Thursday, 16 October 2014
The Waiting Game - The Realities of Crowdfunding
I launched this book 107 days ago - just under four months - and I'm delighted that I'm 48% funded; the halfway mark is in sight. That said, there was a big flurry of pledges at the beginning, which means that, realistically, it's taken three months to achieve 20%. It doesn't take a mathmo to work out that, at the current rate of pledging, this book won't hit 100% until this time next year. That in turn means that it will miss the Christmas publishing catalogues; reaching the funding level is just the start of the production process and, before the book can become a reality, it will need to be edited, proofread, designed, typeset, covers designed, permissions sought and then proofs checked before printing and distribution. Oh, and the e-books need the same level of care. Realistically, if funding ticks along at the speed it is, Why did the Policeman cross the Road? is, at best, a Summer 2016 book.
At the risk of sounding depressing, that's the reality of crowd-funding. If you're a celebrity, it's pretty easy. Your existing following will fund it in a jiffy. Mind you, if you're a celebrity, you would probably have traditional publishers biting your hand off for the rights anyway. But when you're just a normal, everyday guy like me, it's a lot tougher. You don't get invited to talk about your new book at literary festivals and at book shop events. You have to pimp yourself on social media every single day. And all the time you're thinking 'Am I annoying people?' It does feel a little like begging at times and, let's be honest, blowing one's own trumpet is something that doesn't sit very comfortably with British sensibilities. Just look at how the majority of people react to the self-promoting contestants on TV shows like The Apprentice. As a nation, we're not drawn to show-offs, braggarts and people who shout 'Look at me! Buy this!' every day.
The thing is, the way that books are published with Unbound is no different to the way it's done with any other publisher; it's just more transparent.
You approach them with an idea, a synopsis and maybe a sample chapter or two. If they like it, you sign a contract. Now, with traditional publishing you'd have got an advance at this stage. That's a lump sum of money given by the publisher to secure the rights to the book and for the author to live on while they write it. The advance is calculated as a percentage of projected sales and, ultimately, the publisher gets the money back before the author starts earning any commission. It's a gamble on the publishers' part.
And it doesn't always work out.
Hilary Clinton got a staggering $14 million advance for her autobiography this year ... but it only sold 141,000 copies in the first three weeks. Imagine how many less well-known authors that $14 million could have funded! If they'd given advances of $50,000 to authors instead, the publishers could have had 280 new books instead of one. And 280 writers would have had paid work. Sadly, Clinton's book is not an isolated case - the advances are pretty much gone now for the working author as the celebs and their agents have swallowed them all up. What Unbound does instead is get you guys, the reading public, to stump up for the production costs of the book and maybe a little advance on top.
But it's not a gamble for you; you will get a book at the end of it. And it'll be an interesting, well-made and thought-provoking book. And your name will be in the back. And you get to chat to the author all the way through the process by way of the Author's Shed.
All you have to do is spend a tenner, or £20 - the price of a pizza or a cheap Chinese meal. You get a great book, the author gets to write it. Everybody wins.
Except the fast food outlets.
When an author gets a contract with a traditional pubisher, the book could be a year, maybe two years away from publication, especially if it's one that involves a lot of research. But you don't normally get to see that. You usually only get to see the book for the first time when it appears in the shops. Unbound is just the same - you have to wait a while for your book. The difference is that you pay at the start of the process rather than at the end and you get to see the book evolve and grow from first posting on the site to publication. As I said, it's transparent. And, like most of the authors here, we love to talk to you, the readers. There are no ivory towers here.
So, all I would ask is that you're patient with me and with Unbound. The book will happen eventually - even quicker if we can get those pledges coming in - and I'm very proud of what I'm writing. I think it's going to be the best thing I've ever written.
By supporting it, and the other books on this site, you're doing something brilliant.
You're a patron of the Arts.
You're helping someone to build a career as a writer.
You're helping to bring a book to publication that traditional publishers won't touch because it isn't a TV tie-in or the biography of some 17 year old rock star who is already as rich as Croesus and whose agent has got them a multi-million pound publishing deal.
Without people like you, Shaun Usher's Number One bestseller Letters of Note wouldn't have seen the light of day. Without people like you the Mann Booker Prize long list nominee The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth would be languishing on a hard drive unread and lost to the reading public. Without you, many of the first time published authors on Unbound would not have had the opportunity to shine.
And my book wouldn't already be 48% funded with the hope of reaching 100%.
Wasn't that worth giving up one evening's worth of sweet and sour pork balls for?