Unbound: Shaking Up Publishing

It’s funny when things connect. Okay, maybe I’m slightly influenced by the fact that I’ve just watched the finale of season 1 of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, but sometimes things in life marry up nicely.

Earlier this week, I found out that Simon Spanton, former associate publisher of Orion books, has joined crowdfunding publisher Unbound in order to develop their ‘science fiction and genre’ fantasy.

For a lot of my readers, that previous paragraph doesn’t make any sense, so let me explain why this has got me so excited. I’ve followed Spanton on Twitter for years now because of his involvement with Gollancz, which is a part of Orion’s publishing group, and one of the biggest publishers of sci-fi and fantasy in the UK. From my sofa I can see a book published by Gollancz lying on the shelf, and I know that I own many more than just that one.

In a heretofore unrelated set of circumstances, I discovered publishing’s new kid on the block, Unbound, through a Guardian article about one of the best received books of the year, The Good Immigrant, which I promptly purchased. At the time I was ignorant of Unbound, but discovered a bit more about them in the front pages of The Good Immigrant.

“Unbound is the creation of three writers,” write the founders in The Good Immigrant, “On the Unbound website, authors share the ideas for the books they want to write directly with the readers. If enough of you subscribe, we produce a beautifully bound special subscribers’ edition and distribute a regular edition and e-book wherever books are sold.”

In short, Unbound is a crowdfunded publisher, and the hiring of Simon Spanton, with the express aim of developing sci-fi and genre fiction, has me really excited.

What’s so great about crowdfunded publishing? It seems to me that Unbound is making a way for authors to write the books that readers want to read, as opposed to the books that a publisher thinks will sell.

To me, The Good Immigrant is an incredible book in its own right, and a thrilling sign of things to come from Unbound. A collection of 21 essays, in which ‘writers explore what it means to be Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic in Britain today’, this book did what, in my mind, the best literature should do: it opened my eyes to worldviews that I had not imagined, to experiences beyond my own, and to deeply human stories that I couldn’t help but engage with. I don’t know a single person who would not benefit in some way from reading this book.

With such an experience under my belt, maybe you can start to see why I get excited about the prospect of books in my favourite fictional genres being released by Unbound. For me, science fiction and fantasy are already windows into the unknown, the unconsidered, and the distantly possible, which seems like a very natural fit for a publisher breaking down the conventions of the publishing industry.

I can’t wait to read another story that moves and challenges me with its vision and its humanity, and that’s what I believe we can expect from Unbound in the future.

I wanted to write this to bring it to your attention, because I think the more people that know about Unbound the better. I think there are big things in store for the future.

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