Two years ago I started writing my first novel The Wrong Story. Now, bar the final edits, it’s complete. To some extent I thought the journey was over: I’m a writer, I have written. Veni, vidi, vici.
But of course, the journey has only just begun. There is the little matter of publication and distribution. Engaging with mainstream publishers can be a bruising experience. The simple fact is, with diminishing margins and outlets mainstream publishers are less willing and less able to be adventurous with their lists of new authors. We all know this and I accepted it as a universal truth: that is the way it is. Get over it.
But I am learning that it doesn’t have to be that way. I was introduced to Unbound, the trading name of United Authors Publishing, a curated crowdfunding publisher. Unbound are like a mainstream publisher in that they edit, advise, provide high-spec graphic design, run marketing campaigns and publicise. They also distribute through Penguin Random House, which, let’s face it, is pretty good. The difference between Unbound and the traditional publishing model is that their production costs are covered through crowdfunding – people pledging money. This mitigates risk and gives a good view of the potential market.
That all sounds very now, but to be honest I hated the thought of asking people, including friends and family, for money. However, the more I thought about it the more I got it: it wouldn’t be me that would be getting funded, it would be the project, the book. And that, for me, is what this whole journey is about.
I remember standing up for the first public reading of one of my short stories: my legs turned to jelly, my mouth became drier than sandpaper and it seemed quite likely that I would fall over. But none of that mattered because having people hear the story was more important than my physical collapse. I would read it from the floor if I had to. I get the same feeling now when I think about seeking pledges. I want people to read the book.
Of course, the ‘curated’ aspect of Unbound’s business model means that they are as choosy as any mainstream publisher. With all the care and attention I would give to any submission, I pitched my story and then waited in that familiar silence for a yes or a no. But Unbound are fast and after only six weeks (which included the Christmas holidays) they responded – and to my deep joy it was a yes.
So now the journey continues. The contract is signed, I have my own pages on the Unbound site, a ‘shed’ in which I can talk to all my pledgers, a video (oh dear), a sample of the novel, a synopsis, a biography and so on. Unbound are very active on my behalf in pushing the project, but the bringing in of pledges is largely down to me. So I’m getting on with it – tweeting, emailing, going to readings, handing out flyers – and doing all the things that have to be done in order to get the book out there. And it’s exciting. I feel energised and I feel involved in the entire lifecycle of my book. I’m discovering that being an author is not just about writing.
It helps enormously that Unbound believe in The Wrong Story as much as I do. It also helps that I genuinely believe in Unbound – they’re responsive, committed, helpful and very enthusiastic. They’ve got a great list of authors and through their crowdfunding model they’re able to promote a stunning array of titles, one of which made the 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist. It is very now, and it does feel very right.
Looking back, when I was first introduced to Unbound my immediate question was, why would I choose to crowdfund my book? I now realise the question I should have asked was, why wouldn’t I?
To help make The Wrong Story this year’s bestseller (hem), please follow this link and pledge here: https://unbound.co.uk/books/the-wrong-story
For more information on Unbound, please follow this link: https://unbound.co.uk