When it comes to the publishing industry, South Africa is at least 50 years behind everywhere else!
First of all, it’s nigh on impossible to get a foot in the door at a so-called ‘traditional publisher’ in South Africa – I know, I’ve been trying for almost 30 years!
My books are available internationally via distribution channels such as Amazon, Nook, Barnes & Nobel, iTunes, Lybrary, Lulu, Kobo – and even a few I don’t even know about – and yes, even in South Africa, you can find and order them online – but you still can’t walk into a CNA or an Exclusive Books to flip through the pages of a copy on a shelf.
Magazines and newspapers that do book reviews expect an author to send them a paperback copy of each book they review – to keep! This can work out quite expensive, if you consider the Rand-USD exchange rate these days! Otherwise, don’t expect them to read and review an ebook copy – even sent to them for free – oh no!
I have 12 titles in fiction, and 1 in non-fiction already published, with more on the way – but that’s okay, South African publishers – keep on ooh-ing and ah-ing about some kid you signed up who allegedly wrote their first novel at the age of 14 – after you had to have it practically ghost-rewritten to make it publishable! Where have you been all this time while I’ve been writing good, solid fiction?
It is almost the end of 2016, and South Africa still has no room for indie authors. Sure, there are indie authors in SA, but they all end up like me – publishing overseas, either in the USA or the UK, via resources like Lulu and Amazon’s Create Space – or they throw their hands in the air, bury their broken dreams – and quit, exasperated!
I am still struggling to actually get any royalties paid to me from book sales into the country – a process made even more difficult by our kleptocratic guv-uh-ment who have made earning any foreign currency just short of illegal, let alone nigh on impossible! Some foreign publishers pay via paper check, while others deposit funds into a PayPal account – and in South Africa (thanks largely to our criminal society) banks no longer accept paper checks, or expect a detailed explanation from the drafter to say where the money came from and what the recipient did to receive it – before physically (I shit you not!) sending the check back to the USA via post for verification at the bank of origin!
As for PayPal, the only bank in South Africa allowed by guv-uh-ment to deal with them, is FNB… have you ever tried to get information out of anyone at an FNB branch? Half the people I’ve spoken to there don’t even know what PayPal is, and the other half put you on a phone to some faceless operator at their call center – who invariably drops the call after you’ve been holding for half an hour – and the default setting appears to be ‘go look on our website‘ – which doesn’t say much about it at all! The most reliable info I’ve had from other people who experienced the same problem is, while you can connect your South African bank card to PayPal for payments, you can’t link PayPal to your card to draw money out of it – except maybe through FNB, but ‘that doesn’t really work’. In short, when I get quarterly royalty payments in my PayPal account I should just spend it on crap I don’t really need and have to pay import duties on IF it arrives – instead of augmenting my income, or replacing it. Which begs the question, why am I doing this again?
To make things worse, recently, a law was passed by South Africa’s increasingly greedy guv-uh-ment, preventing artists, creators and authors – such as myself – from bequeathing rights to any works to my beneficiaries after death – these rights apparently fall to the State, meaning that any income from sales of South African art or books etc earned after the death of the creator, are supposed to go to the State! Well, they can forget about that! I’d sooner leave instructions to the effect that after my death, all my works be taken out of print and deleted, than leave any future income to that bunch of greedy, lazy, self-entitled assclowns!
But I digress – back to the issue of publishing, and how far behind South Africa is – to give you an idea, Lulu has been operating since 2002 – and similar publishing enterprises have since opened in various other countries. Meanwhile, in 2016, while mainstream international sales engines like Amazon could be seen as ‘flying through space at warp speed‘, South African writers are effectively shackled to a clunking, rattling steam engine still struggling to plod out of the station – while maintaining a selfish choke-hold on the industry!
These days the big publishing houses – Penguin, Random House etc – all have secondary ‘vanity-press’ publisher ‘imprints’, where they will gladly take you on, edit your manuscript, design your cover and print 50 copies of your book – and then nail you anything between ten and a hundred grand for it! Believe me, I’ve had dealings with plenty of that sort over the years. Whatever happened to REAL ‘traditional’ publishers that would take you on, publish your books on their own merits, and actually pay YOU for it? They don’t seem to exist anymore!
The only difference between these expensive vanity presses and a ‘publish on demand’ service like Lulu, is that you can publish through Lulu for FREE!
Some people tend to look down on authors who have gone the indie route – because they don’t have some brand name attached to their book – but that literally, is the only visible difference these days. Perhaps that is why there is so much unadulterated garbage being pumped out by big publishers – and not enough quality material. Quality reading matter should not depend on how much money the author has in their pockets!
Even when you do get published overseas, either with a ‘traditional’ publisher (as I did for a time) or an indie press – where you practically have to do everything yourself anyway, then South African book sellers don’t want to touch your books because you didn’t care to register your (valid) ISBN numbers through them – and PAY them silly sums of money to do it for you – meaning that unless a book shop is willing to order your books off Amazon (unlikely due to the horrendous exchange rate and devalued South African ‘Ront’) the chances you will see your books on a shelf in CNA or Exclusive Books is, for all intents and purposes, somewhere between nil and fuckall!
Even when I was with a so-called ‘traditional’ publisher, which was based in the USA, they weren’t in the least bit interested in ‘registering’ with ‘mickey mouse’ South African book sellers – after all, they’d already registered my titles on Amazon and Barnes & Nobel – what more should I want?
To further stack the odds against fair market practice, South African internet sales companies (there really are *so many* of those) appear to have some kind of aversion to dealing with business enquiries from authors themselves, especially independent authors, wrt to listing their titles – even if they are already listed by bigger, better international foreign platforms, like Amazon.
To give you an example, I approached Takealot.com about listing my books, so that South Africans who use their site and services would find my books there – if for no other reason, it was a purely marketing-based query. Instead, I discovered exactly how biased the local industry is.
They claim – even taking a condescending tone – to have ‘arrangements with registered publishing companies’ to list their titles – but apparently don’t deal with actual mainstream international supply chains such as Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, iTunes, Kobo, Nook etc – which effectively cuts out chances of listing any works by indie authors across the board!
Kalahari.net used to – they at least listed two of my titles via Amazon – before Takealot took them over last year – and killed them.
I’m surprised the ‘South African publishing industry’ hasn’t tried to block imports and downloads of books from indie authors into the country – yet… but since they are still stoking that old steam engine, pretending they are on a par with the rest of the world, they will probably still give it a shot. As they say, the night is young.
No wonder so many South African writers just give up. But I won’t. I will never give up my writing and publishing independence again.