The Unbound model — large helpings of innovation, fun and perseverance
Once I’d decided to explore the world of crowd funding for my second book, I looked around at the various options but one jumped out at me.
Unbound is something of a hybrid between traditional publishing and crowd funding. The process starts with you submitting a manuscript to them and, if they like it, they take it on. If they don’t, they politely decline it and wish you luck placing it elsewhere. Incidentally, don’t let rejection get you down — I’ve had loads in my time; certainly enough letters to wallpaper my loo.
And I’m in some splendid company: James Joyce’s Dubliner was rejected 18 times — it took him nine years to find a publisher; Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times, and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times. But they all got right back up after being knocked down and they persevered. It paid off. Especially worthy of note is Jack Canfield’s and Mark Victor Hansen’s Chicken Soup for the Soul. Despite being rejected a staggering 140 times, it went on to sell over 500 million copies worldwide and spawned a multi-million dollar company and publishing house of its own. The fact that one publisher turns you down doesn’t mean that another won’t ‘get it’ and take you on. Keep sending it out. If you believe in your work, never stop saying so.
Once Unbound agrees to take your book, the process changes from traditional publishing to crowd funding. For a time, at least. And this is where the strength of Unbound lies; they can afford to take on interesting, genre-busting books that other publishing houses won’t risk because publication doesn’t rely on their investment or pleasing some company accountant. The book is funded by the people who want to read it. And the pay-off for the investors is that, by helping to fund the book, they become a kind of ‘patron of the arts’. Their name is listed in the back, they have direct access to the author by way of a blog called ‘the author’s shed’ for chats and discussions and, depending on the amount invested, opportunities to get hold of signed copies, extra bonus materials, and even attending the launch party. The process brings authors and their readers together in a way that doesn’t usually happen and it’s pretty cool.
Once you’ve been accepted, Unbound makes a promotional video with you and then puts your book project up on their site. An overall cost for production is calculated and that becomes the total you have to reach. If you want to add an advance on top you can but that does mean you’ll have to raise more money. And I use the word ‘you’ deliberately; Unbound can do some of the work but you are one of a number of authors that they’ll be promoting too. Most of the work of getting people to fund the book will be on you.
Now, I can’t lie to you and say that getting people to part with their money is easy. It’s not. And it’s not made any easier by the fact that, in this world of instant gratification, the investors may have to wait quite a long time to see their copy of the book. Part of the reason that Amazon and other online book stores (but, let’s face it, it’s mostly Amazon) has cornered the book market is their immediacy. I can usually find a book I want and order it in minutes and, in many cases, have it delivered to my home the next day (Amazon are currently considering the use of drones for same day drops!).
The alternative is to take the old school route by visiting one of the few remaining book shops in my area in the hope that they have it in stock. Or having to order it and then take a trip to collect it. For many people, that’s simply too much hassle and we’re a pretty impatient bunch these days. So how do you get people to commit money to your book when there’s a real chance that they may not see the fruits of their investment for over a year? Yes indeed, a year from delivery of the completed manuscript to publication is pretty standard in the industry, especially when authors don’t get decent advances any more and often have to fit their writing around a day job and family life. It means that you not only have to raise the money to get your book published but you also have to actively manage people’s expectations too. And that’s where those three magic words come in:
Innovation. Fun. Perseverance.