Alice Jolly - How does crowd funding with Unbound work?

In my last post I provided some information about new independent publisher Unbound. That raised questions which I am now going to attempt to answer. I should stress that, although I am currently going through the process of publishing a book with Unbound, I am not an expert on this subject. My decision to publish with Unbound was largely based on a gut feeling. In reality, I should probably have looked into other options in more detail. I am working things out as I go along so please continue to ask questions and correct me. We are all in a learning process here. Here are some answers to questions which were asked.

How does Unbound different from Kickstarter?

I don't really know that much about Kickstarter but what I do know is that you can use it for many different kinds of project. Unbound only publish books and e-books. Also, I'm not sure to what extent Kickstarter screen projects which go up on their site. What I do know is that Unbound are like a traditional publisher in that they select the books which they want. However, the reality is that they will take more risks than other publishers because they have less chance of losing money (see below). I am quite sure that other book crowd funding operations will soon set up. There is already one called Pubslush. (Was that title a good idea? I doubt it).

Am I selling books or pledges?

At present, I am in the process of raising money for the publication of the book and e-book (or to put it another way - crowdfuding). So I am not selling books. I am asking people to pledge in advance to buy a copy of the book or e-book once it is published. This is clearly not easy. But it is happening and you can see from the Unbound website that plenty of people have succeeded in raising the full amount for their book. Recently Unbound celebrated having bought in one million pledges in total. I am up to 64% of what I need to raise and I am confident that I will bring in the rest. In effect, the money that is raised in this way covers the production costs of the book and e-book. (These costs will tend to be between £7,000 and £12,000 depending on length, photos etc.) This is why Unbound can take more risks than other publishers - they've already banked the cost of production before they start.

What if I can't get the pledges?

Obviously I haven't focused on this too much because I'm going to make sure it doesn't happen! But what I am assured is that any punter who pledges for a book which ultimately doesn't happen will get their money back. So far I'm not aware that books have failed in this way but it may have happened. Certainly it takes some people a long time to raise the money.

Isn't this a load of work?

It is. But to a large extent I'm just doing early work which I would anyway need to do later. The only difference is that I'm selling copies of my book in advance instead of after it is published.

Will this work?

I really don't know. It's an experiment. I like Unbound and I think they are very professional. They have thought their approach through in detail and it's a clever idea. I respect them for trying a new approach. But I've no idea how it will go. It is also possible that it will work for me once and never again. It maybe that my particular book (a memoir) can work in this way but the novel I am finishing now won't. Watch this space.

Below is the link to my book which should give you an idea of how it works:


Lee said…
The link doesn't link.
Alice said…

Sorry. I don't know why that is. Here is the link again:

I've found this interesting, Alice. And I can see, in view of the very moving and sensitive subject matter (as well as the charity aspects) how this might work - for this book. For a novel? I'm not so sure. There are, though, some things that worry me a bit. The one that leapt out at me from the site was £10 for an eBook. (Have I got that right?) It seems too expensive. For instance, if you priced an eBook at that on Amazon, as an indie author, you wouldn't get the normal 70% share. They penalise only because they know that eBooks at this price have far fewer sales than the optimum £2.99 - £5.99 price point. The other thing is the proposed cost of publishing - and I'd like to know more about what they offer for that. If this is 'only' production - i.e. the physical books and the eBook - with a bit of distribution it's too much. If it involves professional editing - content and line - cover art, and - say - an edition of between one and two thousand with review copies sent out (i.e. not by you!) distribution to bookstores as well as online distribution through all major channels, together with a modicum of publicity, press releases etc (they never do very much, but they do some!) and some sales representation, then perhaps it's OK. If they are expecting you to do a lot of the after production stuff yourself, then I'd be wary of it - because those costs seem very steep. POD and distribution through Amazon and other channels would cost only a fraction of that. I'd also like to know a bit about what you are signing up to - essentially what rights you are signing away to Unbound. What was the contract like? So many questions, I know - but these were what came to my mind immediately!
Lydia Bennet said…
Wise words Catherine! I too had a look last time you mentioned this Alice, and like her, I can see people signing up to help a charity and a subject like this. for a novel, perhaps not unless it's someone famous who might put their name in a best seller... I wish you all luck with this project but I'd also counsel caution about what they are providing for what they are getting. But thanks for posting about this modern phenomenon in publishing.
Bill Kirton said…
I have nothing like Catherine's extensive understanding of the nuts and bolts of the business but I must confess that similar, although less well articulated, thoughts occurred as I was reading. But that's not a negative response; the whole process is fascinating. I admire your determination, resolution and stamina and I'm looking forward to the next instalment.
Yes - I didn't want to be negative either - and I DO think it could work well for the project you've undertaken. But I'd worry about a novel, I think.
Chris Longmuir said…
I think, like others, I thought the concept was interesting but had reservations about the cost. I notice in their FAQs they quote £15,000 as the cost of publishing a book, text only. As someone who has turned from traditional publishing to self publishing, I can outsource my editorial input, covers, printing costs etc for thousands of pounds lower than their estimates, and I agree with Catherine that £10 is far too high a selling price for an ebook, which literally costs nothing to put online once editorial and cover costs have been met. I also noticed that Unbound keeps the publishing rights in the same way that a traditional publisher does, and as someone who has struggled to reclaim publishing rights, I trust you've paid attention to what your contract states. The Society of Authors vet contracts even if you're not yet a member. The other thing I noticed recently is that Amazon has started a crowd funding service, but I don't know much about it.
Good luck with your progress though in respect of pledges, but keep an eye on that contract.
Alice said…
Thank you very much for your comments. They are all interesting. They also make me realise that there is a lot about publishing books that I don't understand and I certainly don't understand e-books. On the production costs, I can definitely say that Unbound do the whole lot - editing, proof reading, cover design. They do also promise help with publicity and so far have delivered far more than Simon and Schuster did. As for the contract, my agent and lawyer husband dealt with that. I'm very bad at these things. Let's hope they know what they are doing. I agree with everyone that this might only work for a memoir. I suppose I was hoping that if the memoir worked it might make it easier to get the novel out - one way or another. Only time will tell. Thanks so much for the thoughts and comments. Very thought provoking.
Dennis Hamley said…
It sounds very interesting, Alice, and crowd-funding is something we are considering (though not with huge enthusiasm) for Blank Page Press. But £15000 to have a text-only book published? Oh dear. BPP have no chance.
If the memoir works well, with Unbound, perhaps you should consider self publishing the novel as an eBook and Print on Demand paperback, Alice - because however it's published the sales of one, the profile raising, would certainly give the other a good push in the right direction. I use a mixture. I have a good friend who is committed to trad publishing, but has three or four different small publishers and is very happy with the results - but he resists any kind of exclusivity. I think at the moment, we have to go with whatever seems best for ourselves, and that also means looking at each individual project and where best to try to place it. The days of an agent saying 'if you do such and such a thing, nobody will look at the next book' are long gone, fortunately.
Lynne Garner said…
Interesting idea - do keep us updated.

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