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Report from the Indie Book Fair: Discussion on Women in Publishing

Indie Book Fair: Women in Publishing

The first annual Indie Book Fair highlighted numerous issues and concerns surrounding the publishing industry. From grassroots literature and social development to the need for a body that recognises and protects the small personal voice, the two-day event left no stone unturned in its quest to create a new wave in publishing.

The Indie Book Fair was sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture’s Mzansi Golden Economy and hosted by Porcupine Press. The first day’s events ended with a panel discussion on women in independent publishing.

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Author and publisher Shafinaaz Hassim chaired the conversation between Louise Grantham, the CEO and publisher of Bookstorm, and Clare-Rose Julius, marketing manager of Porcupine Press and director of African Narratives.

Hassim kicked off the session by asking: “What is it to be a female or African writer or publisher? Are women better at writing or publishing women’s stories?”

Grantham said that she’s mulled over being a woman in publishing since receiving the topic. “It’s not the way I define myself in publishing because most people in publishing are women,” she said. “I feel quite fortunate to have entered an industry where my gender is irrelevant to what I do.

“What I’m picking up today is that people are not happy with established publishing.”

Grantham said that publishers, whether mainstream or independent, face the same issues of finding ways to get the right books in front of the right reader: “My biggest concern is where are we going in the next 10 years?”

Hassim asked: “How do we make books more accessible?” Grantham said she believes we will have to develop a reading nation before we have a book buying nation and that government libraries can play a strong role in this regard. She said that if the government would commit to buying one copy of every locally published book for every library in the country it would revolutionise the industry.

Julius concurred, saying that she has not experienced any gender discrimination, but would like to see more young black women in the industry. “We need more books published by independent presses run by women,” she said.

Julius cited a recent article in The Guardian about how self-publishing has enabled women to break the industry’s glass ceiling.

During the question and answer session David Robbins, the owner of Porcupine Press, said that he has been astounded by Julius’ energy and he thanked her for her dedication and hard work. Thus the first day of the Indie Book Fair drew to a close.

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Annetjie van Wynegaard (@Annetjievw) tweeted from the launch using #IndieBookFair:



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