How a new online venture helped to publish Evil Machines
Photograph: Jose Frade
It was only when I sat and counted them last Friday that I discovered I’m now the proud author of 26 books. Some would call that a library. The first, Chaucer’s Knight, might never have found a publisher if I had not already made a name for myself as a Python. In the late 1970s it was rather tricky for a new writer to get a book published, especially on what was seen as an academic subject. As it happens, were it not for the launch of the publishers Unbound, my most recent collection, Evil Machines, might not have been published either.
Earlier this year I was approached by my old friend Justin Pollard, a writer for QI who, along with a couple of other writers, had the novel idea of getting books published by involving readers directly. They were frustrated by the way in which the publishing industry seems to have lurched towards the pile-‘em-high bestseller, leaving many books that don’t fit the mould on the slush pile, with brilliant yet quirky ideas never seeing the light of day. Worse still, it is getting increasingly harder for an author to survive on ever-dwindling commissions. UK authors on average earned just £4,000 from writing last year on royalty figures of less than 10%. That’s hardly enough to pay for all our fast cars, lavish houses and gold-plated fountain pens, let alone food and a mortgage.
The Unbounders’ solution is to use their website to cut out the middle men. They ask readers directly what books they would like to see funded and then politely suggest that they might like to put their money where their mouths are. By bringing readers and authors closer together, the publishing process can be demystified, even democratised. Authors can publish books that would not be commercially viable for a big publisher and receive 50% of the profits. How could I not be interested?
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