Why Unbound? Why crowdfunding?

Observations from people who’ve been there

Funding my book with Unbound has been a fascinating process. There have been unexpected benefits that go beyond the buzz of having my book published.

Unbound came into being as a response to changes in the publishing industry. Good books were not getting published because their commercial success couldn’t be guaranteed. There has been a steady drift toward projects with TV or celebrity tie-ins, so whilst the business of books in general may have been in unexpectedly great shape, areas such as literary fiction have been struggling. Thus the clever people at Unbound came up with a way of addressing this. As well as a way of securing publication for a wide array of books that might not make it in the more commercial sector, it offers a fantastic connection between writer and audience.

Is it for you? Are you about to launch your own crowdfunded book, with Unbound or any other platform? Here, with a little help from my Unbound friends, are some tips and observations on crowdfunding. (Most of them work for promoting a book too.)

Stevyn Colgan, author of A Murder To Die For

1)THE AUDIENCE IS ELUSIVE. It was very much harder than I had anticipated to reach the people that I didn’t already know.

2) TOUGH –  YOU MUST HUNT THEM DOWN. You will need strangers to buy your book so start looking for them early. The audience has no need of your words, there are millions of other words already out there that they could gorge on for all eternity. But they will pledge because you make yourself of interest to them, because you let them know you are there. Initially this will probably be because they love you or care about you. Very few will pledge because they happened to read your synopsis and think you are a genius. But you have to find ways to reach them any way.

Damon Wakes, author of Ten Little Astronauts

3) FINDING YOUR VOICE IS DIFFICULT BUT YOU ONLY HAVE TO DO IT ONCE.  I don’t mean your writer’s voice, that bit is dealt with already. I mean your professional author voice. That is, if you want to get your book funded and subsequently aim to give up or cut back on the work you are doing to pay your way whilst you write.

Social media guilt starts to drag around behind you like a damp, mildewed cape hanging limp and heavy from your shoulders. Smart people who are good at selling books tell you to do it, do it hard, do it more. Every day, engage, build connections. It takes up a helluva lot of mindspace to even think of how that might work. But eventually you seem to find a kind of honest approach, one that doesn’t feel like a fake or an uncomfortable hard sell. Then it can be quite fun.

Apart from odd moments when you suspect all your friends hate you and wish your computer would break.

4) IT HELPS ENORMOUSLY that Unbound have selected the manuscript. It shouldn’t matter, the selection does not of course, suddenly make it a better book than if I had self-published, but it gives people confidence in it.

Helen M Taylor, author of The Backstreets of Purgatory

5) MAKE NEW FRIENDS. I have come into a fabulous, not exactly secret, but almost, back-stage community. A number of other Unbound writers get together on a regular basis via the medium of Facebook to share tips, moan, high-five, amuse each other and become friends. I’ve even met some of them and hope to do so again. It is wonderful support. A kind of unofficial, ad-hoc scaffold built from the finest materials. There are many different writers, a magically wide array of books (some of which I have made pledges for myself) all come together into a helpful and supportive community. A great resource. It is sometimes the only place you can go to off-load anxiety or boredom or disappointment with progress. You can’t actually tell a friend who has been generous enough to back your project that you are fed up with how slowly it seems to be moving without it sounding like a barely-disguised wheedle.

It has been so valuable and mood-lifting, informative and smart. It is great to know that when someone feels hollow or disappointed by small rewards gained from huge effort, a group of cheery and funny people who totally get the feeling will gather round (temporarily taking a break from penning the next masterpiece/suspiciously ready to engage in an easy online-distraction) to tell them how well they are doing and that they shouldn’t give up.

Ian Skewis, author of A Murder Of Crows

6) LOVE YOUR OLD FRIENDS. Most wonderful of all is how generous friends, colleagues and family are. I have had so much support. Way more than I expected. Which is incredibly lucky, because see 1). People have been amazingly generous. Like other authors,  I have found that it has been by far the bulk of my backing. None of them had to pledge, there is no obligation. It is generosity that makes people pledge, a generous desire to help, a generous desire to fund the arts, a generous desire to make something happen. It is humbling and up-lifting. And, unexpectedly, it made this process, though it has sometimes been difficult, scary and definitely hard work, one that is ultimately very rewarding.

Of course I will never know if my book would have eventually been published by a conventional publisher, but probably not. So I am deeply, immensely grateful to Unbound for making it possible. The opportunity to invest in books that may not make a great deal of money is precious for all of us. And in all my dealings the people at Unbound have been unfailingly kind, helpful and engaged.

It feels great that so many people have invested in my book, even the ones who intended to pledge but never got round to it. The openness of the process has made them aware of what I am doing and interested enough to talk to me about it and that is an investment.

James Ellis, author of The Wrong Story

Crowdfunding, asking for help or support, finding people to invest in your work is daunting, it can be very hard work. But it is also uplifting and exciting, and possibly the only option if you don’t want to go it alone. I am very happy with the story so far.

My book Twice the Speed of Dark will be coming out on Unbound later this year.



In Twice the Speed of Dark, Caitlin has died, killed by her violent boyfriend. She has a voice that tells her part of the story, but death is a confusing, dark place:

Understanding shivers, glimpsed briefly between slanted, slippery planes, then slides away.  Understanding skids, finding no purchase on memories so faintly-grasped. Understandings are slender and slippery, fine satin ribbons that slides through my fingerless hands. Just as part of the story seems about to shimmer into place, I am let go again. Upside downside, inside outside, it is any way round in death. 

Gravity has disowned me. I had not grasped what refuge she gave. I had not understood her subtle care. I have not been able to hold on as she let go. It takes enormous will to hold back the blackness when gravity is no longer your ally. She let go her embrace and I am pulled away to tumble, inchoate, through the eternal dark. “

Caitlin experiences death as if Gravity is a kindly entity that has let her go. She yearns for a form and surface, something that Gravity would be able to hold, to shelter. (Eventually, towards the end of the book she starts to regain agency and finds a way to interact with the exhilarating energies that now drive her.)

One of the rewards for a pledge towards getting my novel published is a hand-made booklet, called Gravity, that will be extracts of Caitlin’s words about the cosmos that flings her so carelessly and the massive powers to which she finds herself subject in the exhilarating and mysterious black realm of death. To that end, I have gone back to being an artist and have made some paintings that will form the basis of these booklets. In the booklets, the words will be incorporated into the illustration digitally. The images will also be available as a limited edition giclee print and the original art work is also available. All pledged will get you a copy of the book too, and your name in the front in acknowledgement of your vital support. Please share if you are able to. Here is a link if you are interested in the book and to see what other rewards are available for supporters.



Motorway bridges


These images are taken out of the sketch books I carry with me all the time. I have a long-standing obsession with motorways and motorway bridges, using them as a starting point for several art works.

I have decided to include them as a reward for a pledge towards getting my book funded, mainly because I like to imagine that there are, quietly, many people who are as beguiled by the brutalist, functional charm of concrete highways as I am.

The bridges often look like massive staples, linking the land that has parted to make room for the swath of road. They are sculptural objects, generic and utilitarian, but to me, beautiful.

The bridge with its supports and the road beneath act as a little future-gazing frame. What you see in that oblong as you are speeding along (in the passenger seat, sketching or taking relentless numbers of photographs) is where you will be in the future.

These sketches are very quickly done, but often composite as the speed of travel when on the motorway means that even drawing as fast as I can, it is impossible to pick up all the details in one hit. The original page removed from the sketch book will be sent to you, if you make a pledge for £30 here: https://unbound.com/books/twice-the-speed-of-dark This will help fund the publishing of my book on Unbound, an award-winning publishers. This pledge includes a copy of my book and your name (if you want it) in the front as a patron. Two ways of engaging in the arts in one.