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VOL. 128 | NO. 95 | Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Screwpulp Aims to Make Publishing Simpler

By Andy Meek

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With a name like Screwpulp, it’s not hard to figure out how the founders of the startup feel about the current state of the publishing industry.

Screwpulp is one of six companies participating in Seed Hatchery, a tech-focused business accelerator for high-growth companies that wraps up its third season this month. Richard Billings is the founder of Screwpulp, which he and his team have built to help writers do an end run around traditional publishing outlets.

The company a few days ago launched its beta e-book marketplace. And Thursday, May 16, Screwpulp will join fellow Seed Hatchery companies in making a pitch to investors to try and secure follow-on funding.

The venture takes its name in part from the screw press, the first printing method that allowed for books to be made with moveable type in large quantities. That “screw” is combined with what the book industry is moving away from – paper, or “pulp” – to create the company’s name.

The premise behind Screwpulp is that it’s an e-book marketplace that tries to make it easy and profitable for anyone to publish their material. Participating authors maintain their rights and keep 75 percent of their revenue.

“I managed IT ... before going ‘all in’ with Screwpulp. I like to think that I bootstrapped my life.”

–Richard Billings

From the writer’s side, it involves uploading a book onto the site, along with a short biography and any links the writer might wish to use to help market themselves.

The venture launched with four books. After four days, Screwpulp had 14 books on its site and 180 users, and the books had been downloaded 65 times within the first few days.

The company’s founders thus think they’ve hit on something.

After high school, Billings spent two years in the military and later worked as an intern at WMC-TV Channel 5 for a documentary project about Memphis music. He’s also worked as a photographer and as an on-air personality on the morning show of the original iteration of 96X.

His career also has included providing news reports to WREC 600 while teaching himself about computers, in addition to other work.

“I managed IT for Fogelman Management Group and Sacred Heart Southern Missions before going ‘all in’ with Screwpulp at the beginning of the Seed Hatchery accelerator program,” Billings said. “I like to think that I bootstrapped my life.”

Screwpulp’s designer is Will Phillips, who has worked as a designer for about seven years. He started his career moonlighting as a designer, taking whatever jobs he could while working a part-time job at a signs and graphics shop.

After a year or two of that, he started freelancing full time, working for himself and taking care of clients large and small from around the country.

“Since the beginning of last year, I’ve worked for archer-malmo as a Web designer working with the creative team focused on interactive design for projects with national clients like Pfizer Animal Health, Valent, Palm Beach Tan, and FedEx,” Phillips said. “And for the past year, I’ve partnered with Screwpulp, helping to establish the brand and build an innovative new experience for authors and readers.”

Screwpulp maintains that it will publish everyone. Early copies of books are given away for free, and the price of the book goes up in $1 increments as demand for the book goes up.

Screwpulp asks that authors keep their book on Screwpulp for a minimum of 90 days. The company also is partnering with different organizations to help authors with cover design, editing and formatting, and more tools will be unveiled over time.

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