It came from people who thought, “Wow – what a great idea for a book.”
The book was published by Unbound, a crowd-funded publisher that started up in 2011. Authors pitch ideas, you support the ones you wanna read, and they receive further support from Unbound. The range of books in terms of genre seems pretty unlimited, and so are the rewards for support. For example, one of the highest rewards for Stuart Ashen’s Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of is the author’s own ZX Spectrum game console from 1986, with “5 dreadful original games to play on it”. His top reward is that he will include an account of a presumably terrible game he wrote in the 90s and personally blame the contributor for its inclusion in the book. There’s a lot of room for fun wackiness like that in this system. It seems fairly risk-free, too; if the book doesn’t make its funding goal, you get your cash back.
Have your own idea for a book? Go submit that thing, and see if they go for it. You can even suggest ideas/authors you’re interested in – like “Hey, could you guys get Salman Rushdie to write a Harry Potter spinoff?” And they will (maybe) (try to) get it done. It’s possible that Salman Rushdie is not on Unbound’s speed-dial, but you never know.
Yes, some projects might be a real long-shot, but the point is that folks who are not inside the publishing industry have this platform to influence or contribute to what will actually appear in print. Both authors and publishers have a chance to get books out that might have never materialized with the traditional publishing model. Maybe the most important part of the whole deal is that Unbound will help distribute and market. All you self-published novelists don’t need an explanation as to why that is significant. This way of doing things looks like a bridge between the (relative) ease of digital publishing and the preference most people have for holding an actual book in their hands.