the books that they have funded. Although it is hard to tell at this stage how this will pan out (none of the books has received more than two per cent of funding at the time of writing), it seems that getting few celebrity followers recommending a title that they’ve had a stake in getting published, that could be a lot more effective than getting in the window of WH Smith at King’s Cross station for a week.

There’s a video explaining it all here