The Latest in Crowdfund Publishing
By Emma Regan and Jordan Maxwell Ridgway
Previously, the Alternative Publishing team have explored the potential wild success of crowdfund publishing through Brandon Sanderson’s renowned Kickstarter campaign. This week we will be exploring two further examples of the growing success of crowdfund publishing as we continue to unpack the impact that this form of publishing is having on the industry and the opportunities it’s providing.
You may have heard of Monique Roffey, a Caribbean novelist whose 2020 Costa Book of the Year prize-winning novel The Mermaid of Black Conch received widespread acclaim. Set in the Caribbean in the 1970s, it uses a multiple-perspective narrative to weave the tale of Aycayia, a mermaid, and David, a fisherman. But don’t confuse this book for a light-hearted beach-soaked romance or a clear-cut fairy-tale. The Guardian describes it as “charming” and “bittersweet,” and the conclusion seems to run into murky waters.
Besides the enchanting tale and Roffey’s rise as a prominent voice in Caribbean literature, what makes Black Conch striking is also its own publishing tale. In a recent interview with The Los Angeles Times, Roffey explained that she launched “a Crowdfunder in September 2019 to pay for a publicity team to help get the book noticed.” The Bookseller even went on to cover the story as a result of this extremely rare turn of events, “it is believed this campaign is the first of its kind by an author.” It was then published by Peepal Tree Press, a small indie publisher, but unfortunately, this was during the same month the pandemic hit.
The novel nearly sank but with the rave reviews from Caribbean bookstagrammers, it began to garner attention and appear on shortlists.
There is lots to celebrate about the publishing of Black Conch. There’s the feminist rewrite of both an old myth and trope that is very often portrayed through the male gaze (see Disney’s The Little Mermaid). There is the brilliant emergence of another powerfully voiced female Caribbean writer, a canon, which, like most, was previously reigned by men. And finally, when you consider all the pitfalls that stood in the way of this book, and how it was so nearly snagged up and lost in forces out of its control, the Caribbean community sifted it out and championed it, illustrating the power of the book community twice over through social media and crowdfund publishing.
Over in Scotland, another author is celebrating his crowdfunding publishing tale.
Arkbound, a charity book publisher, has recently launched its very own crowdfunding site called Crowdbound. The company, based in Glasgow and Bristol, decided to set up a crowdfunding website in order to maximise the efficiency in raising money to directly fund its authors and support its external projects.
The crowdfunding site is committed to books and projects that cover social inclusion and environmental stability, yet the site offers a wider range of support and options available compared to other crowdfunding sites too. It also offers dedicated support for each approved campaign, and there are even match funding opportunities available.
Crowdbound has already published its first book after only a month of being active. John McGlade, an author based in Glasgow, has had his fair share of rejected submissions, but thanks to the launch of Crowdbound, he has become the first author to get his book published through the site.
Invisible Schemes explores how housing schemes impact on society through the characters McCann and his nephew Mark, taking the reader on a dark and twisted tale to the city’s unseen edge and uncovering the true hidden nature of the schemes and the powerful forces behind them.
It took McGlade only ten days of crowdfunding for him to reach his goal, and now after twenty previous failed submissions, his book finally has a release date for 15 August 2022.
“You start thinking you’ll never get it off the ground, so when you get the ‘yes’ it’s an amazing feeling especially when it’s your first book. It’s such a big deal because you’ve put so much into the novel; it feels incredible when someone decides it’s worthwhile.” – John McGlade, GlasgowWorld
Up until recently, Arkbound had been largely dependent on grants to support book production, which often cost thousands of pounds. Now, Crowdbound is an innovative way for individuals and organisations to raise money and receive expertise and support in the process. Not only that, but because Arkbound is a specialist charity with years of experience publishing books, for every £1 raised, Gift Aid can add a quarter.
It is easy to see the benefits crowdfunding publishing offers for people who either have their submissions denied or want to mitigate external interference. Crowdfunding publishing is becoming more and more accessible to others and, its prominence is not going unnoticed.