The Blagger's Guide To... Author's secrets

All you need to know about the hottest literary topic of the week
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Fret not, the 873rd answer to the question "Wither the book?" is here! This time it is Unbound, a project promising that "books are now in your hands". Described as "crowd sourced publishing", it sees authors pitching their books to potential investors and readers, then only setting about completing them once the funding and readership is assured. Thus the remainder pile at Unbound will forever be nonexistent.

Later this year, the project will feature on a forthcoming episode of the BBC Arts show Imagine, with Alan Yentob (inset) on the future of the book.

It's the brainchild of three writers: Dan Kieran, deputy editor of The Idler, historical author Justin Pollard, and John Mitchinson, head of research for the BBC quiz show QI. Frustrated by the fact that "creating bestsellers is the focus of all the major publishers", they have decided to cut out the middlemen and go direct to readers. (Nevertheless, freelance editors are doing the nuts and bolts work on the books, and the project has hired the services of one of London's most prestigious arts PR firms.)

The proposals are available for perusal at the Unbound website (, and at Unbound Live events, the most recent of which was at the Tabernacle on Monday. The variety on offer is admirable, from the former Python Terry Jones (inset) to first-timers, via established writers who have grown cynical about the current state of publishing.

A cursory glance at the well-heeled types in the audience suggested that patrons of the arts are much the same as they ever were: bankers in search of a hobby. There is even a "Medici level" of sponsorship, which promises untold delights and levels of access. The website tells a different story though, with average pledges at just over £30. Future readers happily engage with their chosen authors in the "shed" area of the site, which is unlocked for those who have coughed up some cash. Here, the level of interactivity is significantly more natural than when "traditional" publishing houses try to encourage reluctant stars to have a chat.

There is no upper limit on the amount that authors can say that they "need" in order to get going with a book, although those planning to write research or travel-heavy titles ask for more than first-time novelists.

The Unbound Live event calls itself "a cross between Dragons' Den and election hustings". In reality, the sight of a man pitching a novel about a disfigured child by performing a trapeze act in pyjamas and a gas mask was a little more "Well it worked on Britain's Got Talent" than "Dickens wrote like this too, you know".

The quality of the potential books on offer varies wildly. Unsurprisingly, a pitch from the Booker-shortlisted novelist Tibor Fischer has been fully funded and is on the way: the writing was exceptional. However, there was also a pitch from a debut author who announced "I'm really hoping you'll choose me", before using one of the biggest literary clichés ever to have troubled a slush pile.

Please note, Unbound is currently only accepting submissions from authors who have an agent. It seems that the future of the novel is arriving via baby steps ....