Just as crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding has taken off in recent years, it was clear this model was seeping into many other areas of business. One small startup that latched onto the model was Unbound, a UK startup that worked out that if they made their authors rock stars, then the fans would follow and subsequently fund a new model for publishing which did not require the “hits” model followed by traditional publishers. This was more a virtuous cycle where fans would fund new books and authors could generate new fans. Thus today, Unbound, what appears to be the world’s first crowdfunding publishing house, has secured a £1.2 million / $1.94 million funding round from Forward Investment Partners, DFJ Esprit and Cambridge Angels.
The company will use the funds to develop new platforms to engage the whole publishing industry, including literary agents, publishers and booksellers.
The Soho, London based Unbound – where all the best writers hang out – has a model where authors pitch ideas for books and supporters then pledge financial backing in return for rewards. Think Kickstarter for books and you’re close.
Launched in May 2011 by Dan Kieran (author of best-selling Crap Towns and The Idle Traveller), John Mitchinson (veteran publisher, writer and head of research for BBC’s QI) and Justin Pollard (historian, television producer and established author), unbound has to date raised almost £1 million from supporters of its authors. The average successful pitch raises £15,000 from 500 supporters.
Then, Unbound authors receive 50% of all profits made on their projects (compared with the 5-10% royalty they would get from traditional publishing channels). So technically they might make less initially, but they get to make much more of their fans, and they get to control access to their fans rather than the traditional publishing house.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) Unbound launches its biggest project to date: ‘Letters of Note’ by Shaun Usher, which raised more than £125,000 in advance pledges and has been called the ‘book of the year’ by literary and comedic celebrity Stephen Fry. Usher turned down traditional publishing channels to sign up with Unbound.
Dan Kieran, CEO and founder of Unbound says “Unbound was founded on a very simple ethos: to bring authors and readers together and to give them all a better, more engaged experience of the publishing process. With this funding in place, we are ready to enter the second phase of our plans.”
Nic Brisbourne, director of Forward Investment Partners says: “Since Forward’s first investment, the Unbound team has demonstrated that they can use their deep understanding of authors and the demands put upon them by modern publishing to create a unique business that addresses the needs of both writers and publishers.”
This is not a new model in fact. The subscription-in-advance model was familiar to Charles Dickens and Samuel Johnson. I’m sure they would be pleased.