Before you submit your script, be sure to make it presentable, readable and pleasing to the eye. Many writers do this through all kinds of formatting and colours. This is wrong. Before you commit your script to the publisher, read the publisher’s submission guidelines. This is important because a wrongly formatted script – no matter how good – will not be read. It is also important to check international best practice on the matter. If you are unsure which publisher in the country you will be submitting to, then refer to international publishers. Many South African publishers follow them anyways. So if you format according to a well-known American or European publisher, chances are a South African publisher will find your script admissible. Continue
So when it comes to whether you should publish your own book or look for a publisher, I just do not have one straight answer. Many people that published themselves always come back smarter and braver from the experience. They suddenly realise that publishing is really not as simple. They also understand the process, the workflow and the cycle – from writing, refining, proofing, subbing, layout, editing, re-editing, printing and then the final product. They also seem to understand the sales element of the process, as well as the marketing. This is a good thing – for an author to understand all these.
The frustration though, from self-published authors comes from those who sometimes do it for wrong reasons – such as thinking that we publishers are greedy fools after authors’ royalties, or sometimes you have been rejected so many times, or because you think you will be able to become an instant millionaire, or because you think your material needs no editing or processing by professionals.
So should you publish yourself? I do not know … Maybe, maybe not! But in all honesty, why not? Why not publish your own book if you have all the required stuff in place? If you have a good proof-reader, good editor, good material and good sales knack – why not? My biggest problem with self-publishing is the lack of professionalism in most books – from the spelling errors, bad grammar, bad design etc.
So should you find a publisher? I do not know … Maybe, maybe not! Big publishers are great. They are the big fish and if you can get to one, why not! Here are a few reasons why:
1. They are a bit difficult to negotiate royalty for example – Penguin gives nothing more than 12.5% for entry level author.
2. They are professionals, so you cannot half-step when working with them.
3. They might not give your book a lot of attention as you are still a new writer. So you will have to do a lot of work yourself.
4. They are very dismissive – and quickly so. Sometimes mistakenly.
But if you get a good big publisher, your name can be made.
So what is my advice? Start small … Go to a small independent publisher. Find out how they work. What is their royalty. How often do they pay. Who did they publish. etc Then you can submit to them for a review – even if they do not publish you, a small independent publisher can give a very good review that can guide you into a better writing career …
by Phehello J Mofokeng, Bookworm in Chief
I do not know who said this, but the saying goes “everyone has a story to tell”. I really do not care who said this because all that matters is that – it is true. We all have a story and the question of importance to me is – how do I get the story out of people?
I am a publisher. This means that I am very interested in stories – people’s stories. I am fascinated by the storytelling journey (process) and its fine intricacies that lead us to a book (product). Kendrick Lamar says that if he is going to tell a story, he must start by giving his name. Names of people – just like their stories – are important. And stories do matter. We are nothing without our stories – and that is why whole nations have been lost to history and time. Simply because their stories are not told.
As a publisher, I meet people who want to publish their stories. Often, they write about themselves in biographical form and these can be boring. They follow such a typical route and mostly they start with: “I was born …”. While your story is important, how you write it can be boring and no publisher will pick it up.
I do not want to sound pessimistic, but the world is against the independent publisher and the little-known author. I am going to touch a bit on this matter – without any delusion of trying to give immediate answers to it – but to highlight it to anyone who thinks they are a writer. We need to remove all illusions of grandeur about the writing profession – more so if you are writing for an independent publisher and you are an unknown author. Many authors come to me with lofty ideas of how great they think their stories are and the sales or even the Facebook Likes do not correspond. Many writers give up at this point – the very point when they should be pressing on.
I will press space out of the page to ensure that I also address the issue of language. In a nutshell, we need all the vernacular writing that we can get – out of Africa and the Diaspora. The world is actually getting tired of English metaphors and silly books written by Africans who think they have mastered the English language. For our generations and those coming after us, we have to start preserving our languages by writing more and more in them. We do not want history to judge us painfully – as the generation that forgot its own tongues and embraced a foreign one. We are an African people and the only remaining shard of our being is in our stories and I am interested in writers who want to preserve their language in all means possible and necessary. This is a wonderful challenge because only we can make it possible – not the Caine Prize or any amount of money.
In this tutorial, I am not going to tell you how to write your story, because each of us have a different voice. I am going to show you how to write a story that I as a publisher might find interesting and I can consider it for publishing. Do note that I am referring to our independent publishing house. My ideas and guidelines will certainly not fit all publishers. I will try as best as I can to provide a guide, not to dictate terms. I will lead you, but I will not instruct. I will suggest, but I will not argue. I will even refer you to some professional standards that we use at Geko Publishing to address the language use among other things. I will also highlight our process – from submission, proofing, editing, layout and design etc. Then I will give some tips regarding what to do to ensure that you have a script that – at first glance – is professional and meets the high standards of publishing in SA and elsewhere. This latter point is meant to show that even if your story might be weak, it still has to have a professional touch to it. I know of many stories that were published – only because they looked professional but at their core, they are just bad books. Looking professional will get your script on the door and it might just get picked up. A very good story that is not well-written will not be picked up – in fact it can end up repulsing the author. I know for a fact that I have rejected many scripts just because they did not look professional at all.
In the last part of the multi-part tutorial, I will give examples of what can be done to make a book a success. This will be my own ramblings, not so much a scientific method, but excerpts from my experience. This is important because we write stories not only to release them from our psyche (or to release our psyches from the stories), but also so that they can be read. To this effect, let me preempt my answer. The author is his/her first marketing tool. And then added layer to this is technology. African writers, authors, publishers and other literature professionals must look to technology for answers. Technology answers so many questions – especially the nagging issue of distribution.
With this foundation, I think it is fitting to go on this journey now – and see who has a story in them and how can we help the story out of you, on to the page …
“Ba re e ne re …” You respond by saying “Qoyi”!
I really do not think that awards are necessarily a good yardstick for great literature … that is to say, if a book wins some award – “prestigious” or marginal – this does not always guarantee complete satisfaction after reading the book. You might be amazed by these award-winning books! We do not always get surprised when an award is won by a European writer or by an Asian one or one from the Americas. But when it is won by an African, it is something to marvel at … Continue
Any author that wants to be taken seriously – or one that wants their work to be published – must treat submission guidelines of the publishing house they are submitting to, as gospel! Publishers are not only very busy, but they are often impatient. Every publisher is always looking for that killer manuscript, so they try and make it easy for themselves to find such, by creating guidelines on how to submit to them …
If you follow these guidelines, you ensure the following: Continue