DIO – Doing It Ourselves and the Joy of Collaborative Publishing by Lulu Allison – guest post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Lulu Allison to the blog. Lulu’s debut novel, Twice the Speed of Dark, was published by Unbound on 24 November 2017.

Today Lulu talks about collaborative publishing.

DIO – Doing It Ourselves and the Joy of Collaborative Publishing.

My novel Twice the Speed of Dark is published by Unbound, the UK’s first crowd-funding publisher. Unbound came into being as a response, and alternative, to the narrowing of focus that has happened in mainstream publishing. As I am sure many of you know, fantastic books are not being published because their commercial success can’t be guaranteed. There has been a drift toward projects with TV or celebrity tie-ins, so whilst book sales in general may be in unexpectedly great shape, genres such as literary fiction have been struggling. Happily, the clever people at Unbound came up with a way of countering this, ensuring that a wide range of books make it to the bookshops and to our shelves. Spreading the cost of publishing between a number of backers mean that the commercial success of a book is a bonus, not a requirement.

For those of you who are not familiar with Unbound, here is an outline of how it works. Firstly, writers pitch a book. If Unbound select it, a funding target is set that will cover production, editorial processes and design. Then a page is set up on the Unbound site. The writer, with various ad-hoc or well planned strategies, along with some help from Unbound, has a number of days, weeks and months (the actual length of time is very varied) to find and secures pledges in order to reach that target. The book then goes through structural and copy editing under Unbound’s amazing editorial team. Their equally amazing designers put the cover and design together. Eventually, there is a release date.

Simple, right? Yes – but within that brilliantly simple idea, there is a wealth of information to gather and experiences to rack up – some of them quite tough, most of them rather wonderful. It is a shock, initially, to realise how much of the backing will in fact come from people you know. This is both daunting and up-lifting. I know that many of the people who pledged for my book were doing it to support me, not because they read my synopsis and thought they simply could not live without the chance to read such a book. This is a wonderful thing, and it is inspiring. If friends and family invest in what you are doing it is a great motivator.

But it can also be difficult. One of the major obstacles to crowdfunding, at least to begin with, is an unwillingness to ask for something. Asking people to back you is hard. Over time writers seem to find a method that works for them, a proposition that doesn’t feel presumptuous, or arrogant, or pushy. It becomes possible, because one finds ways to make it an exchange and then the process becomes one that is collaborative. I really do feel that the people who backed my book have helped bring it into being, that they have some ownership of the project that is a book called Twice the Speed of Dark. Because, clearly, it wouldn’t have happened without them.

Crowdfunding was not easy but I am really glad to have done it that way. There were many times when it seemed absurd to imagine it would ever work. There were times when I listlessly re-tweeted or re-posted something without any expectation that it really would lead to a new backer. Then there were magical moments when three completely unexpected pledges would come out of nowhere and lift that percentage total up to another landmark. Every pledge made me feel grateful. Every pledge made me want to ensure my book was as good as I could make it.

I have become a serial backer myself. There are so many exciting books and once I have pledged I feel wonderfully connected to them. I also know how gruelling the process can be, so get pleasure from knowing that a new pledge can provide a little burst of optimism, renewing faith in what can sometimes feel like an absurd dream.

As the old saying goes, adversity brings opportunity. What began as a narrowing of options has resulted in a wonderful flourishing growth. As well as initiatives like crowdfunding, many authors are taking on the entire process and self-publishing. The world of book bloggers has opened up a whole new set of opportunities for authors and readers alike. The last time I came across such collaborative, self-started engagement with the arts was in the days of black and white photocopied fanzines that kept the punk scene going.

And these days, when we have The Buzzcocks and Nirvana on Strictly Come Dancing, we know they can’t have done too bad a job! Independent publishers, lone writer, self-published millionaires, bloggers, I salute you. Long may you thrive.

About the book

In an isolated house surrounded by fields and woodland, Anna sits at her kitchen table, her cramped writing fills the notebook in front of her steadily, inexorably – people die at such a rate.

Anna scans the news for reports in which the victims of war or terror are presented only as a number. Dismayed by the indifference in the news items to people who die in distant lands, she writes portraits, one for each of the victims, in an attempt to acknowledge the real impact of their deaths. Her own life is held in check, restrained by grief. It is only in this vigil, this act of love for strangers, that she allows herself an emotional connection to the world.

Her daughter Caitlin had wanted to be an engineer, to build bridges. But she was killed on the eve of her twentieth birthday by her violent boyfriend. Since her death Caitlin has been subject to a perplexing dark odyssey, pushed and pulled past stars and distant planets. Sometimes, with sweet relief she finds herself once more held by gravity, as the unpredictable journey brings her briefly back to the earth. She pieces together her story, combining what she has learnt since her death and what she knew before, until she is finally able to reclaim herself from the debilitating effects of the violence that eventually ended her life, freeing herself at last.

With the release from prison of Caitlin’s killer, Anna’s uneasy equilibrium is thrown into disarray and she falls into long-suppressed fury and mental breakdown. As Caitlin is able to free herself from the tyranny of violence, will Anna be able to unburden the debilitations of grief and live her life with love and happiness once more?

About the author

Lulu Allison has spent most of her life as a visual artist. She attended Central St Martin’s School of Art then spent a number of years travelling and living abroad. Amongst the bar-tending and cleaning jobs, highlights of these years include: in New Zealand, playing drums for King Loser and bass for Dimmer. In Germany, making spectacle hinges in a small factory and nearly designing the new Smurfs. In Amsterdam painting a landmark mural on a four storey squat. In Fiji and California, teaching scuba diving.
After a decade of wandering, she returned to the UK, where she had two children and focused on art. She completed a fine art MA and exhibited her lens-based work and site-specific installations in group and solo shows.
In 2013 what began as an art project took her into writing and she unexpectedly discovered what she should have been doing all along.
Twice the Speed of Dark is her first book. She is currently writing a second, called Wetlands.

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