The much-loved UNCLE series of children's books by JP Martin, illustrated by Quentin Blake, were fantastical, surreal, funny and heart-warming. Originally told by Martin to his children, they were finally published when he was over eighty years old - and the hilarious array of characters, including the rich but sometimes foolish elephant, Uncle, captured the imagination of children across the world.
I fell in love with them when I was a child and became determined to bring them back into print. In 2013 I was delighted to discover a whole community of fellow Uncle fans when I launched a successful kickstarter campaign to publish THE COMPLETE UNCLE. I have since then stumbled across over 50 pages of unpublished Uncle stories, which are just as hilarious and well-crafted as the published work, and also a fascinating biography of Martin, the missionary turned author, by his daughter, which explores the unique imagination and experiences that informed this remarkable and inventive genius. These have never been seen before and I would love to share them with Uncle's legions of fans and introduce JP Martin and Uncle to more fans as well.
This will be a beautifully designed and produced illustrated book, with the choice of a limited edition hardcover or a high-quality paperback, posted to anywhere in the world.
Please note that the pledge levels and values DO NOT include postage, which is added on in the next stage.
What does this book contain?
JP MARTIN - FATHER OF UNCLE will contain both the biography (around 300 pages) and the Unpublished Uncle (around 55 pages).
During my research into Uncle, I was given access to JP Martin's archive, now in the hands of his grandson James Currey. I found a biography of JP Martin which had been written by his daughter, the playwright Stella Currey. It had been considered for publication by Faber, but eventually was shelved. It has now been revised and updated by James Currey, typeset and garlanded with many photos and documents from JP Martin's collection.
However, that wasn't all I stumbled across. JP used to write the Uncle stories for his grandchildren, and the various manuscripts were assembled by Jonathan Cape - and, later, his children - into the books we know and love. But not everything made it in to the six final volumes! We have typed up everything we could find that was unpublished, and I am thrilled to be able to include them alongside the fascinating biography. The new material includes five completely new chapters and three which are very different to the published versions, plus documents from JP's life and a unpublished Uncle poem.
The new chapters are:
- An Experience in Long Lane
- A Visit to Quagga Hall
- Press Button Hall
- They Visit Lemon Tower
- Animal Snobbery
Who was JP Martin?
JP Martin lived an extraordinary life. A Methodist minister, as a young man he spent much of his time in Africa. Stories of him wading across crocodile-infested rivers with his bible held high to keep it dry were gleefully retold by his family. He was always a storyteller, and the seeds of the Uncle books were sown in the stories he told his children and, later, grandchildren. He attempted to write novels and short stories, but never succeeded in getting them published. It was only in his later life that his daughter Stella - a noted playwright - managed to convince him to put together some of the stories he had told her as a child and find a publisher. Many publishers rejected UNCLE, but Jonathan Cape saw merit in them. JP was delighted to finally be a published author in his eighties. He died shortly after the publication of the second book, and his children went on to stitch together four more volumes.
As I mentioned, the main biography has already been typeset and just needs a proofread. The extra material exists as a digital copy and needs to be typeset for publication. As soon as we reach our target I will finish proofreading, finalise the cover, have a last search through the archive for any extra material, and aim to have everything printer ready by the end of January. Although of course unexpected delays can always occur, our goal is to have the books ready by early 2017.
Versions of JP MARTIN - FATHER OF UNCLE
I plan to release three editions of the book - in ebook (various formats, whatever you prefer - epub, .mobi etc), paperback and hardback. The hardback will be printed to the same specifications as THE COMPLETE UNCLE - good paper, cloth binding cover with foil stamping, sewn and glued with a bookmark. It will look lovely on the shelf next to its predecessor, and will only be available through this kickstarter or, later, direct from me if we raise enough money to extend the print run.
The paperback will be on the same quality paper, and be perfect bound with a cover similar to the one above. The ebook will be available from all good e-retailers indefinitely, and I hope to print enough of the paperback to make it worth distributing to the UK book trade, and then as print-on-demand after that. The content of all three will be the same. The book will be around 400 pages long - so about half the size of the COMPLETE UNCLE.
Getting more than one of something
If you want to add to your pledges and get extra copies of the books, that's fine by me! Choose your reward level and then add to your pledge total the following:
- Extra ebook copies of the biography: £5 each
- Extra paperback copies of the biography: £15 UK, £17 Europe, £20 rest of the world
- Extra hardback copies of the biography: £35 UK, £40 Europe, £45 rest of the world
At the end of the campaign (assuming we're successful) you'll have a chance to let me know what extras you've ordered.
I also have 10 copies left of the double CD I produced for the previous campaign. This includes JP Martin reading some Uncle, and BBC radio interviews with both him and James Currey. These are £12 each - please message me if you want to add one to your pledge.
How does kickstarter work?
Just in case you haven't been here before, this is how it works - you choose the reward level you want, and then how much money you want to spend (minimum amount is the level you've chosen plus postage, although you're allowed to give more!). If, at the end of the 30 days, the campaign has reached the target up there on the top right of the screen, everyone gets charged, the money eventually comes to me, and I produce the books. If we don't make the target, no one gets charged and the book, sadly, will not be produced.
Where can I buy the original UNCLE books?
The original Uncle kickstarter ran in 2013, and exceeded my wildest expectations. I asked for £7,500 to sell 500 books, and raised over £27,000 to produce 2,500 copies, posted all over the world including Japan, Australia, Africa, the USA, the UAE, Canada and throughout Europe.
The volume I produced included contributions from Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Martin Rowson, Andy Riley, Richard Ingrams, Justin Pollard and Kate Summerscale. Quentin Blake wrote me a letter thanking me for bring the books back into print, which I have framed on the wall. Although I was thrilled by the success of my first ever kickstarter, and the coverage in the Sunday Times and BBC Radio and other places, my favourite moments came when I was contacted by the many fellow fans who had been waiting for Uncle to be reprinted. Many of them helped me to make the book available, and I'm very grateful.
In case you've got this far, and don't have a copy of THE COMPLETE UNCLE, I'm afraid to say that I have completely sold out (all 2,500 copies) and my contract with Random House does not allow me to reprint. There may be copies still in bookshops, but once those are gone there won't be any more. However, Random House did take my cleaned up files and released ebooks of all six titles, so you can check them out that way. The first two books are also in print from the New York Review of Books in attractive hardbacks. My last few copies of the COMPLETE UNCLE are available as limited rewards on this kickstarter.
Where will the money go?
Any money raised from this kickstarter (if we make our target!) will be spent in the following order:
- Final costs of preparing for print (proofreading, design etc)
- Printing the books (including fees for distribution, ebook creation etc)
- Paying for postage
- Repaying money already spent by the JP Martin estate on typesetting etc
- Any profit after this will be split 50-50 between the JP Martin estate and Marcus Gipps
Thanks, and please tell your friends!
I'm more than willing to answer any questions or receive any advice, so please do get in touch!
Risks and challenges
Having already produced one book through kickstarter, I am confident that this new project is fully achievable. Unlike my last project, the bulk of the book is already typeset, and the additional material exists. All permissions are in place, and I will use the same printer and distributor as before - I know they do good work. All projects can face unexpected delays or catastrophes, but I will use my experience as a former bookseller, current publisher and previous kickstarter to make sure risks are minimised.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)