If you’re around my age, ‘backing books’ will conjure up images of wrestling your school set texts into jackets of brown paper (or Fablon if you were a bit posh). But, this isn’t a post about the merits of attempting to protect the cover of your already dog-eared Tricolore.
Last year, author Caitlin Davies spoke at the Margate Bookie literary festival. She told the story of Agnes Beckwith – ‘the greatest lady swimmer in the world’ according to promotional posters dating from the 1800s. This woman, whose family hailed from Ramsgate, was the inspiration behind Caitlin’s novel Daisy Bell: Swimming Champion of the World.
Caitlin gave a captivating talk to a packed room at Turner Contemporary. Little did many of us know we were sat in a spot previously occupied by the Marine Palace swimming baths where Agnes Beckwith and her family performed their ‘swimming entertainments’.
That fact wasn’t the only thing I learned from Caitlin; I also discovered she was part of a growing movement of authors who were crowdfunding their books rather than taking more traditional routes to publication. There are several crowdfunding services – Caitlin is with Unbound – but they all work in a similar way. Essentially, readers pledge money and once a book hits its target, it gets published. Pledgers can give varying sums in exchange for different rewards; anything from an e-book to having a character named after them.
Having been so drawn in to the story Caitlin had been inspired by, I pledged a modest sum and backed her book. I hadn’t expected to hear anything about it for a while but as she got closer to her target I began to receive emails which documented everything from Caitlin’s methods of fact-checking her story, to the publication process, to choosing the artwork for the cover. As a book lover, I found these insights fascinating.
This weekend the book landed on my doormat. My pledge was small, but in a tiny way I feel like I have helped a brilliant author to get her work ‘out there’.
I’m now backing several other books, including The Rooms We Never Enter by PJ Whiteley. I have read his two previous novels and there’s something about the sensitivity of his storytelling that I really enjoy. For me, his books are the literary equivalent of the 8pm-on-a-Sunday TV slot – gentle, comforting and relatable.
The Rooms We Never Enter tells the story of a wealthy businessman who falls in love with a single mum from Leeds. You can find out more, and back the book here.
The crowdfunding route to publication helps readers like me bring to life the stories we want to read. For authors it’s by no means an easy ride. It takes commitment and dedication to create a loyal supporter base, but Caitlin did it and I hope PJ (Philip) and the other authors I’m supporting do too.