Guest post by Claire Scobie
This a story about how I’m using crowdfunding to get my novel The Pagoda Tree published in the UK.
I’m using Unbound, a UK publishing model with a distinguished past. Once known as “subscription publishing”, in 1688 the first edition of Milton's Paradise Lost was published like this and so were books by Samuel Johnson and Voltaire.
I spent four years writing and researching this epic tale set in 18th Century India about love, loss and exile, and what happens when two cultures collide. The novel was well-received in Australia, with the Sydney Morning Herald describing it, as “a novel to be savoured”.
Initially, I only sold publishing rights in Australia and New Zealand. Since 2013 I’ve been trying to place it in the UK. My agent suggested we try Unbound, which is both a traditional publisher and a funding platform, as another of her authors, Paul Kingsnorth’s novel The Wake, was published through them. His novel went on to be longlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize.
In the 1720s Voltaire travelled to London when he couldn’t get a publisher in Paris. When his work La Henriade was published in 1728, the name of subscribers at the back read like a who’s-who of English society.
He even dedicated La Henriade to Queen Caroline.
And just like back then, supporters of The Pagoda Tree will get their name in the back of the book. I’ve offered other rewards, such as a beautiful handcrafted Indian journal and professional mentor sessions for budding writers.
I’ve been following the progress of Unbound since 2012 when I first blogged about them, describing their approach as “an exciting example of entrepreneurialism in times of uncertainty”. As we all know, the current publishing market is changing fast and writers need to keep up. Although my first three books were published traditionally, I’m always willing to try something new.
Unbound works like other publishers in the sense that you submit your proposal, idea and/or manuscript. You also need to show that you’re willing to do the extra work to raise the funds to get it published. Once those funds are raised (the exact amount depends on each project), Unbound do all the usual things that a mainstream publisher does: copyedit, proof and print the book, promote and market the work when it is published. Their books are distributed via Cornerstone (a division of Penguin Random House). However, where they differ from most publishers is that they split a book's net profit 50/50 (after costs/retail discounts) with the author; traditionally an author is lucky to earn 10% of the cover price.
When my book is published in the UK, it will have a chance to find new audiences around the world, including India where it will also be distributed.
I admit this approach has pushed me out of my comfort zone. As crowdfunding expert, Anna Maguire, recently said to me, “Shame is out the window when it comes to crowdfunding!”. And I’ve had to use a lot of hashtags:
But I am following in illustrious footsteps. Aside from Voltaire, Unbound have published a who’s-who of well-known contemporary authors, including Kate Mosse, Julie Burchill and Terry Jones.
It’s both an emotional journey and a business strategy. I’ve been humbled by the support from friends, family and strangers. It’s like an endorsement of my work in a very public space but it can be surprising hard asking for help.
I like the philosophy of Unbound and the fact that it was founded by three authors who felt that readers were often left out of the equation. These ventures are new ways for authors and readers to come together in the process of publishing a book. I believe by harnessing the power of our collective community we have a greater chance to get our stories out there.
And now it’s much easier than 250 years ago. I don’t have to tour England in a carriage, but I do need to see if any of my supporters are royalty so I can acknowledge them appropriately.