Guest post: Unglue Obama by Stephen Black

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of his Obama project on the website Unglued, is brought to you by non-fiction author, Unglue contributor and spotlightee Stephen Black.

Unglue Obama

I’ve said or written this countless times, Obama Search Words is not an exercise in cheerleading for the man who is currently the President of the United States. It is a collection of research and fact-based fiction. No one is more surprised than I am that I wrote a book about the man who became President. To read about how I ended up writing a book about Obama, click here.

As for Ungluing…

Ungluing is a very, very new concept. Ungluing means that an ebook file is created in a way that anyone in the world, using any kind of device, can legally download or share the book without paying. Before this ebook file is created, the author is paid a sum of money. The money is raised by crowdfunding, meaning that people support the ungluing of the book by making financial contributions, often to receive premiums.

On July 12, I launched the Unglue Obama campaign, asking for $8000 to convert Obama Search Words into a digital file that can be read on any device and downloaded and shared at no cost.

At present I have raised 2.5% of my goal — $212. The campaign ends on November 8, 2012. Am I stressed? Not at all. Am I concerned? Most definitely. I have written at least 500 emails about the Unglue Obama campaign since it began. By snail mail, I sent a handbound printout to Anna Wintour, an Obama fundraiser and the editor of Vogue. I have gently emailed David Axelrod, the political mastermind who shaped Obama’s first election campaign, I have knocked on a few doors in LinkedIn and I’ve spread the word on Facebook. Like any sort of marketing or fundraising, there is never enough time.

I first learned about ungluing from Robert Scobell on his Google+ feed. That put me on the trail to Eric Hellman and Gluejar, the company he set up to unglue ebooks. As a writer and conceptual artist, I am fascinated by new words. New nouns are common, but new verbs are rare. There is a small amount of pleasure associated with using the word “unglue” in communications with people who have yet to discover its meaning. More often than not, they eventually realize that ungluing will likely be a positive influence on the future of ebooks. I admit that ‘unglue’ is a challenging word. When it is not accompanied by an explanation, it sounds wrong. I did a small email blast with “Unglue Obama” in the header. One email reply came in with a simple message: “ %&@# off! God Bless Obama! God bless America!”

There is more to my ungluing campaign than the pleasure of new words and the excitement of being a part of the publishing revolution. This isn’t easy and ‘excitement’ is not another word for ‘fun’. Eric just posted this on his blog: I’m a worrier, and there’s plenty to worry about. My recent worries have surrounded things like insurance (Unglue it’s “presence” in 4 states makes that not fun). And payment providers. Amazon could decide tomorrow that we’re a threat to their book business and turn off our payments account. Google could decide on Wednesday that books aren’t worth the trouble and shut down their book search API. On Thursday, hackers could take control of our servers and trash our database.

Although I do not stand to lose anything but time, I do feel a sense of responsibility to the unglue team. I want my campaign to succeed for their sake as much as mine. It is an honor to walk off the beaten path with intelligent, thoughtful people who know both the beauty of words and the power of actions.

It is impossible to say what will happen, of course. The political powers that be may see my Unglue Obama campaign as a plus for them, in this, an election year. David Axelrod and Anna Wintour may get back to me. There is a $12,000 premium which will bring my band to a venue of the donor’s choice. These are interesting things to think about.

Most likely, I will continue writing on supportive, thoughtful blogs like this one. All I can do is continue to promote my Unglue Obama campaign to anyone who enjoys a thoughtful read and wants to help shape the future of publishing.

Morgen: “Like any sort of marketing or fundraising, there is never enough time.” I know that feeling – marketing is one of the most replied answers to my interview question “what is your least favourite aspect of your writing life” because it is so time-consuming. This blog, although not technically marketing, takes up 95% of my life (I’m not kidding – I get 100+ related emails a day) and yes, I’d rather be spending it writing and of course I have a choice. Whilst it’s not monetarily rewarding (I’ve not earned a penny from it, although I do hope it’ll boost my novels’ sales when I finally get them online) I’ve met some wonderful people, albeit electronically. So, thank you Stephen for being one of those. 🙂

Obama Search Words

Featuring documentary-style short stories and interviews, Obama Search Words captures the spirit of one of the most exciting campaigns in American political history, as well as scenes from Barack Obama’s life. The book also touches upon the work of civil rights leaders such as Philip Randolph and Dr. Martin Luther King. With charts, original and historic photographs, Obama Search Words vividly captures the life and times of one of the most dynamic politicians of our times.


“I just received this from Eric Hellman, the founder of Gluejar…

Dear Ungluers,

Amazon Payments has informed us that they will no longer process pledge payments for, forcing us to suspend all active ungluing campaigns. According to a Senior Account Manager at Amazon, Amazon has decided against “boarding fresh crowdfunding accounts at this time”. Amazon provides payment services for the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

Amazoan has required us to void all pending authorizations.  However, this does not affect the Oral Literature in Africa Campaign, which was successful and has been fully funded. That ebook, being produced by Open Book Publishers, is almost ready for release.  It will be available under a Creative Commons Attribution license for you to enjoy, use, copy, share, translate, remix.

We are already hard at work to implement a new payment method for, and we’ll let you know as soon as it’s available. Until then, please help spread the word, and urge your friends to register as ungluers and make a wishlist. The more ungluers we have, the more rights holders will join us for our re-launch.  We’re also looking forward to hearing from you at the open thread on our blog, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter with the hashtag #unglueit.

With your continuing support, we will survive these difficulties to unglue many, many books. Maybe someday, people will look back with amazement on the short period when Amazon dominated the world of ebooks.

Eric Hellman
Follow us on Twitter: @unglueit
Like us on Facebook:


An American artist / writer / photographer and videomaker currently based in Singapore, Stephen has published a book of photographs as well as several ebooks. His experiences in the sometimes intersecting worlds of art and media include working as a Director of Photography in Okinawa for legendary Japanese actress Kumiko Akiyoshi’s film directorial debut, assisting Annie Leibovitz on photographic shoots throughout Tokyo, arranging for Stelarc and his Prosthetic Head to perform at an exhibition in Singapore and co-writing a text piece about memory, success and architecture with artist Michael Lee for Michael’s installation at the 2012 Singapore Biennale.

Stephen has written, produced, and / or directed promos and videos for companies like CNN, Cartoon Network, France 2, Fox and Fuji TV. He has managed and art-directed the creation of a 3D gamemaking software, documented Kazuo Ono and other renowned butoh artists and twice produced tours of Hong Kong for the Sadato band.

Novelist Xu Xi, shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Asia Prize for Literature, said of Bus Stopping, Stephen’s book of photographs, that it was created with “a spontaneous, studied and ever eloquent eye”. Describing the 2011 novel, Contact With Shadow, 2008 Singapore literature winner Ng Yi-Sheng, wrote, “It’s a double pleasure to read this wonderful scrapbook of historical facts, metafictions and photographs. First, there’s the joy of gleaning nuggets of knowledge about Singapore and the printed word hitherto unknown; and second, there’s the childlike wonder of never knowing what Stephen Black has in store for us on the next page.”

Stephen is a member of 3how and co-produced their first CD.



If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with science-fiction novelist JL Manning – the four hundred and fifty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

We'd love you to leave a comment, thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.