This summer of 2014, crowdfunding publisher Unbound turned three years old. We’d published some brilliant books including The Times bestseller Letters of Note and had Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Things were looking good, especially as 2014 had been dubbed “the year of reading women” and we were wholeheartedly behind this. We had three brilliant and diverse books by female authors, Brenda Monk is Funny by Katy Brand, Springfield Road by Salena Godden and Unchosen by Julie Burchill, hot off the press and ready to hit the shelves.
The only issue we faced was that just one third of the books we received were by female authors, which meant women were being underrepresented on our platform. We put our heads together and Women in Print was born. Our goal? To right the gender imbalance by gathering more submissions from women and, ultimately, to publish larger numbers of interesting and challenging books by female authors.
Although there is a lot to be said for traditional marketing, Twitter has long been a friend to @Unbounders, as we’re known, and this is where we’ve done the bulk of our campaigning. We took over the hashtag #womeninprint to publicise the campaign and invite discussion around the theme.
Choosing a hashtag which was sufficiently open to allow wider use was an important part of the strategy. Since launching #womeninprint has been taken on by others talking about female writers. Additionally we tapped into existing discussions at #readwomen2014 #amwriting and #womenwriters. The campaign resonated with our followers and was boosted by Twitter giveaways and blog posts from our female authors.
On 21 November, @unbounders oversaw a hugely successful Q&A session where three of our female authors answered everything and anything writing related – you can read the highlights here.
We’ve joined other Twitter trends such as #FF introducing our authors and have created our own Women in Print Twitter list of influential women, which we will continue to add to.
But Twitter isn’t the only way to reach new authors. We’ve conducted extensive research online into relevant blogs, news outlets and organisations who share our values in supporting enterprising women. Women in Print has given us a reason to connect with groups we’ve admired, like Digital Women UK, and forge new relationships both online and face to face.
Throughout the campaign we’ve sent email newsletters to our readers and blogged top tips on how to prepare your manuscript for submission. Our authors have been guest-blogging on sites such as For Books’ Sake and we had a special Women in Print Book Club Boutique event on 3 December with an open mic slot for budding authors to come and read some of their work.
We’ve shared images on Facebook of book covers with the author photo-shopped out to see if we can identify any gender-related trends in publishing, making use of Facebook’s analytics and scheduling functions to get the best possible impact.
The campaign has got off to a great start and we’re overwhelmed by the support we’ve received. We’ve seen a 400 per cent increase in the amount of submissions from female authors in November alone. We hope that this continues to be the case and will launch the best three of these submissions on the Unbound site in the New Year.
Phase two of the campaign will include more events, more lists, more blogs, and hopefully more brilliant female authors who will have the opportunity to see their books in print.
Women in Print is a new campaign established by crowdfunding publisher Unbound to publish interesting, challenging female authors in larger numbers than before. It aims to right the balance in publishing by encouraging women writers of all backgrounds to submit new book ideas and support the work of existing female authors. Find out more at www.unbound.co.uk/women-in-print.
About the author
Caitlin Harvey is community coordinator at crowdfunding publisher Unbound. She has been with the company almost since its inception three and a half years ago. Caitlin manages relationships with Unbound’s community of authors and readers, coordinating social media, events and enquiries on anything and everything book-related. She likes books, plants and cycling.