Self-publishing is the opportunity
Everyone has a book in them, or so they say. So why not write and publish it?
This post gives a bit of background as to where I started and a few things I have learnt along the way, to help inspire anyone who has that book in them.
Initially it was just an idea, and then it became a hobby, which has turned into my driving passion, and hopefully career. Eager to get a story down on paper, and out of my head, I began the process of writing my first novel. Along the way I sought out the sage advice of greats such as Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing’, and various other guides, as well as writing-related podcasts which offer insight into the greater universe of writing and inspiration to keep going. Miraculously, after a year, my first draft was complete.
This is where you clap, right? Wrong. This is just the start in terms of the process to writing and publishing your own book. It’s all good and well to have made the effort to write the book, but if you want to make something of it, there is much to consider. From getting a professional editor, to a designer and layout artist, as well as the process of taking a document and converting it to an e-book. Publishing on Kindle is also like learning a new language and then once your book is online, the non-author work of marketing and sales really kicks in.
Wouldn’t it be easier to be traditionally published? Yes, for the author in terms of their time and effort on sales and marketing, but not from a financial standpoint. Traditionally published authors of fiction sell approximately 1000-2000 books within South Africa. Once everyone has taken their cut, there isn’t much left for the author. The reason for low purchase numbers could be that new books are quite pricey at over R250/book in the large book stores, and so we tend to not buy new and rather opt to share or use the books from the Library; one book passes to many hands. The other reason so few new books are purchased could be the lack of easy access to large swanky bookstores for the majority of South Africans. Of course book purchase numbers are low if you consider these two factors, and I am sure there are many other factors that come into this problem, but these two make me think there must be a better way.
If we consider that 60% of South African’s use smartphones, wouldn’t it make sense for them to rather opt for the Kindle app, which is free. There is a wide range of books for free on the Kindle app, or for 99US cents. Access to credit cards has also increased in South Africa and so buying electronic books on Amazon Kindle is doable. This means that purchasing free or inexpensive literature on your mobilecould be more attainable for a greater majority of South Africans.
South African authors would be foolish not to consider making the leap to self-publishing in order to access many more local readers, access the global market and to be able to earn much more in terms of revenue too (books priced on Kindle under $9.99 earn 70% of royalties). The tricky part is the marketing. As a marketing and communication consultant, I have found that researching, implementing, reworking, reimplementing and refining my strategies as I work to find my readers, and then ask them to buy my book, is extremely time consuming. That said, it’s not impossible. Everything in this industry can be learnt via online courses, listening to podcasts or watching YouTube videos. The global independent author movement is enormous, and as South Africans we should be a part of this, as authors and readers. There is a definite business opportunity to produce and sell great South African stories, we just need to work on creating the content and messaging to ensure these stories get to the people who are looking for them.
The business of writing, and publishing is a fantastic entrepreneurial opportunity for South Africans wishing to create fictional and non-fictional work, especially in the changing digital landscape. As authors we have the opportunity to create books that can be accessed by more people, and as entrepreneurs we can control and direct our own business too.
South Africans don’t even have to wait for the stories. There are already many great South African authors available on Kindle. Look out for the women authors doing it for themselves, such as Joanne Macgregor, Sarah Key, and Fiona Snyckers, to name a few. By following them on social media, supporting their work (by buying their books) and sharing what we like on social media, we can look forward to growing a successful and independent generation of authors in South Africa.