A different kind of publishing: my leap into the unknown

Seeing as my ‘book-in-progress’ is up on the Unbound website seeking to make its way into the world, I thought I’d better say something about this whole shebang.

Be part of a revolution, says Unbound, an innovative independent book publisher. Time will tell if that’s true, but this is certainly a different way of doing things. People vote with their wallets for the books they want to see published. Those who sign up with Unbound (via their website unbound.co.uk) can choose to back books (pledge) using a bank card or Paypal.


The site contains three broad categories of books:

  • Books that have been published
  • Books that have been funded and are in production
  • Books which have been selected from submissions and aren’t yet funded but probably will be (unless the author succumbs to the rather nasty HadItWithCrowdfunding Syndrome)

Some which have caught my eye among some seriously impressive books:

The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (published). Longlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2014. A feat of imagination – a story told in an invented language, set in a fascinating, shadowy part of history.

Seas of Snow

Seas of Snow by Kerensa Jennings (funded). Promises lots of dark goings on, including childhood abuse. Central theme: Is evil born or made? Stand-out poetic language. It’s worth watching the pitch video, too, it’s very cleverly made.




Things We Can’t Undo by Martine McDonagh (being funded). The punchy, confident voice in the opening pages pulled me into this coming of age novel with special appeal to Shaun of the Dead fans.

Things we can't undoAndy Hamilton’s novel The Star Witness (funded). See the article in The Independent about Andy’s unusual campaign tactics: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/andy-hamilton-have-i-got-news-for-you-and-qi-regular-to-descend-upon-your-dinner-party-in-crowd-a6794111.html

In Cathedral’s Shadow by ‘not just the wine guy’ Richard Bray (funding). An ancient burial pit is found in St Andrews, Scotland, and all sorts of things look set to be unearthed…

A Murder of Crows by Ian Skewis (funding). A dark crime thriller set on Scotland’s west coast. A detective on the cusp of retirement hunts for a psychopathic killer…

A murder of crowsThough I’m biased towards novels, Unbound has a huge selection of enticing sounding non-fiction too, such as The Dissent of Man by J.F. Derry (Darwin’s influcence on everyone) and The Choice by Ruth Pitt (a topic that resonates with me, the history of women’s struggle to balance work and family).




Q & A

What’s the attraction of Unbound and crowdfunded publishing?

For me, getting the backing of a highly thought of independent publisher that’s going places must be a good thing. Their innovative approach to publishing offers a real alternative to traditional publishing models, combining the book patron concept popular a few centuries ago with the modern technique of crowdfunding. Their mission (stated on their site) is to give readers, not publishers, the power to decide which books get published and to help more authors make a fair living.

Because books are funded up front, Unbound can take creative risks, choosing projects that may appeal to readers that have been neglected or who want something beyond what is offered by mainstream publishers. For their part, authors get the freedom to write the book that they want without having to make compromises induced by the need to sell enough copies to cover production costs. Plus they get excellent promotion and 50% of royalties.

The downside

Raising three grand plus for a first novel by an unknown, uncelebrity writer is by no means easy. What’s crucially important – apart from the work itself, of course – are one’s networks, the ability to promote oneself and to be creative and persistent with marketing.

Everyone approaches the task differently and has their own strengths and weaknesses. If (like me) your networks are on the lean side and heavily populated with impoverished artists/writers/poets, and the idea of having to constantly brag about your brilliant (of course) book brings you out in a rash, you are not the ideal candidate for crowdfunding. On the other hand, maybe you have a whizzbang idea (for non-fiction, that is) or you write like an angel on acid, or you’ve simply got a damn good book… Tenacity and bloodymindedness count for a lot, for sure. You need to be able to hang in there when no one has pledged for a few days and you’re asking yourself yet again, Why the hell am I doing this crazy thing?

How did you come to be crowdfunding your novel?

I submitted my novel Ghosts of Chechnya to Unbound around October 2015 as I really liked the look of their website – both the quality and originality of their books and their fresh way of doing things. I didn’t expect it would get picked as they get lots of submissions and two excellent writers I know had been rejected by them. So I was chuffed when they replied in November saying Ghosts of Chechnya would be published under their new digital list, once it meets its crowdfunding target.

What is the novel about?

It’s a psychological thriller blended with a love story set around the 7/7 terror attacks on London, about a young London woman who falls for a potentially unhinged Russian ex-soldier she knows little about, and the consequences of that.

How do people find your book?

A short video about Ghosts of Chechnya is on my Unbound project page, along with an extract: https://unbound.co.uk/books/ghosts-of-chechnya (or from the home page, go to Find a Book then Thriller.) From this page one can sign up to Unbound and pledge for the book.

What is the money used for and how is it raised?

Unbound won’t publish my novel until I have reached a target (around £3,500 for e-books, covering things like structural editing, copy editing, proofreading and cover design). To do this, I need to gather sufficient ‘pledges’ via their website (www.unbound.co.uk) within 90 days, ending around 22nd February 2016. If for any reason the project doesn’t reach its target, Unbound will offer to refund each pledge received.

Where are you at now?

As of 13/1/16, the book is 36% funded. It needs a maximum of 228 more £10 pledges to get to 100% (much fewer higher-value pledges).

Pledge for GoC screenshot

What do people get if they pledge?

Those who pledge are effectively buying a book in advance – and helping to make sure that the work actually gets published. Anyone who pledges becomes a patron of the book. Their name will be listed on the author’s project page and they’ll get ‘shed updates’ with news and insights about the book-in-progress, audio and video clips. Ghosts of Chechnya will go out as an e-book; once production is complete, its supporters will receive it with their name acknowledged inside (or they can be anonymous). There are special rewards for higher pledges e.g. a guided tour/video of the novel’s London settings and an author-recorded audio version. (Fortunately for everyone, no gate-crashing dinner parties!)

What should people know about your book?

Ghosts of Chechnya (mainly extracts of previous drafts) has received excellent reviews by fellow writers and the occasional HarperCollins editor (see the Reviews page for a selection). It is controversial and timely, dealing with radicalism, terror attacks and the suffering of conscripted soldiers and civilians that took place during Russia’s second war against Chechnya. As well as a thriller and a love story, it is an anti-war novel.

What would you say to anyone who’s considering supporting your book?

Do it!

Seriously, that would be more than welcome.

Anything else?

I believe in this thing. Yes, £10 is more than a 99p discounted Kindle e-book. But apart from getting my book, designed and chiselled into a state of near-perfection along with whatever extras you pick, this is a chance to be part of something new and exciting… which isn’t Amazon. (Sorry, I had to get that in for all the Bezos haters.)

supporters66 people have pledged £1,300 to date, which is pretty incredible when I stop to think about it. I’m working hard to reach out to potential readers and big-time corporate backers who can’t wait to impart a smidgeon of their wealth onto highly deserving projects. (Well, you never know.)

Fingers crossed I’ll reach 100% sooner or later, and survive to tell the tale.

4 thoughts on “A different kind of publishing: my leap into the unknown

  1. I’ve just pledged – it’s been on my mind to do it for ages. Good luck, Jennie. I was at King’s Cross the morning the bomb went off and I heard the Russell Square bomb from my office nearby, half an hour later, so the book will have exceptional meaning to me

    1. thanks for the pledge Diana, I hope you’ll enjoy the book when it finally appears – there’s a fair amount of 7/7 stuff in there but have tried not to give any over-graphic details

  2. Such a good article – I’m about to be in this position and it really helps to read how you went about the process of crowdfunding. This is such a novel way to get a book published! (sorry – I couldn’t resist!) 🙂

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