Getting a book published is a notoriously difficult task. Each year thousands of prospective writers have their work rejected by publishing houses for a variety of reasons: be it that the novel is not the type that they are looking for, that they do not think it will sell particularly well when forced to compete with the Ian Rankins and Margaret Atwoods of the world, or simply that the book is just not that good.
Where then does that leave first-time writers? Unless they are exceptionally lucky, then the dream of being published may prove to be exactly that: a dream. Consequently, readers are stripped of the possibility of discovering their new favourite book. Thankfully, there may be a change coming in the form of publishing house Unbound.
Working on a crowd-funding model similar to Kickstarter, Unbound offers first-time writers the opportunity to publish work that may otherwise be rejected. The process is simple: authors pitch their novel to the company, and if they are accepted it falls to the author to raise the necessary amount to see their novel published. How it is published can range from e-book form to paperback or hardback.
I had the privilege of attending an event last week promoting the publishing house at Blackwell’s. There, Ian Skewis – an author who had successfully funded his crime novel, A Murder of Crows, through Unbound – informed me that the process was not necessarily as new as it would seem.
Initially attracted to Unbound because “they were different [and] they were cutting edge”, Skewis explained that “this kind of thing has not been done before certainly not since Charles Dickens’ time. When he was around, he basically had to do the same. He had to purposefully go out in front of an audience and read his pitch and then they would fund it. This was before proper publishing houses existed so it is like that but for the internet age”.
That certainly holds true. For five years now Unbound has been helping first-time writers to publish their books, as well as offering support throughout the process. Recently, Unbound has received a great amount of traction thanks to support from world-renowned novelists, including J.K. Rowling, along with the success of Nikesh Shukla’s The Good Immigrant.
Featured as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’ on 17 October, Shukla’s work is the product of crowd-funding through Unbound and highlights a quality of work that could have so easily been missed by the public were it not for such new and alternative ways for writers to publish their books. Praise for Unbound is easily found within the community of writers that have arisen around the company. “What I particularly like about it”, Skewis continues, “is that it allows the readers to get involved with the publishing process, so they actually have a hand in it as well and it becomes a lot more personal project for all of us”.
Having heard the accounts of other writers at the event, who were all at different stages in funding their novels, it would seem Unbound are changing the face of publishing as it stands and in doing so, the literary scene as well.
Photo credit: Memyselfandeye