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Unbound: like Kickstarter but soley for books
June 21, 2011 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Unbound - like Kickstarter but for books. The idea is simple, authors pitch their idea and interested readers then pay a specified amount to bring the idea to life.

Everyone who supports an author before they reach 100% of the funding target gets their name printed in every edition of that book. All levels include a digital version and immediate access to the author's shed while they write the book, and supporters of projects that don't reach their target receive a full refund.

Sponsorship levels range from a mere £10.00 up to £250.00 or if you are feeling particulalry charitable you can fund an entire project by yourself.

Terry Jones (Original Monty Python member, and now mostly a successful author and historian and director) is probably the most well known name to have a current project, but the entire project is exciting many people who feel that the current publishing system is loosing it's monopoly.
posted by Faintdreams (54 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
How about a site that works the other way around? If we can get Dinesh D'Souza to promise to never write a book again, I'll chip in $50.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:16 AM on June 21, 2011 [23 favorites]


This is a great idea!
Now somebody pitch a epic high-fantasy triology with a gay protagonist and I'll empty my savings account.
posted by ts;dr at 11:19 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think Lord of the Rings was already published.
posted by DU at 11:21 AM on June 21, 2011 [27 favorites]


Jonathan Meades!!! Where do I sign!!!!!!!!!
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:21 AM on June 21, 2011


Kind of not like Kickstarter in that Unbound approaches and commissions the authors. But still an interesting idea.
posted by penduluum at 11:21 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


ts;dr -- I assume you've already read the Last Herald-Mage trilogy?
posted by pts at 11:24 AM on June 21, 2011


I helped fund a CD once this way for a favorite performer. But there are are so many thousands of great books out there, already written, which I want to read, that I can't imagine "comissioning" one from any living author -- especially one who is not good enough to get a publishing deal on his or her own. Especially from an ex-Monty Pythoner, as their novels have all been pretty not-good.
posted by Faze at 11:26 AM on June 21, 2011


Especially from an ex-Monty Pythoner, as their novels have all been pretty not-good.

But celebrity!
posted by incessant at 11:28 AM on June 21, 2011


... loosing it's monopoly.

RELEASE THE MONOPOLY!
posted by odinsdream at 11:31 AM on June 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


The problem with this is that really good books have editors, actual skilled editors who make the book better. If you need any proof of this, just look at Anne Rice's latest, un-edited offerings - and whether her early stuff was your cup of tea or not the quality that an editor brings to a project is pretty much immediately evident.

I read an interview with a YA author recently who was singing the praises of editors, and all of the guys whose work I really enjoy are always thanking their editors . . .yeah. I'm pretty sure vanity press is not the way to great literature, but have fun.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:32 AM on June 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


sorry to derail the thread so soon.
pts: unfortunately yes.

posted by ts;dr at 11:34 AM on June 21, 2011


Yeah, it'd be neat if the sponsorship funds could be applied to paying for editors. So you post the premise of your giant Nanowrimo epic, editors bid on how much they'd have to be paid to tackle the job, then donors can pitch funds towards that amount.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:38 AM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Eye whil rite a buk abowt ow 2 skam peepul onlyn 4 onlee phive thowsend dollers. PayPal ohnlee.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:39 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


current publishing system is loosing it's monopoly

LOSING ITS monopoly
posted by clockzero at 11:42 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


loosing it's monopoly

AND ALSO THE KRAKEN!
posted by Zed at 11:46 AM on June 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


what upstart is this that dares to loose the kraken?
posted by clockzero at 11:51 AM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


The problem with this is that really good books have editors, actual skilled editors who make the book better. If you need any proof of this, just look at Anne Rice's latest, un-edited offerings - and whether her early stuff was your cup of tea or not the quality that an editor brings to a project is pretty much immediately evident.

I read an interview with a YA author recently who was singing the praises of editors, and all of the guys whose work I really enjoy are always thanking their editors . . .yeah. I'm pretty sure vanity press is not the way to great literature, but have fun.


I hear this all the time. But I also recall hearing (or reading on Metafilter) that the editor-driven publishing model for novels is actually an idiosyncrasy of English-language publishing, and that around the world even good books by high-profile authors do not involve any creative partnership with an editor.

So, uh, now I'm not sure I believe the usual line about editors.
posted by grobstein at 11:52 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, great. I'm going to go pitch my Deadwood spinoff where Al Swearengen, Dan, Johnny and Adams become time travellers. It's going to be so good. I might have them open a new Gem saloon in like a space opera type setting.

I particularly like this idea because I like imagining trying to explain this to the real Al Swearengen and him being all, "There is not a part of this I understand."
posted by neuromodulator at 11:55 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


If them foreign books is so good, why do they translate all the important ones into English, then?
posted by orthogonality at 11:56 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


How can the contributors know that they're funding an end product which sufficiently resembles what they wanted to pay toward?
posted by clockzero at 11:57 AM on June 21, 2011


I really hope those fucking furries and fanfic freaks don't get wind of this site: "Oh. Spock. Run. Your. Furry. Wolf's. Tail. Over. My. Engorged. Starship. Captain's. Pony. 'Phaser'."
posted by orthogonality at 12:02 PM on June 21, 2011


How can the contributors know that they're funding an end product which sufficiently resembles what they wanted to pay toward?

Trust?
posted by JimmyJames at 12:13 PM on June 21, 2011


This would be more useful to me if I were famous.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:26 PM on June 21, 2011


This would lead to a lot of horrible fanfic if fan boys/girls hadn't spent all their money on custom Firefly costumes.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:28 PM on June 21, 2011


"authors pitch their idea and interested readers then pay a specified amount to bring the idea to life."

Oddly enough, this describes the traditional publication model perfectly. It's just that the class of "interested readers" in that case is known as "acquiring editors."
posted by jscalzi at 12:30 PM on June 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


meh! not so cool ! You can't find it on their website anymore but they take rights from their authors ... which is mentioned here "Unbound retains the publication rights in books it signs for the first year "... looks like that got removed from the public site really quickly.

So, basically, the public is providing the publishing company with the authors advance!

And they stole the nook logo, and turned it upside down.

Not cool!
posted by jannw at 12:34 PM on June 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


The problem with this is that really good books have editors, actual skilled editors who make the book better.

No, there are a lot of problems here, but that's not one of them.

Why can't I submit a pitch? After jannw's (major) rights issue, there's problem #2.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:37 PM on June 21, 2011


I love kickstarter. I have funded at least 4 projects. One was a book. I'll get sucked into this world as well.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:45 PM on June 21, 2011


Unbound launched three weeks ago and it has six projects, the most-funded of which is at 19% with 29 days to run. I have put money towards the Jonathan Meades book, but I am disappointedly confident that we will hear no more from Unbound.
posted by Hogshead at 12:58 PM on June 21, 2011


I have a feeling that people think that editors are useless-hangers on so long as they do not know anyone who works in the editing industry. This is also true of "CGI is easy and ruins movies!" which recently got a great smack down on MeFi, and is related to the entire notion of people not being able to be total assholes to [insert maligned subset of people] when they actually know a member of said maligned class.

However, if you want to do this, do it on KickStarter, or I suspect IndieGoGo -- don't use a new! form! of business! that is more or less going to steal your publication rights. If you're going to share / give up publication rights then just go through the traditional process.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:21 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I admire the founders for their bravery, but like Hogshead, I am pretty sure this will not fly. The prices are not attractive enough (particularly for a US audience), the site is too niche to get enough visitors, the authors appear to be barely involved (resulting in a oddly impersonal tone), the targets are too high, and the rewards are not very interesting.

The authors do seem cool, but as a publisher friend discovered, a number of the short stories are already for sale from other retails. Not cool.
posted by adrianhon at 1:40 PM on June 21, 2011


If you're going to share / give up publication rights then just go through the traditional process.
Unbound is basically still a publisher, it's just trying to publish books that won't make it through the traditional process because they'll maybe only sell a few thousand copies.

In music it's easier to make your own product (CDs, vinyl etc) and sell it to a small audience. It's not quite so easy to produce a good quality hardback book yourself. Unbound are using their publishing industry experience and contacts to make interesting book projects happen, and using the Kickstarter/PitchMusic preorder model to make sure they don't lose money.

I've supported the Terry Jones book and I hope it gets made!
posted by ihatemornings at 1:55 PM on June 21, 2011


Interesting - there are a few of these medium-specific kickstarter-type things. I wonder if they'll coalesce over the next couple years. I'm working on a book myself but I can't say I'm attracted by this model. There are a lot of resources available to the big houses and, alternatively, to motivated self-publishers. This seems a little bit middle of the road, and I'm not convinced it isn't the worst of both worlds just yet.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:55 PM on June 21, 2011


Apologies to double comment, but it just occurred to me that this is MUCH more applicable to something like long-form journalism. A book could take years and require many thousands of dollars. But a motivated journalist could say "I need 1800 bucks to investigate a Mexican town that's trying to live off the grid" - or something.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:57 PM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, the key to saving the book world is to make writing MORE consumer capitalist.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:03 PM on June 21, 2011


Funny, I thought Kickstarter was the "Kickstarter for books." So far, authors have raised at least $2.7M for over 600 completed book projects on Kickstarter, and they never had to give up an equity stake in their project to do it. (By contrast, Unbound plans to take 50% of book sales.) And that doesn't even cover hundreds of new projects still raising money. Just sayin'.

(Full disclosure: I'm a Kickstarter advisor and early employee.)
posted by waxpancake at 2:13 PM on June 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


there's also WorkingExamples which is like Kickstarter except projects get ideas instead of money.
posted by zenwerewolf at 2:42 PM on June 21, 2011


"it's just trying to publish books that won't make it through the traditional process because they'll maybe only sell a few thousand copies."

Heh. Most books published through the traditional process sell maybe only a few thousand copies, you know.
posted by jscalzi at 2:52 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


meh! not so cool ! You can't find it on their website anymore but they take rights from their authors ... which is mentioned here "Unbound retains the publication rights in books it signs for the first year "... looks like that got removed from the public site really quickly.

Actually, that seems less evil than actually kinda cool, in that they only keep the rights for a year instead of hanging on to them forever.

So, basically, the public is providing the publishing company with the authors advance!

Kinda, but the fact that they are following the Kickstarter model and giving out cool stuff for supporting the book getting made means that the public isn't really getting ripped off. I mean, if someone donating to a project might get pissed off that their money isn't all going to the writer or something like that, but that strikes me as missing the point. If it was on KS that same money would have gone to a publisher anyway. In this model the writer doesn't have to worry about that and can just write.

This passes my litmus test for awesome. Not as awesome as Kickstarter, but still awesome. I think some great books will come out of this.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 3:19 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hear this all the time. But I also recall hearing (or reading on Metafilter) that the editor-driven publishing model for novels is actually an idiosyncrasy of English-language publishing, and that around the world even good books by high-profile authors do not involve any creative partnership with an editor.

So, uh, now I'm not sure I believe the usual line about editors.
posted by grobstein at 11:52 AM on June 21 [1 favorite +] [!]


My gut feeling about this is that the English language publishing industry is bigger and more meritocratic in a "Anybody can be published if marketed correctly!" way, so the pool of talent is more uh, diverse. Highly-esteemed establishment literary writers can probably go unedited, but I'm willing to bet that much of the mid-range stuff that constitutes the bulk of publishing would be practically unreadable if it weren't for editors.
posted by peripathetic at 3:22 PM on June 21, 2011


Most books published through the traditional process sell maybe only a few thousand copies, you know

5000 constitutes best seller in Canada.
posted by dobbs at 3:29 PM on June 21, 2011


I don't like that submissions are only open to established authors with literary agents. I feel like these are the people who could afford to do this already. I like the idea of helping new talent get started.
posted by misha at 3:49 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, the key to saving the book world is to make writing MORE consumer capitalist.

Sorry, what's the alternative?
posted by shii at 4:49 PM on June 21, 2011


My gut feeling about this is that the English language publishing industry is bigger and more meritocratic

This is pretty wrong. The Indian publishing industry is larger, for example, in terms of authors and books, and I understand the Chinese market is catching up very quickly indeed - though capital of course is much smaller. I don't see how anyone could make the meritocratic argument without having an in-depth knowledge of foreign language publishing.
posted by smoke at 5:35 PM on June 21, 2011


Eeeeeh, I'm not really in-the-know with regards to big authors, aside from Terry Jones are any of those people 'little' authors? Does the site even let little authors put projects up?

If its only established authors, my feelings for the site turn from warm to luke-warm, with a hint of ick.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:44 PM on June 21, 2011


Smoke,

Fair enough. I based my statement on the fact that 10 out of 20 of the world's biggest publishing houses are located in the UK/US/Canada and the highest paid authors in the world are British and American. And I do think that their blockbuster business model and the global popularity of their most successful writers inspire the population to try their hand at publishing their writing at a wider scale.
posted by peripathetic at 6:16 PM on June 21, 2011


I would love kickstarter if it were easier/possible for non-Americans to post projects to it and thus benefit from the kickstarter and metafilter@kickstarter love.

As long as kickstarter is US-near-exclusive, there's going to be a lot of room for similar efforts, like this Unbound thing, without saturating the market and interest-level for crowd-funding.
posted by waterunderground at 7:06 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has anyone seen my kraken? I can't seem to find it anywhere.
posted by mendel at 7:20 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why not just use Kickstarter for this?
posted by KWile at 1:24 AM on June 22, 2011


Why not just use Kickstarter for this?

See above. It's apparently very poorly recognized that Kickstarter requires all listed projects to have a U.S. resident behind them. You might also notice that Unbound is based in the UK. While Terry Jones could probably get his American agent to post his project to Kickstarter, we're not all so lucky.
posted by waterunderground at 2:25 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


While Terry Jones could probably get his American agent to post his project to Kickstarter, we're not all so lucky.

But doesn't getting posted on Unbound require a literary agent? I am confused what this thing is for if not for new authors ...
posted by mrgrimm at 8:21 AM on June 22, 2011


But doesn't getting posted on Unbound require a literary agent?

You're right, I should have read further, it does require that. Conceivably though, of the people that have a literary agent, there's still quite a large subset that do not have an American agent. I guess for the rest of us unrepresented louts, there's still the Euro-kickstarter, Ulule.com.
posted by waterunderground at 9:43 AM on June 22, 2011


DU: I think Lord of the Rings was already published.

Years and years ago I wrote an essay about just that.

grobstein: I hear this all the time. But I also recall hearing (or reading on Metafilter) that the editor-driven publishing model for novels is actually an idiosyncrasy of English-language publishing, and that around the world even good books by high-profile authors do not involve any creative partnership with an editor.

I'm a novelist. I'm Icelandic. My first novel came out last year. I worked closely with an editor. I don't know what the model is in the US, but I handed in a manuscript that I was happy with to the publishing house. Then, after they had decided to publish it, a single editor and I worked on it. The novel, as I handed it in, was about 80-90% finished. One major change was made to the text, but that wasn't something that the editor forced on me. She made an argument that one aspect of the book's style didn't quite work right. I agreed with her critique but thought the solution she proposed wouldn't work either, so I made the case for a different solution, which she was happy with (in fact, we high-fived). Every other change we debated was fairly minor (different wordings, deletions etc). I'd say that I decided to go with my instincts about half the time, accept her proposals about a third of the time, and find a different solution for the rest. Don't get me wrong, the novel was hugely improved by my wonderful editor. Working with her is a joy. The copy editor and typesetter were great too. And, for the record, my text wasn't straight-forward to work with either. About a third of the novel is written without punctuation, sentences sometimes dissolve into abstract shapes, and the perspective on the characters is very impersonal (a very strict third person objective, if you want to get technical).

From what I've heard from writers I know in the US, there's much greater creative input from editors and agents there than is standard in Iceland (or Europe too, as far as I know). Nothing like this editorial horror story by Helen Dewitt could happen here (there was an interesting discussion at languagehat's blog about the article by Dewitt, which included Dewitt herself).
posted by Kattullus at 4:18 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus, I just realized that Al, Dan, Johnny and Adams map directly onto Hannibal, BA, Murdock and Face, too. This is bigger than I imagined.

*scribbling furiously into notepad*
posted by neuromodulator at 10:27 PM on June 23, 2011


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