Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 5, 2014

Screwpulp – crowd-funded publishing, Guest post by Rowena Wiseman

Rowena Wiseman

Rowena Wiseman

As regular readers of this blog know, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with my Kindle.  I don’t like the experience of reading with it, but it is handy for overseas travel (as long as you’ve got something else to read in that dead 30 minutes when you’re not allowed to use it at take-off and landing), and it is invaluable for reading old out-of-print texts from Project Gutenberg.  But as my review policy states,  I don’t read anything contemporary in digital form – publishers have to send me a book, a proper book, if they want me to read and review anything.  It’s just my personal preference …

But I have friends who are devoted to their eReaders, and given a choice, wouldn’t use anything else.  And there is no doubt that for many aspiring authors, self-publishing digitally is an opportunity to break into the industry and experience the joy of launching the book out into the reading world.

Searching for Von HonningsbergsSo I am delighted to be able to bring you a view from this brave new world of digital publishing.  Author Rowena Wiseman writes literary fiction and children’s stories, and her blog Out of Print Writer is now being archived at the National Library of Australia’s digital archive PANDORA.   Her first novel Searching for Von Honningsbergs was longlisted for the 2007 Australian Vogel Award and has been published digitally on Screwpulp, which has a unique crowd-funding pricing model. 

Here Rowena explains about her novel, and her journey towards publication…

In Searching for Von Honningsbergs Lawson is sent overseas to retrieve three paintings for an exhibition in Melbourne. My novel was inspired by an article I read in The Age about a National Gallery of Victoria curator searching for Sidney Nolan paintings for the Desert & Drought exhibition in 2003. I started wondering about how paintings end up in different countries, who owns them and why do they own them? And so my story was born.

I must have written the first version of my novel in late 2003/2004 and then, strangely enough, having worked in educational publishing for a few years, in 2005 I got a job at a regional gallery editing publications and marketing. In the interview, having no actual experience in the visual arts sector, in desperation I told them I’d written a novel about a curator. Somehow I landed the job and finally I had a real view into the world of art.

In 2007, two days after I’d returned home from hospital with my newborn baby, I received a letter from Allen & Unwin saying that my novel had been longlisted for the Australian Vogel Award and they were doing a reader’s assessment to see if it was fit for publication. Ultimately they passed, but I used the reader’s assessment to fully rework my novel and resubmitted it to the Vogel Award in 2012. Again, it was highly commended by the judges and I received another really helpful reader’s assessment.

By the end of 2012, I finally let go of Searching for Von Honningsbergs and started writing something new. In the last 18 months I’ve written two novellas, another novel and started some children’s stories. But it was as if Searching for Honningsbergs was my firstborn and needed to be married off first. So early this year I made the decision to publish it on a new self-publishing platform called Screwpulp.

Screwpulp has a unique crowd-driven pricing model that helps market and build demand for each book.  Readers are encouraged to rate and review books and thereby sift the better books to a higher tiered price.  This model rewards early readers with lower prices and rewards popular authors with higher revenue.  Screwpulp accepts book submissions across a wide range of genres with no exclusivity and allows one free download a day for users.

Recently Screwpulp secured a seed investment of $330,000 and they plan to use the investment to enhance the shopping and reading experience for readers and improve the publishing tools for authors. Board member Joe Wikert, publishing futurist formerly with O’Reilly Media, said that Screwpulp is ‘really set to disrupt what’s going on in publishing.’

So I’m really excited to be on board with Screwpulp early, it seems like a good home for Lawson and the quirky characters that he meets on his journey. Lawson is an artist and wants to see his own paintings hanging on the best gallery walls in Australia. But he works as an arts administrator, organising loans of paintings, insurance and logistics for exhibitions on artists that have actually achieved what he only dreams about. When he is sent overseas to persuade owners of Von Honningsberg works to lend their paintings for a retrospective exhibition he has a number of encounters that finally motivate him to paint his greatest series. He writes notes to Senior Curator Alistair Fellows about his paintings and the tales behind them. In his letter to the Senior Curator, Lawson says:

I fear that there are too many untalented parasites out there who make a career out of ‘interpreting’ artists’ works and ‘presenting’ them to the public without ever understanding the stories behind the artworks themselves. They know that the lady’s name is Ivy in the portrait, because they have read it in the title, and they know that she was the sister of the artist’s friend, because that was on public record. But they don’t know if Ivy had woken up nude with the artist that morning, cooked him bacon and eggs, and then picked her teeth at the kitchen table with the plastic wrapping from her cigarette packet. How could they know if they weren’t there? So instead this breed of curators make their living out of finding hidden symbolisms in works, creating parallels with other figures in art history, plotting concocted narratives and conning people into believing that they are an authority about this artist and his works – when in fact they couldn’t possibly know what was in the artist’s head.

This is our chance to find out exactly what was in Lawson’s head – we hear his stories, rather than see the brushstrokes in his artworks. We find out about the anorexic Russian Latvian firetwirler who helps him secure the first Von Honningsberg painting at Lake Baikal in Siberia, the shady characters he meets in Brazil and the post-Cultural Revolution artist that inspires him in China. And when Lawson discovers that he has actually become involved in an art world scam, he begins to question the true value of art.

Searching for Von Honningsbergs on Screwpulp here.

Thanks for sharing your expertise about this, Rowena!

PS Other author friends of mine who’ve ventured into digital publishing are


  1. Crowd funding is great way to get books out there I believe some us publisher are trying it for translations


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