Is Crowdfunding the Future of Book Publishing?

In days of yore and, perhaps, in olden times, writers that weren’t from money got by with the help of wealthy benefactors who funded them in hopes that they would get some of the credit for the world’s next masterpiece. Today, that doesn’t happen so much (or maybe it does? Email me, rich old guys!), but writers now have a different option: crowdfunding their next novel.

That’s the idea behind Unbound, a new site from the U.K. that allows donors to pledge cash to authors in exchange for things like signed hard copies of the book, goodie bags and invites to the launch party. You can even choose to fund the entire project, in which case you get … I don’t know, say, a back massage and a chicken dinner. The point is, you’re directly involved in the process. And just like Kickstarter, if the book doesn’t reach its targeted goal, your donation is refunded to you.

In a time when anything other than Swedish murder mysteries and memoirs of upper-middle-class white women in Bali are seen as huge risks, it’s nice to see someone trying to come up with an alternative to the current publishing model. It also seems like a nice balance between the self-indulgent, often oblivious world of self-publishing and the risk-averse, profit-driven world of traditional publishing.

The authors currently asking for money aren’t exactly schlubs, either. The one with the highest percentage of funding is Terry Jones, the Monty Python collaborator who directed The Life of Brian. In fact, right now submissions are limited to agent submissions. This is probably a good thing. As people see established artists turn to alternative methods of publishing, maybe it’ll gain a bit of legitimacy. One thing is for sure–traditional publishing isn’t getting anymore lucrative. That means under the current system, if you’re not selling a sure thing, publishers probably aren’t going to buy it. Hopefully crowdfunding sites like Unbound can change all of that–it sure beats waiting for a wealthy benefactor, anyway.

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About Keith Wagstaff

Keith Wagstaff is a journalist living in New York City. He received his degree in print journalism from the University of Southern California and his work has appeared in such publications as The Village Voice, Newsday, The Huffington Post, Kilimanjaro Arts Journal, The L Magazine and others.

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