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Unbound: choosing crowd funding

There are now several crowd funding options available to writers. Author Lisa Gee explains why Unbound has been the right choice for her new book.

Given my history of saying ‘yes’, even when it’s the wrong answer, there was no chance I’d turn down John Mitchinson’s offer to do a book I’d wanted to write for almost twenty years.

This would have been a much easier article to write if Unbound was a traditional publisher. It would have read “John Mitchinson’s offer to publish… blah etc.” But, as anyone reading this will know, being an Unbound author doesn’t guarantee a book’s publication. Being accepted into the fold is merely step one; then there is an entire staircase of promotion and fund-raising to negotiate.

In that respect, it’s a very different experience to ‘traditional’ publishing where, once a book’s been commissioned, the author can relax into the business of researching, writing and celebrating their good fortune/paying off a small percentage of their mortgage arrears with that modest advance. But in the ways that matter to the writer bit of me, the experience is the same.

Unbound edit, design, market and sell in the same way that any traditional publisher does. So, if I persuade enough of you to buy my fabulously learned, hilariously funny and deeply moving page-turner of a true story about a not-very-good eighteenth century poet before I’ve written it (find out more and subscribe here) I can be confident that any embarrassing errors will be picked up, the book will look great and find its way into bookshops without me having to actually carry it there.

On the other hand, the differences are quite scary. Instead of sending my child out into the world and sticking up for it, I’m promoting my foetus. Actually, strike that, I’m selling my foetus. Which sounds both revolting and unethical, especially when, in the first instance at least, I’m trying to sell it to friends, relatives and acquaintances at a time when no-one’s got much money sloshing around.

However, as it turns out, even though it’s a slow process, a lot of hard graft and all this jumping up and down with my hand in the air shouting “Me! Me! Me! Look at me! Buy my brilliant book before I’ve written it” is embarrassing, it’s also fun, exciting and surprisingly liberating.

That’s because doing things differently, with a bunch of people as open and willing to take a punt on the less-than-obvious as the Unbound crew, is enjoyable. Also, as the whole process is outward-facing, it offers the opportunity to engage with other writers and importantly readers, both online and in real life. Any process that opens up new connections and pathways is inspiring, because it means new possibilities, horizons and perspectives, all of which boost the creative process at the same time as reaching out to new readers.

It’s liberating because, untroubled as I am by any sense of my own greatness, I’ve always felt unmitigated gratitude towards any publisher who’s deigned to a) publish one of my books and b) pay me for it. Also, as someone whose creative instincts tend more to the idiosyncratic than the obviously commercial, and who’s hopeless at valuing her own work, I’ve always felt a slight misfit with the business aspect of publishing. The writer-publisher relationship has always felt a thoroughly unequal one – though not, I must stress, through any fault of the publishers of my previous three books. I’ve found that inhibiting.

With Unbound it’s different. A combination of the personalities involved, the fact that it’s still early days for the company, the financial workings of the deal (profits are split 50-50 between author  and Unbound) and the fact that it’s my job to get out here and persuade you to invest in me makes me feel a much more equal part of the process. Consequently, I feel freer to write exactly what I want/need to write, rather than what I imagine my publisher might want me to. I feel free to play, to take risks, to pace the researching, thinking, imagining and writing with the fund-raising.

So, which do I prefer, the Unbound route or the traditional publishing one? It’s too early to say, really. Ask me again when I’ve either got a beautiful Unbound book in the shops, or a half-made homeless thing. But before then, please help me tell this fantastic story.

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