Unbound (United Authors’ trading name) combines the old subscription model of publishing with the reach of the internet. The founders – including John Mitchinson the first Marketing Director of Waterstones, Dan Kieran (CEO) the inventor and author of the Crap Towns, and Justin Pollard, set out to create a business that avoids the increasing financial pitfalls of the business of publishing: only one in five advances recoups, unsold stock has to be bought back from bookshops. These risks mean that most authors can’t be offered a very lucrative deal, and authors don’t develop any creative freedom because they have no relationship with an addressable fan base. Unbound’s approach is to make a video about a forthcoming book, seek pledges and publish when the costs are covered. After that, net income is split 50:50 with the author.
Unbound like ChannelFlip was also a forerunner of Whetstone Enterprise Support that gave us encouragement. Peter Scott helped to model the likely behavior of the business, we invested in the January 2012 £300,000 seed round and Christoph Sander, now Chairman of Whetstone Enterprise Support, became Unbound’s Chairman at that time. The operationalizing of the model from scratch is complicated, but by the time of this Autumn’s £1.2m development funding round, nearly 30 book projects had been successfully completed and a number of new business development avenues identified. We continue to be close to this innovative business: it’s interesting that Kickstarter has not been particularly successful in publishing – for now it looks as if the traditional value added by a publisher, which Unbound adds, is appreciated by authors and the market.