Every so often, when traversing the wind tunnel that is social media, we come across somebody whose story we find genuinely fascinating.
When we were recently tagged in an image by The Pound Project last week, we were firstly pleased to see that one of our moss stitch jumpers had made its way over to their founder JP Watson. Secondly, we were intrigued by their bio which reads: "The independent crowdfunding publisher, campaigning for #writing. Small change, one story at a time."
A little digging revealed that the Pound Project is championing a new breed of books. Based in Birmingham, they focus on one crowd-funded project at a time, be it a short story, personal essay or something else entirely. Each can be accessed for as a little as one pound, with printed copies, audiobooks, live events and other merchandise also on offer to those who can afford to contribute a little more. Each author receives an equal share of profits, with a percentage reinvested in budding writers.
Our attention captured, we caught up with JP (online, naturally) to find out more.
How did the Pound Project come about?
It started with a simple question - is a good story worth something? We have so many ways now to appreciate the talents of creative people, and yet it seems more and more that we want to consume content for free. For obvious reasons this is unsustainable for any artist who wants to eat.
As a former journalist and creative writing teacher I've been surrounded by imaginative people who have amazing ideas without the mechanisms to get them out there. I've watched people launch huge ventures without fully working out how they are going to pay for them.
I responded to this with The Pound Project. We wanted to offer a platform to writers who are willing to shout about their work and campaign to get it out there. In so doing, we can then create a pocket-sized product which is not only beautiful, but also something meaningful. In other words: small change, one story at a time.
Why did you decide on £1 as the minimum price for your projects?
There is something magical about a pound. A cup of tea at a market, quids in for a taxi, a game of wallies (that hopefully you win). It has always been such a barometer for the value we place on things. It fits so beautifully into our branding and we want to become part of that nostalgia. Plus, it is affordable: everyone should be part of what we're about.
Your ethos of “putting the value of writing first” is one that resonates with us and our slow approach to fashion. Tell us a little more about how you hope to achieve this.
Working on just one project at a time is crucial. Each writer is carefully chosen so that their story speaks to people at the right moment. We then create a campaign around their image and the subject matter of their work, so that it tunes in to what people are thinking and feeling. For our current project with Dolly Alderton for example, she has produced an incredible first-person piece called Hopeless Romantic. It is no accident that this coincides with the onset of longer nights and colder weather.
Have the acts of reading and writing been devalued?
I don't think they have been devalued, I just think our relationship with them has changed. This is a challenge but I think if we can help change the public perception, so that reading is synonymous with exercise for example (which mentally speaking it is), then we can make real headway. The interesting thing now is that technology is starting to make old forms of reading - learning to regurgitate facts for example - obsolete. I think this should make more time for reading to be associated with imagination, creativity and fun, especially for young people. Surely that's a good thing.
It seems that a lot of thought goes into the design and finish of your products. How important is the physical experience of unwrapping and reading a book to you?
Crucial. I'm obsessive about the texture of the cover, the grain of the paper, the type, the ink. People should read stories but they should feel them too.
How can we all read more?
Start with us… or think about your interests. More often or not someone is writing dry, cutting, witty or challenging prose about it.
Any good book recommendations?
My favourite book is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I'm also going to reread Wind in the Willows next because a drinking, smoking toad is the kind of guy I can get on board with.
The Pound Project’s third campaign, Hopeless Romantic by Dolly Alderton, draws to a close tomorrow. Click here to back the campaign before Tuesday 25th September at 6.40pm.