Unbound aims for 40 books in year one

Unbound, a publishing platform that allows readers to choose what is published, was devised as a response to the “difficulties of the existing publishing model”, with the programme aiming to get 35 to 40 projects off the ground in its first year.

Supported by Faber, the platform was created by “QI” writers John Mitchinson and John Pollard, and Crap Towns author Dan Kieran. Authors are required to pitch their idea to readers on the site, and have 50 days to attract support through readers pledging money to fund the publication of the work. If enough money is pledged, the work will be published, primarily as an e-book or “beautifully bound, limited edition hardback”, or both, with each pledger’s name inscribed in the back of the print edition.

Pledgers will also be able to access the author’s online “shed”, where they can track their progress on the work through blogs and video diaries. Rewards for pledgers depend on the level of support they have demonstrated, with a sliding scale from £10 to £250. Incentives include the pledger getting their name in the back of the special edition, to goodie bags and lunch with the author.

Mitchinson said other suggestions for rewards had already been received, and that at the highest level of funding, Price on Application, Unbound might negotiate a percentage share in the title for an investment of more than £1,000. The amount it takes to fund a project varies, with the total figure covering production costs as well as a fee for the author. The author receives 50% of any profits from their work.

The Unbound team will work with freelance editorial and design staff in order to publish the works, and with three still-to-be-confirmed printing firms. Faber will sell and distribute trade editions of selected titles under an Unbound imprint, making commercial decisions as to which titles to publish with Unbound. If an author is already published by another publisher, that publisher could negotiate a deal with Unbound for the new title.

Mitchinson, a former m.d. of Cassell, said: “Like most -people, I can see 50% of the current book industry moving to digital in the next five years, but it’s not going to destroy a love of the beautifully--bound book.”

On its genesis, he said: “We [the founders] are all writers and I suppose over the years we had swapped stories of the kind of difficulties of the existing publishing model; nobody is making fantastic sums of money, in general, the advances- are going down, unearned balances are going up, backlist sales are falling.”

The team was inspired by the US site Kickstarter.com, which operates through a similar model, though the ideas on Kickstarter range across disciplines, and, unlike Unbound, the ideas are not curated.

Each project will have 50 days to secure sufficient support; if the target is not reached within the time limit, the Unbound team will talk to the author and agent and decide whether to go ahead or to refund the supporters. At present, Unbound is focusing on well-known authors, but hopes to soon include début authors. Mitchinson said Unbound has exclusive rights to each project submitted to the site, meaning a rival publisher could not gazump the book by directly approaching the author.

As The Bookseller went to press, of the five ideas currently on the site, author Terry Jones’ idea for “a darkly funny set of linked tales” had received 2% of its required funding, while Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s idea, an iPad version of his book The Cloudspotter’s Guide, was still on 0%.