According to a Sunday Times report, this is the latest way for people to become involved in publishing and in return for your money, you can get a special mention in that author’s book and even be invited to the celebrity launch. Meanwhile authors get their books funded and published – while at the same time advertising themselves on a website.
The website at the centre of this – Unbound – has apparently and unsurprisingly been inundated with authors who want to be featured on the site.
One would be author – as this would be her debut book – who has been allowed to pitch is television comedian Katy Brand.
Ms Brand, who won the best female newcomer prize in the 2008 British Comedy Awards, is said to have placed her book project with Unbound because she likes the idea of a relationship between her fans who will be potential buyers of her novel.
Her outline pitch offers fans the chance to have a character in her novel named after them and that lucky person can even choose the jokes that will appear. This will cost that fan £2500. In return for that outlay that person will receive an invite to Katy’s launch lunch, two tickets to the launch party, a dedicated first edition personally signed hardback, an ebook edition, their name in the book and advice on any comedy script of stand up set you have written. She adds this will come with advice on how to get started in the comedy industry.
All supporters who give money support get their name in the book and access to that author’s ‘shed’ (the shed is the author’s private area with updates about the book’s progress, draft chapters and general exclusive behind the scenes info.)
So, if you were to sponsor Katy Brand by just £10 you will get access to her shed, your name in the back of the book and an ebook edition. Meanwhile, for £300 you will get to go to a comedy gig with Katy, go for a curry after, get two tickets to the launch party, a signed and personally dedicated hardback and an ebook with your name in it.
About twenty other authors are listed on the site – we must confess we don’t recognise most of their names (but we are journalists and not literary agents!) – and they range from a planned book about an Elizabethan horse-whisperer and adventurer to another project, a modern fairy tale about a girl who loses her face.
Authors have a time limit to gain the funding and they must gain all their funding to get the book published. When we looked one author had 27% of his funding but needed 332 pledges in the next 4 days to make the book happen. If a book doesn’t happen, money is refunded to the supporters. Once a book is published its author gets half the proceeds from sales and half goes to Unbound. At the very least the book will come out as an ebook but if more is raised, it could end up in hardback or paperback.
Unbound seems to be popular. The latest pledges ticker on its front page constantly shows new funding from supporters being made by the hour. A similar concept has apparently proved popular in the US and Unbound boasts an impressive bunch of supporters on the site – from the BBC to The Guardian newspaper, Mashable and The Bookseller – many of whom are said to have written about this idea in glowing terms.
However, while we believe it could be a great hit for celebrity books as a present (for example if your daughter loves a pop star to have a character named after her or even just a mention in a book would makes a wonderful novelty gift) it otherwise leaves us cold.
We don’t like the idea of ‘fans’ paying to see their idol authors – how cringe-worthy is that to know the only reason the author has deemed to speak to you is because you paid (thousands) for the pleasure. And while your name might get into the book, it could be listed with hundreds of other pledgers (as everyone who pays gets their name in the book) which is hardly very personalised or exciting.
From a reader’s point of view, when we looked, there was little choice, and in our opinion the books on offer were hardly mainstream holiday reading and not novels we, our family or friends would personally choose to read. We don’t like the idea of choosing a character – surely that’s the novelist’s job, not the reader’s to come up with that (and what happens if a novel character takes off big time – who claims the praise then?) Also, as the Sunday Times points out, some authors have been accused of using the site as a way of publishing work ‘that could be described at best as “niche” or at worse “not very good.”
From an author’s point of view, it could be your lucky break – although it seems for most authors that will be unlikely as Unbound is reported to only take on 3% of those authors who apply. On its site, Unbound says it would like to hear from people who’ve ‘lived an interesting life or done extraordinary things.’ We say many authors have not done either and you don’t have to have done either of these things to have a novel inside you, be a great writer and pen a brilliant book.
It welcomes all types of proposals mentioning people who are a novelist, historian, philosopher, economist, biographer, scientist, journalist (actually as real life journos, can we point out it’s not like the films – we sit in front of our computers all day…) comedian, filmmaker, gardener, cook academic, traveller, as the sort of people it believes make great authors. It doesn’t mention being a single mum (what about JK Rowling – would she not have been considered?) divorcee, blogger, stressed mum of six, stay at home dad or a secretary or so on in its ‘examples.’
It then goes on to say if you are a first-time author you can send unsolicited proposals but they will consider proposals submitted through literary agents and writing websites such as www.abctales.com and www.jottify.com
The biggest problem for ‘authors’ though must be what if no-one funds your not very good book idea? Pitching your book is bad enough but at least when you get the rejection only you have to know about it. Here the rejection is public. The embarrassment and shame of it all would be there for everyone to see on this site. It could be the sort of nightmare where your spouse ends up pledging the whole lot for your blasted book in the end just to save face. We can even imagine the ultimate in vanity publishing – an author anonymously stumping up the remaining ‘pledges’ and paying for their own book to be printed…
Find out more: www.unbound.co.uk
What do you think about this concept? Great idea or not? Let us know your thoughts below…