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Archive for the ‘Self Publishing’ Category

Practical Action to Decolonise the “White Literary System”: The African Flavour Books Case Study

Bridget Impey, MD of Jacana Media, and Fortiscue Helepi, the founder and owner of African Flavour Books

Fortiscue Helepi, the founder and owner of African Flavour Books, an independent bookshop in the Vaal, gave a presentation at the Jacana Media offices in Johannesburg last week as the first in the publisher’s series of talks titled “Continuing the Debate – Decolonising South Africa’s Literary Landscape”.

I Write What I LikenullCoconutLondon – Cape Town – JoburgWay Back HomeRachel’s Blue


Bridget Impey, MD of Jacana, opened the discussion with some background, and explained why the publisher wanted to continued the conversation.

“We were in the audience when Thando [Mgqolozana] made that declaration that he was leaving white literary festivals, and it was so goddamn brilliant,” she said. “There was such a good energy, there was such a good connection with all the people that were there. So we thought we had to keep the momentum going. It would be disappointing if we had Franschhoek and then we all went home and forgot about it.

“So we want to look at the practicalities. A lot of what happened at the follow-up event at Wits was people saying, we’ve got a situation – how do we change it?

“There are certain people who think we should go in, Stalin-style, and wipe out Franschhoek in one fell swoop. I’d rather build up new things.”

Forthcoming events include a discussion around the Google Mapping of all the independent booksellers in Johannesburg – including hair salons and street vendors – which is being undertaken by journalist Griffin Shea, and a talk by Mofenyi Malepe – author of the self-published book 283: The Bad Sex Bet, which has now sold almost 5 000 copies. Contact Jacana to find out more.

When asked where he stands on the “literary apartheid” debate, Helepi says the one message he is trying to preach is that black people must not sit back and wait for change.

“There are things that are very important to us, and we cannot sit on the fence and say, ‘people are not doing this for us’, when we don’t invest in it. I took R400 000 of my family’s money, that we saved the last three years, and I invested in this thing. Because it’s very important. I’m very passionate about it. You can’t point if you didn’t try. We need to invest our money. Where are our entrepreneurs?

“We have to ask ourselves what kind of legacy we are going to leave for our kids. We can’t leave that legacy of ‘we are not readers’. That’s not right.”

The story of African Flavour Books

Helepi, a chemical engineer, entrepreneur and author, opened African Flavour Books in February this year, after three years of research.

“It was a very long journey,” he says. “We always wondered why we didn’t have bookshops with African literature. I think most people come to this continent to get to the literature, and they still find American authors and European authors in the front of our bookshops.

“The other thing is that I am staying in the Vaal, and I had to travel every weekend an hour, at least, to come to Joburg, only to get to a bookshop that doesn’t have the books that I want.”

Helepi said he and his wife researched bookshops all over the country, and decided that there were so many authors, such as Zakes Mda, Niq Mhlongo, Zukiswa Wanner, that “this country needs to know about”.

The joys of starting a bookshop

“The nice thing that we found in the Vaal is that everyone wants a bookshop in their mall,” Helepi said. “So we could really negotiate prices. Some people cut their rental by R5 000!”

Helepi said he also wanted the design of his shop to attract any young kids that were walking by: “We wanted them to think it was an ice-cream shop! We wanted beautiful colours. We also have a nice kids’ area to encourage them.”

With the international trend of bookshops closing down, Helepi says a lot of people asked him why he was opening one. “We believe that it’s going to take a long time to get our lesser known authors on Amazon. In South Africa, people are still buying books in bookshops. And everyone is very excited about our bookshop.”

The challenges of starting a bookshop: Authors

Helepi says he always tells authors: “You need to market yourself as if you are self-published.”

He says he believes book events are vital to familiarise people with the work: “Most authors were not particularly excited at first, because our events were not really sponsored by their publisher, so we struggled and we are still trying to get authors to see the value of connecting with people. It’s a very new market and it needs to be encouraged.

“In our area there are a lot of students and they are very interested in the events, and they come. But it’s very difficult to get the authors there. Self-published authors are willing to work with us more, because have invested their own money.

“For us to create demand for the books, authors need to be out their marketing their material. If you don’t do that, your book will just collect dust.”

The challenges of starting a bookshop: Publishers

Helepi says publishers should also do more to market their authors.

“People cannot believe the collection of books that we have,” he says. “But I had to study. It took three years, and I researched on each and every website. Not every customer will have that passion. We need to make information available very, very easily.”

He was also disappointed that publishers always referred him to the distributor instead of handling his queries directly.

“The distributor doesn’t understand my needs; my needs are totally different. I want to see people who are not out there. I’m not trying to look like someone else, I’m not trying to be like Exclusive Books, I want to be totally different. I want someone who published a book in 2001 and it’s sitting there collecting dust – that’s the book I want. I want the material that people don’t know about. People are still trying to sell me Grey. I don’t want Grey. I don’t want it!

“I want to get the point where I have a 100 percent African bookshop. At the moment we are sitting at around 80 percent, to 20 percent international. Because you can’t say ‘no’ to a customer. If a customer says they want Grey, you need to give it to them.”

The challenges of starting a bookshop: Distributors and Booksellers

Helepi says his main frustration was with the distributors, from hard-to-navigate websites with outdated book catalogues, to bad communication, to poor tracking of payments.

“Because I’ve only been operating for four months, I’m working on a cash basis. So if I give you money, I want to get that money back as quickly as possible. When you are an independent bookshop, time is everything. Without cash flow, you will not stay afloat.”

The challenges of starting a bookshop: Readers

“With the market that I’m targeting there is that perception that people do not read,” Helepi said. “But you will find that actually people read.”

However, Helepi says the issue of “book travelling”, where one copy of a book is shared and passed along, is something he is trying to combat – and not chiefly for his own gain.

“What I’m trying to do now, is I’m stressing to everyone that comes into the shop the importance of keeping the copy. Because, yes, you might access it easier now, but in a couple of years later you will not have it. It’s better to make sure you have your own home library and keep all these books so that your kids can access them very easily.

“I want people to understand the value of buying books and keeping them, otherwise publishers don’t think people are reading.”

Helepi says theft is a big problem too, but that he designed to shop to be a big open space, which does help.

A lack of knowledge about local authors is another challenge Helepi faces, and he says he makes a point of taking his customers through the authors, because readers can be intimidated: “sometimes people want to read, but they don’t know where to start”.

He says his mother gave him Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country and a few other volumes, “and from there, I never stopped”.

“Someone needs to introduce you to reading, and we try to do that. We make sure we invest a lot of time in teaching young people about the authors that we have. We recommend books they can relate to, Kopano Matlwa is a good example, and from there they come back for more.

“We don’t want to start everyone on Long Walk to Freedom.

“We try to make sure the budget is in the right place. If you are buying Grey, the money is taken away from buying Kopano Matlwa or someone else.”

Helepi says people are shocked at the books they are able to get at his store, but he always makes sure he has a wide variety to suit all tastes.

“Our customers buy books either because they can relate to them or because they can learn from them. They don’t buy books just for the sake of buying books.”

The bestselling book at African Flavour Books is Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like, with Gayton McKenzie’s A Hustler’s Bible coming in second.

Incredibly, Helepi says fiction is the most popular genre. “I think people find it hard to get. We have everything, and people get excited.”

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Jennifer Malec tweeted from the event:


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Short-Changed? South Africa since 1994Steve BikoSouth Africa at War, 1939-1945Umkhonto weSizweGovan MbekiThe Soweto UprisingSan Rock Art

The ANC Women's LeagueSouth Africa's Struggle for Human RightsShakaThe ANC Youth LeaguePlague, Pox and PandemicsThe Idea of the ANCIngrid Jonker


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Join Gareth Crocker and Carlyle Labuschagne at the SA Indies Rock Book Festival in Roodepoort


EvanescentThe Last Road TripSearching Africa

Calling all independent publishers, authors, bloggers and book lovers! The SA Indies Rock Book Festival invites you to an interactive afternoon of book discussions on Saturday, 28 March, at Modjadji House in Roodepoort.

Hosted by Carlyle Labuschagne, author of Evanescent: A Broken Novel, the event will be open to the public from 2 to 9 PM.

Speakers include Gareth Crocker, author of The Last Road Trip, Porcupine Press owner David Robbins, founder of the UtopYA Conference in Nashville Janet Wallace and David Henderson, founder of My eBook.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Saturday, 28 March 2015
  • Time: 2:00 to 9:00 PM
  • Venue: Modjadji House
    23 Oosthuizen Drive
    Roodepoort | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Janet Wallace, Gareth Crocker, David Henderson and David Robbins
  • RSVP:, 021 462 2425

Have a look at the press release for more information:

Debut South African Indies Rock – SAIR – launches in Johannesburg on 28 March with international speaker and CEO of Social Deviants and founder of the UtopYA Conference in Nashville!

SAIR was founded by award winning South African author Carlyle Labuschagne – author of Dead of Night, The Broken Destiny, Evanescent and Absolution to name a few – as a way of giving back to the industry for making her dreams come true. South African Indies Rock is a book festival aimed at being a place where self-published to traditionally published writers are seen as equal players in the industry, a place where they can find hope, inspiration and the resources they need to help them along the exciting journey of being recognised in their craft. Carlyle started this initiative because of her struggle to becoming a South African published author. Frustrated by the lack of support and enthusiasm about all things reading and writing in South Africa her message of ‘stand loud and proud for what you believe in and you should believe in yourself and not be scared of your unique voice’ will be the core focus of this endeavour. Labuschagne hopes to make SAIR a destination where everyone feels connected, celebrated and rewarded for their passions.

SAIR will take place at Modjadji House, 23 Oosthuizen Drive, Roodepoort, 1709

Four guest speakers ranging from one of the best Social Media Strategists from the USA, to a South African multi-award winning novelist, to an author and filmmaker who is climbing the book and movie charts with his novels.

  • Janet Wallace, CEO of Social Deviants and founder of the UtopYA Conference in Nashville
  • Gareth Crocker author of Finding Jack, Journey from Darkness, Never Let Go, King, The Last Road Trip which is currently being developed into a Hollywood film
  • David Henderson founder of the country’s largest Digital Publishing Blog
  • David Robbins award winning author and publisher at Porcupine Press

Participants at SAIR will be inspired by their stories and humbled by the little tips and tricks they can offer. Carlyle is very proud and excited to have these wonderful speakers be part of SAIR 2015.

In addition to the four guest speakers the book festival also includes:

  • Editing panel discussion – Sandra Valente (Editor), Nerine Dorman (Editor and Author), Monique Snyman (Author)
  • Marketing and Branding panel discussion – Helen Holyoake (Specialist Book Publicist), Carlyle Labuschagne (SAIR founder and author) and Jo Watson (Watty Award Winner and Author)
  • Publishing panel discussion – Rachel Morgan (Successful Self-Published Author), Marius du Plessis (Fox and Raven Publishing), Monique Snyman (Author) and Joan de la Haye (Horror Writer)
  • Bookselling panel discussion – Dave de Burgh (Author and Exclusive Books Bookseller), Rachel Morgan (Editor and Author), Marius du Plessis (Fox and Raven Publishing) and Joan de la Haye (Horror Writer)
  • Book Launch Party – Carlyle Labuschagne launches the South African edition of Evanescent published by Fire Quill Publishing – 15h00 – 18h00
  • Author signing event open to public between 14h00 – 18h00
  • Literary Awards – Book, editor, author, publisher, awards
  • Giveaways will be announced to all attending ticket holders on the day – Novel Review Cafe are providing a marketing and branding package, a photo shoot with Monique Bernic, Morgan Media will design a cover and full book wrap, Ambient Design are providing a Swag Pack and Fabulosity Reads are giving away a book tour on social media.
  • Exclusive one day workshop with Janet Wallace, CEO of Social Deviants and founder of the UtopYA Conference in Nashville

More information can be found on:


Twitter: @CarlyleL and @SAIRbookFest


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Moets-en-moenies van e-boeke en selfpublikasie bespreek by Woordfees 2014

Tydens vanjaar se US Woordfees het Madri Victor, Suzette Kotze-Myburgh en Nèlleke de Jager – al drie rolspelers in die uitgewersbedryf – in die kykNET Erfurthuis bymekaargekom om te gesels oor die vraag, “E-boeke en selfpublikasie: Kuns of kulkuns?”. Die gesprek het gefokus op die diverse aspekte van e-boeke, die onsekere wêreld van selfpublikasie en die moets-en-moenies van albei benaderings tot die uitgee van boeke.

Helené Prinsloo van Books LIVE het regstreeks vanaf die geleentheid met #Woordfees2014 getwiet en al die twiets op Storify versamel:

Nuwe stories 2


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Writing Khabzela: Liz McGregor’s Journey Into Digital Publishing

KhabzelaJournalist and author Liz McGregor relates her e-publishing journey, in which she took a leap of faith and put Khabzela: The Life and Times of a South African, her biography of the DJ who contracted HIV and died at the height of his popularity in 2004, onto

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Writing Khabzela

By Liz McGregor

I have just despatched a book into cyberspace, courtesy of, and it’s a wonderful feeling. Khabzela. I actually wrote it seven years ago, soon after returning to South Africa after several years in London, working on The Guardian’s comment and analysis pages. I had watched with some frustration the way South Africa was portrayed: Aids was now the prism through which it was viewed. The government had just won the case against the pharmaceutical companies, forcing them to allow generic anti-retroviral drugs and thus make it affordable to treat the hundreds of thousands of South Africans infected with the HI virus. Now the blame shifted to the president, Aids dissident, Thabo Mbeki. Perceptions of South Africa were reduced to villain vs victim: uncaring, remote Big Man president as the only obstacle to life-saving medication for his hapless, helpless people.

When I got back to South Africa in 2003, I found of course, that it was a noisy, fractious democracy but the silence on the subject of HIV/Aids was deafening. This couldn’t surely be pinned on one man.

Then Khabzela, the hottest DJ on the hottest youth radio station in South Africa, Yfm, came out on air with his positive HIV diagnosis. I interviewed him but he was already suffering from dementia and he died a few months later, having refused to take ARV medication. Mbeki’s confusing messages about the cause of Aids might have contributed to this refusal but certainly didn’t explain it.

For the next year, aided by a writing fellowship at the edgy, innovative Wits research institute, WISER, I explored his life in an attempt to understand why. I interviewed his family, his childhood friends, his girlfriends, his colleagues at Yfm and in the taxi industry, his sangoma and the dodgy white miracle peddlers he turned to in his increasing desperation. Finally, I sat down with the piles of transcripts of numerous interviews. How to write it? Khabzela and I were both South Africans but apartheid’s rigid racial divide meant we could have grown up in two different countries. I now had control of how to frame his story. How not to emulate the same pigeon-holing I had been so critical of in London? Unless I went about this with maximum self-awareness, I too was going to shape the story to fit my own preconceptions. And no matter how empathetic I was, I could not claim to be familiar with the intimate agonies and yearnings of a black man who had grown up under apartheid.

I decided I could not use the traditional biographical tool of omniscient narrator. I made myself a peripheral character in the book, trying to be upfront about where I was coming from. For the rest, I used as far as possible verbatim quotes from my interviewees so that they got to tell their stories in their own words. I was simply the conduit, channelling it all together into a coherent narrative. I remember falling into quite an intense depression in the months I was writing Khabzela. Analysing it afterwards, it was clear why. The interviews had been done while Khabzela was dying and shortly after his death. Virtually everyone I spoke to was still in the throes of shock and grief – and fear. If it happened to Khabzela, it could happen to them too. These were the voices that were swilling around in my head in those long, lonely months of writing.

Khabzela died in 2004. This book was first published the following year, in 2005.

It became a best-seller in South Africa’s undemanding terms: selling nearly 5,000 copies. The author gets 10% of the proceeds, going up to 12% for the second print run. In the seven years since its publication, I have made enough to pay the bills for almost two full months.

But, as with the research and writing of the book, it has taken me to interesting places. Zackie Achmat got me to address activists at the then ground-breaking Treatment Action Campaign. And later to sit on a panel at an Aids conference he chaired, consisting of celebrities’ experience of Aids. I sat next to John Smit, then Springbok captain, who was remarkably articulate on the subject. In the cavernous waiting room of the HIV/Aids unit at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, I stood on a plastic chair and, aided by a translator, related Khabzela as cautionary tale to the captive patients: this is what will happen to you if you don’t take your medication.

I was whisked off to a castle on a lake in Salzburg to pontificate on biography-as-mirror-of-society in the illustrious society of Claire Tomalin and Vikram Seth. And now Khabzela is taking me on yet another journey.

Publishing has been revolutionised since I first handed over my manuscript in 2005. Then the author was reduced to bystander as the publisher, with exclusive licence over one’s work, took control of print runs, distribution, pricing and marketing. I have a different publisher now but I think that, generally, the relationship between publisher and author has shifted with the coming of the digital age to become more of a partnership.

My latest royalty statement showed ever dwindling sales. I knew Khabzela was being prescribed at US universities but to get the physical copy there is expensive: the cost of posting a single book to London, for example, is R165. Digital publishing transforms all that. It also offers the prospect of once again having control of the manuscript I had sweated and wept over. I dug out the contract I had signed in 2005 and sent it to Kundayi Masanzu, the copyright guru at ANFASA, the non-fiction writers’ association. He confirmed I had not ceded rights to the electronic version of Khabzela and gave me sound, practical advice on how to go about establishing this fact with the publisher. That took several weeks. In the meantime, I began re-editing and updating the original manuscript. I found it reassuring to re-read it in the light of the current crisis in the mining industry. Only a few years ago, we were also in crisis: then hundreds of thousands of people were dying of Aids with no hope of affordable treatment. Now South Africa is the poster boy of the international Aids community, with the biggest HIV/Aids programme in the world, largely funded by the government. I thought: this crisis too shall pass.

Amazon is remarkably user-friendly. I downloaded their idiot’s guide to converting a Word document to an e-book and managed to get pretty far before deciding I needed professional help. After hitting several brick walls – every publisher in South Africa seems to be in the process of converting their backlists into e-books and anyone with the necessary skills is kept very busy – I found Masha du Toit in Cape Town. She completed the conversion swiftly and effectively. My friend, Dirk Hartford, the founding CEO of Yfm and the man who spotted and cultivated Khabzela, sent me some of his old pictures of him and I chose a particularly evocative one, cropped it on my Mac and Masha turned it into a digital cover. Loading the book into the Kindle shop is fairly simple: you are given a few choices. On pricing, for example. If you opt to price it at anything over $9.99, you can only opt for a 35-65% royalty split with Amazon. They get the 65%. Price it under 9.99 and you get 70%, although 30% then gets lopped off in tax for sales in the US. I chose an arbitrary middle ground: $5.99. Who knows if it will find any takers at all? But, it’s a good feeling, being in control. And launching Khabzela off on another life, out there in the ether.

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Books LIVE Exclusive: The Espresso Book Machine Arrives in South Africa (Plus: Video)

John van Heeswijk and his Espresso Book Machine

“Are you here to see the machine?” the guard at the entrance to the University of Johannesburg‘s main library asked me, after I approached with an uncertain look. I was. He let me in and pointed to the library’s copier room.

Inside was John van Heeswijk and the machine in question, whose fame had spread, since its arrival a week previous – well, as far as the turnstiles, at least: a gleaming, transparent, brand-new Espresso Book Machine, the creation of US print-on-demand startup On Demand Books, one of only eighty or so such machines in the world.

The Espresso Book Machine does what its name implies: it receives the raw material of a book – a content file, in this case – and presses out a high-quality, printed, glued and cut edition, complete with a full-colour cover, in about the time it takes to serve up a double Americano with wings. When the finished product drops into the delivery chute, one half expects a puff of steam to accompany it. Van Heeswijk is South Africa’s first book barista.

John van Heeswijk and his Espresso Book Machine

UJ students came and went as I surveyed the EBM, a near-mythical avatar of publishing’s brave new era. They hardly paid it notice, being more concerned with the copiers that were churning out reproductions of the library’s holdings, one prescribed chapter at a time. (“The copy room is the busiest place on any African campus,” a friend in educational publishing once told me ruefully.)

The Espresso Book Machine is manufactured in Missouri, USA. Van Heeswijk brought his over at his and his partner’s own expense. All told, between the manufacturing, shipping and setup, it cost them about a million rand. The name of their company is Self-publish Press: that they’re banking on there being at least R1 million worth of experimentation, short-run boutique printing and yes, vanity, in the local self-publishing market is self-evident.

I had come to see some action and van Heeswijk duly obliged. Here is South Africa’s first and only EBM printing a copy of Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future, the memoirs of the octogenarian former publishing executive who co-founded On Demand Books in 2004, Jason Epstein:

YouTube Preview Image

Five minutes after van Heeswijk clicked “go” on his command screen, the book arrived, sleek and smooth and faintly warm to the touch. The quality of printing was superb: there was but a negligible difference between the EBM edition and a standard “B format” paperback. It was truly something to hold, and behold.

Espresso Book Machine: The Innards

While the guts of the EBM – the whirring machinery behind the glass – comprise a bespoke, proprietary, fantastical invention, its peripherals are more familiar: an Apple Mini handles the computing and interface; an Espon prints the colour covers; and a standard Xerox copy machine feeds the paper for the pages. Xerox has been contracted to service the EBM worldwide – and the machine contains firmware that can be fixed, upgraded and reconfigured remotely from the US.

Somewhat surprisingly, van Heeswijk’s EBM isn’t Africa’s first: there are two others, both hosted at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt (which is rather fitting: it’s “the world’s original library,” van Heeswijk pointed out).

As for the content? There’s plenty on offer. The Espresso Book Machine has built-in access to four content libraries: Espressnet, the EBM’s self-publishing book repository, through which “you can make your titles available for sale worldwide”; the Google Books public domain catalogue (which is, frankly, a nightmare to navigate – why o why does Google Books exist?); Lightning Source, a very large ebook catalogue managed by Ingram, but with robust territorial restrictions in place, making much of the offering unavailable in SA; and the Open Content Alliance, which has over 1.5 million free ebooks for you to peruse.

If you need a book fast that you can’t get locally, write to van Heeswijk to see if his EBM can oblige.

Espresso Book Machine: Open Top

It’s not long-tail demand that’s going to drive van Heeswijk’s business, however. His target market is local writers, academics, NGOs and businesses, and their collective on-the-spot demand for professionally-printed books, manuals, manuscripts, theses, research, annual general reports and the like. The estimated per-unit cost to van Heeswijk’s customers is R99 for a 200-page book, making small-batch self-publishing viable (the EBM removes overhead costs from the equation; self-publishers don’t sit with any stock) and providing a quick, high-quality all-purpose communications solution for SMMEs.

Espresso Book Machine Sizes

The EBM would also seem useful for local publishers wanting to make their fiction and narrative non-fiction backlists available without the expense of a new print run. All van Heeswijk needs is a PDF or ePub version of the text and a high-quality image file for the front cover. The files are loaded locally and a few minutes later the books are being pressed.

Only black-and-white printing is possible at this stage, but the EBM has several paper options, is configurable for a number of sizes (including those shown above), and can produce books between 20 and 800 pages in length.

There’s no espresso bar to go with van Heeswijk’s Espresso Book Machine yet – but one can foresee that the day is not far off when a book and a latte to go, go together!

To arrange a viewing of the Espresso Book Machine at the University of Johannesburg contact John van Heeswijk.

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Link Love: Black Letter Media Launches Online Bookstore

Black Letter Media has just launched an online book store, focusing on books and eBooks by small publishers and self-published authors. The BLM Store ( aims to provide a platform for new voices, enabling them to reach more readers – a worthy cause indeed:

From the press release:

Black Letter Media is excited to announce the launch of the online bookstore (The BLM Store) selling books, eBooks produced by independent publishers and self-published authors. The BLM Store went live on the 31st of May 2012. The BLM Store will sell poetry, fiction, non-fiction in print and eBook formats and deliver to customers worldwide.

Due to the rise in digital publishing technologies and writers taking the publishing reigns into their own hands, Black Letter Media realised that more people are getting comfortable with shopping online and reading books on their computers and various e-reader devices.

The BLM Store is about discovering literary gems and putting them in the hands of the avid reader who’s looking for new literature. “Readers are craving for new voices,” says Duduzile
Mabaso, founder and CEO of Black Letter Media. “But those voices don’t always get the chance to enter the mainstream and reach these readers.”

The BLM Store is the short bridge between small publishers and self-published authors and their readers. “We believe in the DO IT generation,” Mabaso continues. “This store is a platform for that kind of writer, publisher and reader.”


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Amanda Hocking: Bidding War Over Young Adult Paranormal-writing, Self-publishing “Kindle Millionaire”

Amanda Hocking

We have previously reported on the success of Amanda Hocking, the self-publishing author who has drawn a large following with her young adult paranormal book series. Now, Hocking has signed a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press, part of the publishing house Macmillan. Several major publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins dropped out of the bidding when the price rose beyond $2 million:

The next time someone mentions “the young adult paranormal genre” … try not to look so stupid. News that 26-year-old Minnesotan Amanda Hocking, aka the “Kindle millionaire,” has signed a seven-figure, four-book deal with St. Martins Press got around very fast. On the New York Times blog Media Decoder, Julie Bosman writes: “A heated auction for the rights to publish her books began early last week, and several major publishers, including Random House, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, dropped out as the price climbed into the seven figures.

Here’s a video interview with Hocking in which she talks about already earning about a million dollars from her Kindle royalties:

YouTube Preview Image

Photo courtesy SaffinaDesforges

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Commonwealth Writers Prize: Spotlight on Uzoma Uponi

uzoma uponi

ColourblindMeet Uzoma Uponi, a busy mother of four from Nigeria who lives in Calgary, Canada. A two-week break in 2008 allowed her to indulge in one of her favourite activities, writing, which culminated in the Christian-lit novel Colourblind, which she self-published three months later.

Taken completely by surprise, Uponi found herself on this year’s Commonwealth Writers Prize shortlist. She didn’t win, but she did score a feature in her local paper:

Uzoma Uponi had it all carefully planned.

The Calgary-based, Nigerian-born writer was going to adhere to a long-term, and unusually practical, schedule when it came to her writing career. When inspiration would strike, she would jot down the random idea, short-story outline or whatever else might be percolating in her imagination. She would study books she loved – sometimes chapter by chapter – to try to determine why they worked.

But Uponi would then file this preparatory work away for a later date.

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Photo courtesy CalgaryHerald

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Link Love: TC Southwell is an SA Digital Self-Publishing Fiend!

TC Southwell

Demon LordThe Queen's BladeSlave EmpireTC Southwall is set to become the South African “Amanda Hocking” of digital self-publishing. Having grown up in the Seychelles, Southwall settled in South Africa after the death of her father. An IT professional, she’s taken to the world of digital self-publishing with fervour, publishing over 25 fantasy and sci-fi novels in two months, as well as five screenplays.

Her stories “combine fantasy and adventure with romance” and the sheer amount of her publications is testament to the fact that, “For this author, writing is as easy as reading”.

Southwell’s books are available from her homepage, where you can enter into the her world of fantasy by reading one of her e-books for free. Her is an excerpt from her First Book in the Cyber Chronicles, Queen of Arlin:

Heavy, indigo velvet curtains covered the windows and kept the wood-panelled bedchamber gloomy, adding to the sense of doom. Smoking braziers burnt incense, thickening the air with cloying scent. Bottles, vials and pots cluttered the bedside table, testament to the doctors’ futile ministrations.

King Alrade’s swift illness had taken all by surprise, wasting the flesh from his powerful frame at an alarming speed and robbing him of his strength. The King’s eyes wandered over his long-time friend’s face, seeking an answer in his elderly features but finding none. Despair flared in his eyes.

“What can I do about it now, Pervor? All that I can, I have done. Did you meet the wizard?”

The gaunt, balding advisor nodded. “He agreed to help. He told me that he would send a tool, some sort of magical device, and it will appear in our dungeons when it is ready. Do you truly trust this man, Sire? You leave the fate of your kingdom and your daughter in his hands.”

King Alrade sighed and settled deeper into the soft cushions of his deathbed. “What choice do I have, my friend? The gods have decided to take me from this mortal plane, and none can gainsay them. Certainly not that brood of incompetents that lurk in the shadows. I only wish I could stay to see it through. Tassin does not deserve this burden on her reign, she is too young.” Anger brought blood to stain the old King’s cheeks for a moment before it drained away again. His wheezing broke the hush.

“Tassin is strong,” Pervor soothed. “She comes from a long line of warrior kings and queens. She will win.”

The King shook his head, closing his eyes as a stab of pain coursed through him. “She is frailer than you think. Her mother was as fragile as a flower, and as easily crushed. Why do you think she died birthing Tassin, who was such a small baby? Tassin tries to be a warrior princess, but she is too small, like her mother, her blows too puny. Mandon, bless him, makes her feel good when she does her sword training, but he tells me that she can hardly cleave a butterfly in half.”

Pervor pursed pale lips and regarded the dying King. “But she has your blood in her too, My King. She will be strong when she has to.”

“She will try. I pray that she does not kill herself in the process. Pervor, swear to me.”

The aged advisor fell to one knee. “Anything, Sire, just name it.”

“Protect her, and if you cannot, since you are old, find a mighty warrior who will. One who will stand beside her and kill her enemies when she cannot. She will have troubles aplenty, and not merely the monsters from the Death Zone that ravage our land. The kings will fight for her hand, and none are truly good. Find someone. Be he mage or warrior, prince or miracle worker. She will need him. Swear this to me.”

Pervor bowed his head. “I swear, My King, upon my life and the lives of my children, to do my utmost.”

“Tell her of the weapon as soon as she is Queen. Help her to use it, and defeat the Death Zone. I leave her in your care.”

Pervor nodded, frowning as the King’s breath rattled ominously, and one of the healers who hovered nearby stepped closer to bend over him.

“Send for the Princess,” the doctor said.

The advisor retreated into the shadows as a manservant ran out. Pervor gazed at the King who lay shrunken and pale on the huge bed, the doctors gathered around him like vultures about a corpse.

Book details

  • The Queen’s Blade by TC Southwell
    Book homepage
    EAN: 2940011160141
  • Slave Empire: Prophecy by TC Southwell
    Book homepage
    EAN: 2940011153259

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A Guide to’s Marketplace, a New Tool For Authors, Book Sellers, And Bargain Hunters

A special report for BOOK SA by Mandy J Watson.

Kalahari Marketplace

Earlier this year launched a new service called Marketplace, which allows anyone to set up a virtual store and sell products using the infrastructure. The project was in a testing phase for quite a while, although anyone could sign up to try it out during that time, and now it has officially been launched, along with some new features that were based on user feedback.

Here’s how to get started with Marketplace, as well as some detailed notes to help authors, book sellers, and shoppers get the most from the service. With the festive season upon us, there’s no better time than now to jump in!

Setting Up An Account And Getting Started
The set-up process is very quick and easy. If you already have a shopper’s account with you just need to visit the Marketplace page and activate your Marketplace functionality by signing up with a few extra details. If you don’t have an account, or if you want to have a separate one for your Marketplace activities, you need to visit the link above and register a new account.

When you sign up you will have to enter your name; address; a contact number; ID, passport, or company-registration number; and bank-account details, as well as certain details about your business if you’re signing up for a business, rather than personal account. When you add your address details note that the suburb will be listed on your public Marketplace seller’s profile page so that potential buyers know where you come from. (If you’re just curious to try out the system for a few months you can activate your account as a personal account and then convert it to a business account later, keeping your feedback and ratings intact.)’s systems will then verify your bank-account details, which may take a few days. You will be charged R5, which is similar to the bidorbuy or PayPal registration/validation fee that you are charged for those services. Once your account has been verified any items that you have set up in the meantime will be publicly listed. This also tells potential customers that you have been verified by

Adding Products And Finalising Listings
Once you have completed the sign-up process you will be able to add your items to the catalogue immediately although, as mentioned, they won’t be visible to shoppers until you are verified. At the moment only certain product categories are accepted – books, DVDs/Blu-Ray Discs/videos, CDs, games, consumer electronics, and photographic equipment. This process is also very simple – there’s a form in which you add pertinent details, such as the product’s ISBN, bar code, or SKU, as well as any other descriptive information, and then the system will search’s catalogue to see if the item is in the database (whether or not has product to sell). If it is, you need to fill in some more information describing the product, such as whether it’s new or second hand and what condition it’s in (the more detail the better, of course). Finally, you add your selling price and then you can upload this listing to the system, which may take a few days to reflect publicly, at which point it becomes an “active” product.

Upload options

If your product is not in the catalogue or you don’t have an ISBN or bar code for the item, you can submit a description of it, plus a photo, to for verifying. This is done manually so it takes a few days for a human to approve the product.

Once you’ve upload a product you have to choose a delivery method. The default is the Post Office, at a minimum of R30 (for the first kilogramme, plus R3.80 per additional kilogramme), but you can also choose the courier option, at a minimum of R81 (for the first 500g, R96.89 for one kilogramme and R100.55 for two kilogrammes) if you wish to go to the extra effort. The buyer pays the shipping fee so you need to keep that in mind when you are setting your sale price in order to keep it competitive. At the moment you can only ship locally but Liz Hillock,’s head of marketing, says that the ability to sell overseas is likely to be introduced in the coming months as they “enhance the seller platform”.

A listing in the catalogue

A listing in the catalogue

Selling A Product And Reputation
When a person buys your product he will immediately be charged and the money will be held by You will be emailed a notification, and you will have to log in and go to the “parcel order/confirmation” link and print out a delivery note. Then you’ll need to go to the Post Office with your product, which you have packaged securely (with the delivery note) for shipping. At the Post Office, ship the product and get a tracking number and estimated delivery date. Once back home, log in to your account and enter this information, which will then send to the buyer.

After 14 days will pay you the purchase price, minus a 4% (plus VAT) transaction fee. The buyer’s acceptance of the parcel at the Post Office, which requires a signature and an ID number, is your proof that it has been delivered.

Each seller has a public profile page that buyers can visit to learn more about you, see what products you’re selling, and what your “reputation” is. Buyers can leave comments related to their shopping experience with you and give you a rating. A four or five is a positive rating, a three is a neutral rating, and two and one are negative ratings. These ratings are aggregated over time so that new customers can see if you’re any good, and if you’ve been improving over time. If someone posts a negative comment you have an option to post a public reply and if the complaint is genuine there are systems in place to help you to manage conflict, which may require you to issue a refund, for example. (You can also respond to positive feedback if you would like to.)

A seller's profile page, showing reputation and comments

Who Should Use It

  • If your book’s gone out of print and you have the space to rescue the last few boxes from pulping hell, consider doing so, and selling the copies directly via a Marketplace store. You can promote it via your web site and social-networking accounts, especially when you publish your next novel and there’s renewed interest in your previous work.
  • Self-publishers now have a new, professional sales channel with which to market and sell their books as potential customers, who may hesitate to send money with no guarantee of receiving goods, will be familiar with, and will trust, the system, especially knowing that buyer protection is in place. Additionally, if you’ve published a book without an ISBN or bar code (though getting an ISBN is still recommended) you will now have an way to sell it in a professional manner rather than only in person at book fairs and similar events.
  • Most recently, authors now have a way to distribute self-pubished e-books, as those can also be listed in Marketplace.

Book Sellers And Shoppers:
The team has been monitoring sales in the Marketplace and some interesting statistics and trends have emerged. Although there are more music and DVD listings of second-hand goods when it comes to actual sales, not only do books have the lead but they sell at better prices. The key to being successful, of course, is knowing what sells well.

According to Liz Hillock, “There is a huge demand for new and used textbooks, anything from Ganong’s Review Of Medical Physiology to General Principles Of Commercial Law. Bestsellers like Shantaram and Eclipse are also popular, but there is a healthy mix of titles in both English and Afrikaans.” Textbooks are incredibly expensive so the demand is so great for second-hand textbooks and the sales have been so successful that will be running a textbook campaign after the holidays to target students who have old ones to sell and need to buy new ones for their next set of courses.

Cook books are another hot area, with a huge market for second-hand books, as aspiring chefs who have worked their way through their collections are always on the lookout for new recipes and new ideas.

A number of the smaller, traditional “bricks and mortar” retailers have tried their hands at selling via the Marketplace and there have already been some success stories. As Liz Hillock says, “We already have over 4000 sellers listing over 600,000 items, including small brick and mortar book stores who are now trading on and selling both their new and used books online, for the first time. It’s a compelling sales channel because our sellers don’t need to have an existing online presence, they can simply download our Bulk Loader spreadsheet and upload thousands of books directly to SA’s largest online retail store. Plus, in a bold commercial move Top Music, a CD, DVD, and games store, has closed its bricks and mortar door after 15 years of trading, only to reopen the shop on! According to owner Leon Harmse, business is booming. ‘Running a store online has unbelievable benefits. You have no idea what it has done to our little business. We are now a 24-hour online store which no longer subscribes to operating hours, customers can shop whenever they want, and more importantly, they can buy my products from anywhere. I now wake up in the morning and find that sales were concluded throughout the night. I should have done this a long time ago,’ he says.”

Finally, with the recent addition of the new infrastructure that allows you to list something even though there’s no ISBN and it’s not in the existing catalogue, dealers in antiquities and rare books are finding they have access to a whole new market online and some have been very successful in using the platform.

Start Selling!
I have personally tested the platform by setting up a profile and uploading a product, although I haven’t sold anything yet, and can confirm how easy it is to get going. If you have any books that you think deserve a home, set up your account right away to catch the festive-season gift hunters and new-year bargain shoppers!

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