I don’t know where the idea to use the premise of ANIMAL FARM to take a satirical swipe at British politics came from, but I remember I was hanging a sheet of wallpaper at the time. Of course, I dismissed the thought at once. Why would I want to write a novel about Margaret Thatcher? I had other ambitions, other plans. But the bird that came out of nowhere that afternoon refused to give up the ghost. I can still see her, the Thatcher character, scuttling up to the stepladder I was standing on: her determined stare, her purposeful pigeon-like gait. And so in the mid-2000s, I conceded defeat and put pen to paper.
I finished the novel in 2015, and submitted the opening chapters to all the tradional gatekeepers. The less said about 2016 the better: the requests for the full manuscript, the brief glimmers of hope. Suffice it to say, I soon started to amass a collection of emails telling me that the “concept is unique” and the “execution superb”, but… I’m afraid there was always a “but”. And more often than not it was followed with some cautionary words about “the market”.
Of course, there’s nothing unusual about receiving rejections. ANIMAL FARM was dismissed by the US publisher, Knopf, as a “pointless fable”. Yet even so, I must admit that, come 2017, I was close to throwing in the towel. Then I remembered Unbound. Here was an innovative approach to publishing. Here was a chance to discover if there's a market for THE IRON BIRD or not.
And so I downloaded Adobe Premiere Pro and taught myself to edit video. And so I started bidding for bits and pieces of Thatcher memorabilia in online auctions. And so I tried to put together the strongest project page that I could. True, I hadn’t expected crowdfunding to be such an emotional rollercoaster: the sense of elation at pledge that has just come in, the sense of self-doubt during the quiet periods. But even so, I’m over the moon that THE IRON BIRD has managed to secure over 40% of its funding target in just a couple of weeks. And so grateful to the readers who have pledged.
Is there a market for the animal counterparts of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson? Is there a market for a deluded old bird that bears more than a passing resemblance to the late Baroness Thatcher? The decision no longer lies in the offices of the traditional publishing houses. It is out in the open. It is yours.
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