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Unbound Firsts: Crowdfunding Diverse Voices

By Emma Regan, Jordan Maxwell Ridgway, Hayley Gray and Ella O’Neill


This issue we are happy to be featuring the publisher Unbound again. They are changing the face of publishing as we know it and breaking incredible new ground, putting the audience first and the crowd in control. Their tagline is “ideas are welcome here” and they certainly practise what they preach: 328,964 people from 207 countries have donated £11,784,708 which will fund 639 projects, and more that are still to come.


An exciting new offering from the company is their Unbound Firsts imprint which will be part of an annual subscription package in which two debut books will be published by writers of colour every year. Their submissions have just opened for the 2024 titles so for any unpublished writers of colour who have written their first book, send your manuscripts in!


Unbound First is an “annual publishing opportunity for debut writers of colour.” Initially launched in 2021, Unbound Firsts is an open application for undiscovered writers to submit their debut books (fiction or non-fiction) which will then be narrowed down to two winners being selected and offered a publishing deal. This imprint is essential for a number of reasons. People of colour are hugely underrepresented in the publishing industry, both as authors and working for the industry itself. Unbound Firsts is helping to break down the uneven divide and give more authors of colour the opportunity to be published.


Diversity in books is important because they have the power to shape culture in various ways. After the rise of Black Lives Matter and anti-racism books in 2020, The New York Times decided to research racial inequality in the publishing industry. The newspaper gathered a list of English-language fiction books published between 19502018 and researched the race of each author through databases available. 95% of the 3,471 authors identified were white. The newspaper also discovered that in 2019, only twenty two out of 212 books featured in the New York Times Bestseller List were written by authors of colour.


Last year’s winners included Solange Burrell’s Yeseni and the Daughter of Peace and Paul David Gould’s Last Dance at the Discotheque for Deviants. Yeseni is set in the mid-1700s, West Africa, and follows Elewa, the titular “Daughter of Peace.” Tensions are rising as disparate groups threaten a delicate truce. Elewa is not only just beginning to understand the role she is playing in the political landscape but is learning the truth about herself. Elewa possesses a gift called “Yeseni,” which allows her to see and travel to the past and future. But after one horrifying vision, she is left with an impossible choice. During Elewa's harrowing journey, she encounters richly drawn characters steeped in a fascinating world. Burrell is a writer from Bristol who now lives in Canada after studying journalism at university and working in HR.


Gould’s Last Dance takes us somewhere completely different, but not so far away: Moscow in the 90s. Set during the burgeoning freedom after the collapse of the cold war, the novel follows a young man called Kostya as he explores the underground gay scene. But just as Kostya begins to enjoy his newly found freedom, he is betrayed by a loved one and tragedy strikes. Marketed as a “gripping mystery,” the chilly uncertainty that pervades the book’s description will likely speak to many readers who sense the resonant anxiety of our world today. Gould grew up in Huddersfield on a council estate before studying Russian at the University of Birmingham, he now works for the Financial Times.


Overall, the Unbound Firsts imprint is a diverse and inclusive pathway for debut authors of colour to launch their writing into the industry, and thus, the world. Like that of Gould’s Last Dance at the Discotheque for Deviants which deals with LGBTQIA+ themes and Burrell’s Yeseni which focuses on the female experience, Unbound Firsts aims to find, and publish, intersectional and powerful stories from those who have been historically ignored or silenced within the traditional publishing industry. Likewise, those who pledge to support the books’ campaigns through Unbound’s crowdfunding initiative are set to receive final copies of the publications and also be listed on the back of the text in the acknowledgments.


With this in mind, Unbound Firsts are currently looking for new stories!

Are you a writer of colour?

Have you written your first book?

Are you previously unpublished?

If yes, Unbound Firsts is designed just for you.

SUBMISSIONS FOR UNBOUND FIRSTS 2024 TITLES ARE NOW OPEN AND CLOSES ON 30 NOVEMBER 2022.

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