Publication at last …

22 January 2014 / Leave a Comment

Last week my novel Searching for Von Honningsbergs was published on Screwpulp. Did I crack open the champagne, climb the highest mountain and shout it out? No. I panicked. I can’t even remember when exactly I started that book, it must have been at least 10 years ago … and now that it was out there in the public domain, I felt sick with worry. Not exactly the feeling that I was expecting after all these years.

I re-read it, yet again. I felt embarrassed by the sex scenes, blushed at the thought of my father reading it and I picked up a glaring spelling mistake (site instead of sight - and I fear there will be more). I wished that I hadn’t gone on so much about a character named Baiba who was overly enthusiastic about having orgasms because she believed they burnt calories.

Inspired by a story in The Age newspaper about a National Gallery of Victoria curator going overseas to search for Sidney Nolan paintings, I wrote the first sketchy draft of this novel on a week-long holiday in Stradbroke Island in an A5 notebook. Afterwards, I typed it up and expanded upon it. A few months, or a year or so later, I got a job doing marketing and publications at a regional art gallery. It was almost as though my life was imitating my art.

I have read this book so many times now. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I loathe it, sometimes I don’t feel anything at all. I can no longer tell if it’s funny or just plain stupid. Despite two sets of Vogel Award judges commending it, I’m still filled with doubt.

So, after I found out that Screwpulp had published it, I sat on this news for a week (I was away on holiday in the countryside, sweltering in Melbourne’s longest heatwave and we had to pack up our bags a few days early to escape a creeping bushfire). Anyway, there was a few problems with the format that I’d submitted my manuscript in. So I took the opportunity to downplay some of those sex scenes that were making me uncomfortable and fixed that site/sight error. Then I reformatted my manuscript in Press Books, which is a fantastic program for creating professional-looking epub, mobi and PDF files, and resent it to Screwpulp. So Searching for Von Honningsbergs now looks like a real book.

Although I’ve resisted self-publishing for a long while, I really like the look of Screwpulp. I love the site’s fresh and contemporary black and white design and straightforward usability. I also like the concept that books are first given away as free, but once a book reaches a certain amount of downloads a modest fee is charged (and writers receive 75%). Readers are encouraged to rate and share books they have read via social media, increasing a readership base. I think the thing that always worried me about self-publishing was that it seemed so lonely … what I’m hoping with Screwpulp is that I’m part of a community of other writers and readers and that their marketing and functionality will help support my book (and maybe I just wanted to see my title on their beautiful black and white page … I’m a sucker for good design!). Screwpulp is still in the Beta phase, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves over time.

So now starts the fun of promoting a book – which I’m sure is just as hard and tiresome as writing a book. I’m under no illusion that book promotion is easy. I’m sure it’s just as difficult to get people to download and invest their time in my novel as it is to get an agent to read a second page of my manuscript. My biggest step yet is getting the courage to share it with friends and family, to put it out there, to say this is what I’ve written, take it or leave it, like it or hate it, it is what it is. All that stuff about Baiba and those orgasms burning calories, it was meant to be funny.

Alain de Botton said, ‘The process of publishing a book is like telling a joke, then having to wait for 2 years to find out whether it was funny or not.’ In this case it’s been something like 10 years … but then again, it’s been so long I’ve lost count … Here’s the punch line … 

Rowena Wiseman writes literary fiction and children's stories. Her novel Searching for Von Honningsbergs was longlisted for the Australian Vogel Award in 2007 and has been published as an ebook on Screwpulp:*=info&id=70



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