Sunday, December 6, 2009


By now I'm pretty sure of two things and wondering about a third.

1) The way I'm doing it is NOT getting results.
2) I need to read more and learn more and speak to more people and FIND OUT HOW IT WORKS!!!


3) I'm wondering if this whole blasted effort is jinxed? Here is why: Every single event I set up personally so far has belly-flopped. Booksigning at E-Books: 1 sale (to a friend). Launch: Library was closed. Booksigning at Scouts: First round: rained out. Second round: People not interested even though part of the proceeds was to go to Scouts. Sales Nil. Publicity near to nil. Klip Klap market: I'm wondering if the market itself isn't a loss. I'm wondering if anyone really sold anything there that day! But it was a set-up too, pushed into a corner - I guess that's just not the way to market a book! Kimiad market has vanished. Today's "promotional" event was none - it was a set-up by Iain, he never got it organized but got me under the impression that he had. It was really just a manipulative move to get me out of the four walls. Not appreciated! And of course no books were sold at Natalie... but on the up-side there, her sister Nandine is interested in agenting and has presented a few of them at Hazeldene (I think it was) market. We'll see how that went. I hope she sold some, that would be stunning.

I'm currently very discouraged. But I know, that's not the way to market a book. The media are. I only wish I could get an inside view in PTA news, Star and Beeld and all those other places. Sheesh. There are lots of readers out there - why should they buy American authors rather than me?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

with a sigh...

Discouraged. Had a booksigning at Ebooks, Lynnridge Mall on Saturday. It rained various mammals. People were on a mission. There were a LOT of other stalls. (Tupperware etc.) Hardly anyone came into the bookshop; we were just outside their doors and though some people looked, most just charged past as fast as they could. Sold one copy (to Magda - ay, what would I do without her!).

Klip Klap we sold nothing. The first booksigning at Scouts was a rainy deal, and though one whole person looked and asked, nobody bought. The AGM on Friday; I'm sharing the profit with the Scouts so there's something in it for them to announce me, and something in it for the parents to buy. Will that work? No cooking clue.

Eddington has been amazing. So sweet. He assures me that once the book is reviewed in the newspapers, sales will happen. He took more books on consignment to "bulk it up" for the Christmas sales, I hope people see it and want it. Come on, how many copies has "Twilight" sold in Pretoria? Give me a break - there is definitely a reader's market. Eddington also called the book "fantasy", which makes me wonder if it isn't perhaps. I always thought, futuristic, Earth-based, reality based, science link = Science Fiction? Maybe not, after all.

I'll try to arrange another signing for the morning of the 5th December. Maybe better luck.

Riana's artwork looks amazing. She floored me once again with her professional flair, and speed! She is brilliant.

Les and I are working on a sales situation.

And then there was faith.... which I'm sadly short on.... all those deities with their empty air promises, let's face it, so much magical thinking. Or maybe not. How should I know? Consult Federi on that, don't speak to me!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Publicity is free, someone said.

I called my oupa, opera star Dawie Couzyn, and found out from him how to approach this whole publicity business. Here is the advice he gave:

You find out who the editor of cultural events is at the main newspapers in each city. He named papers and editors here.

You call them. Not email; phone call. Why? Because it's interactive, because they can hear your voice, and so on. You tell them that you have (whatever it is, in our case) a new novel out, first of a series, first by a new South African author, and it's in print now!

You post them (snail mail or email) a press release. You write it. Stands to reason. I did write our own article for the Rekord, too, up to a point.

You mail the same article to all the major newspapers and any number of minor ones. They don't mind.

And then you employ a clipping service to keep an eye on whenever your name pops up in any of those newspapers.

So Iain found out the numbers of those (and MANY more) papers.

I need to start calling them tomorrow.

I also have to email Riana with the details of the poster we need for the 21st. Tonight.

I need to invite people to the book signing and the Gaiana Gypsy concert. Tonight.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Friday, Saturday, Sunday...

So here is the schedule:

-Today we were at "Klip Klap" Art Market, promoting. No sales. Not too many feet at that market.

- Next Friday, Signing at Scouts.

- Saturday, Signing at Ebooks Lynnridge Mall.

- Saturday afternoon concert at Nats, and books along, and signing. Still have to advertize this.

- Sunday: Probably Cullinan, otherwise Kimiad

- Friday after (27th Nov): Book signing at Scouts AGM.

-I'm booked up until end of Jan for Kimiad - options every Saturday, every Sunday. GOOD DEAL THAT!

Spoke to Dawie today about newspapers. He named all the major ones in the 5 towns. He said, all I have to do is call them each and speak to the editor of cultural events, and then write up a press release, and it's news - I don't pay for that.

Then also the Star and the Pta News have a book reviews section. I must mail them a copy of the Solar Wind for review and hope they print it.

I'll step on all that tomorrow morning (Monday).

Meantime I made 2 more contacts for authors. I've also started proofreading a friend's book - but as tired as I am, although it's a really stunning, funny story, it's slow going - managed the equivalent of 2 chapters last night (he doesn't chapterize although I do suggest he should - it gives the mind a break from laughing cramps).

I'm editing the Assassin, too. Chapter by tedious chapter. "Make it more gripping" was the demand, and boy oh boy!! that a task! There's just such a LOT of that book! It's about 3 books in one. A whole odyssey!

Anyway. Book 3 is shorter. Freedom Fighter. That's me, yeah.....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Exclusive Books

I've set my blog to private now, with only two readers having permission to read. I don't want bookshops to read something wrongly and take offence.

I had an interview with the manager of Exclusive Books Menlyn. (Werner.)

1) He complimented me on the layout and professionalism of the book. His exact words: "A good-looking publication."

2) He complimented me on the theme - "quite unique".

3) He mentioned it's all about the hype. He asked for my marketing plan, so I told him about posters, flyers, bookmarks, newspapers, reviews, and the plan to contact radio. He then suggested (like Karin suggested too) that Jenny Crws-Williams would be the one to contact, or her manager.

4) He said (tongue-in-cheek) that the way to reply to the supplier who told me to get back to her when I had 1000 copies in hand, was to ask her to order 1000 copies.

5) Book signings: He said that that would be Step 3 for him, not Step 1. He wants them to queue. Get publicity first.

6) Exclusive Books don't take books on consignment as a policy. He also mentioned it would be a good idea to "frustrate" bookshops by having people coming asking for the book.

So clearly the next step in the process is jenny Crwys-Williams.

Ebooks Lynnridge Mall has sold 1 copy so far. We have sold 40.

Lined up:

15 Nov: Klip Klap market, 8 am.
20 Nov: Book signing at Scouts
21 Nov: Book signing at Ebooks Lynnridge Mall
Also 21 November: Book signing at Natalie
27 Nov: Another signing Scouts AGM.

Markets: Klip Klap; Kimiad.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Unscrewed it? Let's glue it!

Ok, the moment of doubt has passed.

Items on the list can be divided in 3.

Already done; in progress; still has to happen. Let's call them 1, 2 , and 3.

List 1 : Done

  • The book is printed! I'm in possession of the second run. (Was a bit more expensive this time.)
  • My beautiful, creative sister designed the bookmarks for the launch.
  • She also designed the promotional bookmarks.
  • I finished the B&W poster - finally!
  • We've decided how to dress up the place.
  • We've decided the schedule
  • Facebook has been updated and so has the blog at Letterdash.
  • I've mailed an email invite to the Akela of the cubs

List 2: In progress
  • I'm putting together the music. There's a LOT
  • I'm working on my appearance (aaarrrghh! I hate these tropical - whatever.)
  • I'm selecting scenes to read; have to find 9, in case. My sister also helped me select the 3 she enjoyed most.

List 3: Still has to happen:
  • Full colour posters for the libraries. (Priority A)
  • B&W posters printed and pasted all over PTA. (Priority A)
  • Rekord needs to be called (TOP priority)
  • Bookmarks need to be printed
  • and distributed in bookshops and other book places
  • Don't forget second-hand bookshops! Book lovers love these!
  • decide what to wear
  • buy the decor
  • dress the launch bookmarks
  • Send a book to Fran for reviewing (this has nothing to do with the launch but is of equal importance)
  • Practice reading those scenes to my sis
  • Still have to INVITE everyone on my mailing list and everyone in my phone!!!!!
Schedule will remain unpublished for now. I'll report back on launch afterwards!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hot air or healthy buzz?

I'm amazed and thankful at how people are rallying around me to help with the launch and everything around it. It's absolutely wonderful.

There is of course the fear that I may let them down. I found someone who was prepared to proof-read my book and point out edges that needed a bit of polish - nothing major, thank goodness! He also assured me that it's a good read. This gives me hope. But when I hear myself voicing goals (1000 books by Christmas and so on) I get scared. Am I just a loudmouth?

I guess the moment of truth is marching closer. Am I capable of creating enough healthy buzz to launch this book properly? Even without having it available in bookshops but mail-order only? The bookshops must not worry, they'll get their share, once I've sold enough to generate a litho print run and the equivalent in marketing money. But is this another such statement? Will I get there? Will there be enough interest? I'll advertize of course, and advertize and advertize...

There are a number of people who believe in me and the quality of my writing. They are like a solid core around me. I'm stressing my head off.

Wish me and the Solar Wind luck pls.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

ha, ha, ha....

Nothing ever goes the way it's planned. This is called life; every sudden change is an opportunity.

The launch at the library has been moved to the 24th. The reason had nothing to do with me, or the library, but with the city council and their efficiency (or lack thereof) with licensing.

This means: 1) the printer has more of a gap to finish the run.
2) If I'd known it a day earlier I could have incorporated the polish edits by my editor, Les Noble. This way the edits have to wait for the next run.
3) The Rekord East is available again for an editorial. I hope. If they don't place it I can still advertise through them anyway.
4) It gives us a LOT more time for advertising.

5) It's now juxtaposed to the Studio Concert on the 23rd so we'll have to be really careful with the spending. Pity.

I'm breathing again. Who knows, hopefully all of Pretoria will be at the library that morning listening to my presentation.

Ha! Presentation. Right. This is what: A "reading" isn't enough. A presentation. Now my mind is running in the correct lines. It may not be genetics but it's just as exciting and newsworthy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rekord East

This is so exciting! I called the Rekord to ask whether I should place an ad announcing the book launch, in the small ads or the entertainment section, and how to go about it; and apart from that it's too late to advertize in next week's Rekord, they want to cover the story of the launch in an editorial! They want pictures and stories. WOW! I asked, what is the cost, so they said, no, this is free, it's news.

I am so thrilled!! (I'm as excited as a 12-year-old!)

Rekord is a free newspaper with distribution all over Pretoria, and Rekord East covers the whole eastern parts, which are the moneyed parts - the major part of the readers in Pretoria. How lucky can a gal get? That is the best exposure I could hope for!

The print run will also be ready on time, I'm just a bit sad that one of Les Noble's brilliant suggestions didn't make it "in" in time. It's great to have a fresh outlook on the whole story, even better when he sends me such ego boosts as "just wanted to dip in and got pulled in".

Les also offered to place a few (I mean, three at a time) copies for me in Durbs bookshops. I'd love that. I offered him in turn to market some of his. Author's co-op. I see it all as part of P'Kaboo. Sooner or later I'll be able to offer proper publishing / marketing deals to authors. It's a matter of time, and momentum.

After 18 copies the money for the print run was back in. (I gave away 7 gift copies.) This thing is looking good!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Second Run for it, and LAUNCH!!

It's a strange thing about this process. At times it feels as though everything's standing still, driving me nuts - and then suddenly the wheel lurches forward a whole stretch!

I'm into the second print run. Was naughty and overhauled the second storm. There wasn't anything wrong with it but now it's such a lot better! Riana the Sweetie fixed the book cover to make space for that ISBN bar code and Stephan from Business Print was still available at 5pm to receive the files. Author Leslie Noble (Tabika, Regina) is looking over the SW for errors in the English, it's the "fresh eyes" I so desperately needed... and he assures me that so far so good, he doesn't see a problem! I did exchange a whole lot of "all in all" and "to and fro" and "on the whole" and similar that the spellcheck points out as cliche's, with more acceptable wording. We don't have to be "momparras" about the language.

Whew! I hope Biz Print will be ready within 10 days? Tomorrow the signing of the proofs. After that hopefully, the second print will be available really soon? I mean, if I sit at Alkantrant Library at my own launch with 23 copies (that's all that's left of the first run), and they all get signed and sold - what next? Take down orders?

Ok with 73 copies the chance is less that I'll get stuck, but it's still not impossible that I sell out (I HOPE I will sell out!) I guess then orders it is.

Here's my new action list:

  • Book launch 10 October
  • book signings every 2 weeks
  • recruiting agents for commission for out-of-hand sales
  • advertizing (still have to advertize for the 10th!)
  • in: newspapers (start with record)
  • Mags
  • radio
  • posters
  • bookmarks
  • email campaign
  • Ron wassisname
  • blog
  • schools and libraries
  • 1000+ copies sold by Christmas!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

ni editor...

Both my author friends feel that getting an editor for the Solar Wind is probably not what I want - I'm looking at someone who can pick out the semantic and grammatical hitches with fresh eyes. One has had rather disappointing experiences with editors whereas the other is skeptical of them. I can only agree. I don't want to be corrected on the way the Tzigan abuses English, or Rhine Gold's deliberate Germanisms.

So the new improved plan is to find that person who is good with English, to smooth over the book in a technical way... NOT for R15 000!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The editor, the editor!

So my partner in P'Kaboo comes back to me about the editor - she feels that I'm crooking people by selling them a book that isn't professionally edited.

Does she get it - R15 000? I have to raise that money somehow before I can pay for it! That's exactly the deadlock a self-published author is in, without heaps of spending money!

There are other concerns I have about that editor. Sure, every book can do with a proof editor who makes sure there are no typos, who smooths out the grammar and punctuation where necessary, knows the grammar rules and can point out glaring logical inconsistencies. The best time to have a classic editor though is during writing - when you get seriously stuck as to what's wrong with this part - it just doesn't read well!. Gosh did I yearn for an editor in some of the chapters! What I had, was two critical lay editors - both avid readers of good books; both versed in English; one a writer herself and the other of Irish origin, with English as his mother tongue, a background in the navy, and a very sharp ear for logic. Between the two I felt I was fairly safe. I didn't go and publish First Draft either, for the love of revision!!

Of course every writer feels that their book is good enough not to need an editor (correction - this writer yearned for an editor! Where are they when you need them most??). But that statement alone tells me that I had better, and after all that guy is on the plan - but my partner feels I shouldn't be selling any copies at all without first having it edited! So how the heck am I supposed to raise those R15000? Which "other" way?

Without wanting to sound ultra, G-D cynical, it reminds me of that ex-colleague long ago who recommended when I was still struggling to get on my feet, paying my way in a lift club and paying down a study loan, that I "should really get" a car!

Better healthy and wealthy, right?

I don't feel that I'm crooking them if they read the story before it's been proofed. Point is, it's a jolly good story! Point is too that most of the grammar, punctuation and spelling is correct - and better than in a lot of novels today that have been proofed! It would take another writer, an editor or a compulsive nit-picker to find all those faults and let them bother them!

This is not a blog about writing techniques and styles, but about my self-published journey and all the potholes. But this attitude attack is part of the journey. Let me give you an example of a crit someone gave me (a fellow author for that matter). I used the term "passed-out parties" to describe some of the scenes in a certain place.

An oxymoron? Or creative use of language to describe effectively and from a fresh angle, people that were quite obviously on some sort of drug, or so full of alcohol they were stretched out on the ground? If language can't be used in new, innovative ways, who is ever going to break out of the old clichees?

Will the "mustard after the meal" professional editor make me change such fresh ways of describing something, into the old weather-beaten tracks everyone uses? Will that editor tell me I ought to rewrite the whole dang novel in present tense, or in first person, or both? (Both are "modern" writing schools - both having been around since the middle ages!) Will the editor try to change my style or my content? We're in South Africa. Will that editor be more at home in English than my English-raised husband, or will he steer me towards split infinitives and make me change the way my Tzigan speaks? I really only want someone to find the grammar and spelling errors, smooth the punctuation (where necessary) and point out logical discrepancies. The rest I'll do myself!

Which leads me in a circular line back to the starting point - how to get my hands on that money?

Maybe I should point out to people that this is the pre-proofed version. They won't buy then though, and I might as well pack it in.

Sheesh the last time I had an attitude fit like this was when that bookstore supplier told me to pack it in!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A stepwise plan (another one!)

I'm looking at that pile on my table and counting up, and 25 copies are gone, gone gone!!

That is amazing. But here are the milestones anyway:

Someone told me the difference between vanity publishing and self publishing is this: In vanity publishing the author pays up to see his name in print. In self-publishing the idea is to make money selling books.

Milestone 1: Already achieved!! - to make back the money of the print run from sales.
  • Selling off most of 25 copies has replenished the amount necessary for the next print run of 50. I could do it today; but for fixing up a few nit-picking errata, and the bar code being printed on the back cover pls.
Milestone 2: Selling more than 100.
  • This is an important one because this puts us into the top 3rd of books published in 2008 (technically the Solar Wind was published then, on Lulu and Bookhabit.)
Milestone 3: 300 copies
  • That would technically enable us to do a litho print run of a 1000 copies. The cost per copy comes down dramatically and there is enough material to offer the books to the book stores - but wait, I wouldn't do it quite yet.
Milestone 4: 400 copies
  • This enables us to do a litho print run as well as having the book edited professionally (by offering an editor a deal) and also some spending money for promotions (radio, newspapers, magazines). This is the point at which I'd do a litho print run, unless we can't find an editor, in which case I'd wait and sell
Milestone 5: 500 copies
  • definitely enough money to pay that editor. Also 500 copies are halfway to my original 1000 mark.
Milestone 6: 1000 copies
  • Someone quoted me this as the magic number needed to attract the interest of publishers. Who knows, but it's worth a shot, but in any case by that time the book will be generating some money.
Milestone 7: 3000 copies
  • A book is officially a bestseller in SA when it's sold 3000 copies. By then hopefully the international Big Boys will look up and take note. And possibly the local film companies too.

.....milestone of the future: 100 000 copies
  • That would officially make the Solar Wind an international bestseller. I'd have to sell internationally of course to get that right. Clearly there are some milestones missing between!

Where is that list of target marketing groups we wanted to target with presentations? Let's see, there are yachting and sailing clubs, outdoors clubs, pirate fan clubs, teen organizations...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

publicity and professionalism

I got a professional for the cover, and for the print and binding...
It makes sense to hire a professional for the marketing too??

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The 'orse's rear

...must get in gear!

This is enough self-pity for now, thank you. The 12th is moving closer.

  • I also think I should advertize the readings in the Record, but first set the dates with Alkantrant. The Record is a good idea - distribution across all of Pretoria East, and reasonable ad space for small ads (which people do compulsively read). It has to be well-designed.
  • Sharon will be in town for 1 week, I need to find out from her when her book club meets again so I can set up a book signing there.
  • I must ask Riana how much she'd charge for 1) bookmarks and 2) fridge magnet bizcards. (Why not? Those get seen about 10 000 times per week! That's branding and subliminal advertizing!) She needs to design me nice ones.
  • And: Inger! Of course! I have to get to Natalie and give Inger her copy so her dad can hopefully read and love it... possibly even write a little review for me...
Keep the ball rolling, Riana said. Time to shake myself out of my lethargy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

in limbo

ok the fuut is out of me altogether. Waiting around for Saturday 12th when I can finally do a reading at Alkantrant library. Who knows maybe a few sales? A book signing? Still have to organize it. Sharon's on leave she's in Holland currently. When she comes back then we can look at me talking to her book club. Not entirely sure how I should go about it... she'll need to introduce me and build my posture and I'll build her posture right back. Complimenting each other. It's how it works. I ought to reread Patricia Fripp "Make it so you don't have to fake it", after having read Helen Nicholson's "Networking". I need business cards and bookmarks. My bizcard ought to be a bookmark! Remember memorable formats! Are the ones that are the wrong shape! Anyway if they put it to its intended use they'll think of the Solar Wind whenever they read any book! So maybe of all the marketing tools bookmarks are my most important. I ought to tell Riana. I want a certain amount of bookmarks for bizcards. They can even fold double, with magnet... but should they? then they lose their unique "uncomfortable" shape and become just another piece of jetsam in a handbag or wallet! Ni. Will keep original bookmark shape. I wants a hundred. If payable.

And soon! Before I go ahead and read to people!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Submissions, submissions...

ok while the wheel is beginning to roll with the sales (I mean as it slooooowwly grates into motion), I carry on submitting to agents overseas. Seeing that I AM P'Kaboo they can buy the rights from P'Kaboo with the author/owner's blessing. P'Kaboo will carry on publishing books anyway - I'm sure there's a HOST of SA authors out there who really want to publish but sit in the same spot as moi, currently. Kiddies' books, books on gardening and cooking, violin and guitar methods ;-) ....

Cherryl wants a copy for her nephew who writes too (he's 11). (Candidate for P'Kaboo?). She wants it inscribed with a little message (of course, no problem!), and she wants to promote the Solar Wind among the playgroup mommies to sell a phew copies. This promises to be good fun.

I've just had a total oddball idea. P'Kaboo must advertize a competition in the Rekord for Under 13's, young writers and artists, to send in their stories and art, and then publish the better ones in a collective book titled "Bright Sparks" or something like that. If I can get 30 contributors who each pay R100 entry they'll cover the print run to a big part. But y'know, then I'd have to make a big local hoo-haw about it and start selling copies really fast. I don't think 50 would be enough, I don't think 100 would be enough. I think 1000 would be good, and now we're talking big quid again. It would help to have capital...

Saturday, August 22, 2009


it catches a girl.

Haven't done anything but blogging and delaying all week. Last positive action was sending off a copy to Bookdata. Soul Mate is investigating the readings at libraries but the earliest we can do it is the second Saturday in September.

We've decided that for now we'll only be selling copies out of hand. I'm still going to go with that promotional program, furthermore he'll make me a beautiful website (did I mention he designs?). With a point-and-click ordering system so I can post copies to people as far as Cape Town (overseas I'll direct them to or Amazon, easier for them). Grr that puts a provisional Paid to P'Kaboo's credibility as a publisher - can't offer the service of small print runs to other authors yet because my marketing channels are as yet not set up. It would be so cool to have one bookshop - just one - who'd grant P'Kaboo two years per book rather than the customary 3-5 months! But okay - we're looking at big-time advertizing, and before our company has established itself and elbowed its way into the market place, we ought to avoid bookshops.

Still submitting to agents, with a hopeful grin...

...did I mention that self-publication is the coward's way out?


Thursday, August 20, 2009


Kalahari a dead-end too...

.not that I was trying to by-pass the bookshops... I'm exploring ALL avenues, and of course online book distributors such as, Kalahari, Leisure Books etc. - I emailed them all to see if there was a possibility for me there. But in effect I'll have to knee-gaze at my inbox all day every day in case an order comes in; because I have to respond within 24 hours. And then, courier the book to Cape Town for them to mail / courier it to the client. All in the same 24 hrs.

Maybe I misunderstood. Maybe I should re-read the email. But in all it sounds like an impossibility. Pity - there goes another distribution channel, for now!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Captain's Log, 14 August 2009...

Sent off 2 copies today. One to the national library, Cape Town. This is a legal requirement in SA. Wrote the ISBN in on the front page in pencil, REALL professional-like, hay. The other one was a gift copy to someone who'd helped me.

Got a number of people reading. This is good. By now I think we'll go the route of a website, and generate as much publicity as we can and then make direct sales. I'm reading "Advertizing for Dummies" and "Networking" in the hope of picking up clues. Because I'm sooo clueless right now I feel downright lost.

Anyway. "Toodle pip". Anna, proverbial.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Editor: R15 000


this is terrible!!!

On another note: A bestseller in SA is a book that's sold 3000 copies. Rest of the world: 100 000 copies! What a small market!

You should try to sell 1000 copies in the first 3 months. In other words, 1/3 of the market. yoy.

There you have it. That's all I found out today, except for submitting to 5 agents and getting 2 replies, one a "maybe, we're not yet done looking" and one a "no thanks".

Double the dosage of St John's Wort.

Oh and btw: Let's see how many stories I can think of in which the main antagonist was NOT one person.

  • Twister
  • The Perfect Storm
  • Animal Farm
  • 1984
  • The Tarn (short-story)
  • Rain Man
  • The Running Man
  • Bladerunner
  • Angelheart
  • House of Cards (in fact there isn't an antagonist at all, it's a mother's struggle to get her child back into the "real" world after the death of her father - perhaps the most moving film I've ever seen)
  • Awakenings
  • Little Man Tate
I'm sure I can carry on ad lib. It seems to me all the BEST stories have antagonists that are not "a person".

I absolutely cannot handle it when someone tries to make "rules" for writing! If we all wrote the same way and style and stylized storyline and characters, we'd all be writing the same book, ni? Get real!!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I cried on my colleague's shoulder and she gave me the number of an editor!!

Now it's a matter of quanti costi, and hopefully she'll allow me to pay it down in installments, but I've been pining for an editor more than once in this whole process. There's only so much a couple o' soulmates and my mom can spot. We need a stranger to the family to take a look.

Woodhill's library now holds a copy. Goodie.. wheels are still turning, though the spanner yesterday made them crunch frighteningly. Guess nuclear drives and solar sails are hard to pull to a stop. The momentum is amazing! (In motion: Momentum. Stationary: Inertia.)

And on, people are commenting on my book scene posts, and a short story I posted on "Writer's Club". I love the comments, they bolster my ego of course; oh mon, that plus 3 St John's Wort plus the beaming smile I got when handing a gift copy to the librarian... definitely is fixing up the damage that happened yesterday to the process.

Chinzz up and avast we go... duh corny!


Attentie, Tzigan!

Yesterday a book distributor of a major bookshop chain contacted me, on my request to have my book listed / stocked at that chain. She informed me of a few interesting things meant to - no doubt - prepare me better and give me an idea that I should stick to submitting to agents and forget about self-publishing.

I'm very thankful to that lady that she took the time and effort to speak to me, whom she's after all only met in a short email. She is a true lady.

What crystallized out was some very good information. Take this, like everything else, with a pinch of salt as once again it comes (as yet) from only a single source. Telling, nevertheless.

  • Editing. (I knew this and an editor is on the charts for the book - but not at the murderous rates they charge!!!! Eish!!) A book needs professional editing. (R20 000 later. No kidding. That's what they charge, online and freelance. Good business.)
  • Cost per copy. Get this: SEVENTY PERCENT markup from the cost price to the selling price, plus VAT... Sheesh, don't tell me books aren't a rip-roaring business! What freeks me about this is the following. R66 is R40 more than R26. A book costs R26 to mass-produce; it retails at R100. Ok, fair. A book costs R66 to produce - it doesn't retail at R140 or even R160 but at R300!! Tell me what that is, if not plain greed? If this is actually correct, then that's the single greatest deterrent for me from offering the book in stores. Nobody would want to buy it at that price!
  • Ok. So you mass-produce to bring the ridiculous retail price down. Do a print run at R60 000 to R100 000. You pour your life's savings into it (remember that's after the editor - R20 000. Writing "courses" also charge R7000 for a weekend). You get it stocked in bookshops. First-timers ATTENTIE:
  • THE BOOKSHOP (at least the chain in question) GIVES YOUR BOOK THAT THEY'VE FORCED YOU TO MASS PRODUCE VIA PRICE MONGERING, EXACTLY THREE MONTHS. After that, the thing gets returned to you if it didn't "sell" (i.e. didn't sell enough copies - and how many are "enough"?). And after this? No bookshop or publisher will touch that particular book ever again. It's "damaged goods". The author is "damaged goods" and will struggle to publish anything else.
Friends and beloved foes, answer me this.

A new book is a business project. Correct?
And ANY business project takes 6-12 months before it's even in the running!
Advertising takes 3-6 weeks for people even to look up and notice! (Longer on the Net)

How in hell is a guy who is good at writing (introverted, thinker, dreamer) and brand new in the business world, going to sell 3000 copies in 3 months from zero? This is a tried and trusted recipe for failure!

(Because remember, they only "stock". They don't raise publicity for you. They are really only a display case - and not a very good one because all that displays is the spine, between thousands of competing books.)

Who gives ANY business venture only three months to get up to full steam?
Unless they MEAN for it to fail! Unless the INTENT is that the book fails!

I learnt a lot yesterday.

This is at best horrific; at worst, sinistah!!

BUT. That's the thing. Bookshops, although the most convenient outlet for books, are by far not the only one any longer. The Internet has seen to it that their era is passing. I very nearly ordered a book from Kalahari yesterday because the process was so easy. Click, click. Delivered to your doorstep. You can browse, right in your comfort zone. And the cost - same ballpark. I'm going to check out the book's pricing in shops today or tomorrow and if it's the same, I'll rather order it from Kalahari. To test the process.

But even without internet there are many ways of vending a book in this our Free Country. All the channels we were looking at for marketing now become more important as the bookshops (at least that particular chain) fall away. (Possibly other chains don't have the same kill-the-newcomer attitude.)

The point is, I made a promise.


Monday, August 10, 2009



This is really silly of me - it's so obvious but it escaped my notice for a seccie. Another way of creating publicity is of course blogging! This smacked me in the face when a friend of mine, an author too, built up a really active readership and now wants to quit blogging! That's sort of self-defeating.

If I think about it, one of the first and best pieces of advice for internet marketing another good friend of mine gave me was to blog - but with a link in your signature. Haven't done that yet.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

keep the ball rolling

I did say that self-publishing is for the weak of backbone...

... so okay, today I emailed several different bookish distribution places, gave them the name and ISBN of my book and asked if they'd like to carry the book in their lists. I realize the publicity is up to me but by the time I do I want to tell people, "you can go into any bookshop and they'll order it for you... quite a few have stock... get it through the net too... or at my email..."


Saturday, August 8, 2009

A good kick....

Sorry Crew...

Was sick this week. NOTHING got done on the poor book. Iain sold a few (I think, 2). Still waiting for feedback from that bookshop, will now (I mean NOW, 1:29 am on Saturday night) email the next agent for Exclusive Books. Is 1 week long enough for someone to check their inbox? I mean their business inbox??

SIGH. Been thinking. That's a bad habit. And I've been editing "The Morrigan", sheesh the whole book needs a rewrite. The story is intact, the scenes are logical, the dialogue is fast-paced and there are a few giggles in there but the feel is missing. Can't have that book without a feel. It's like playing Bach pitch-perfect and bone-dry. Listen to Pablo Casals to get what I mean

Anyhow LOL.

I guess for good measure I should try submitting the book to a few more agents too. SIGH to have my ego all bashed about again! Self-publishing is actually for cowards. But I made a promise, to the Crew, basta! Basta basta. Fini!

What's the next step? Emailing those ppl and 2) organizing events. Bookreading and -signing events. ay eesh!


Monday, August 3, 2009

Of ISBNs and bar codes

Ih yoy, to put it federitically!

a quick line. If you intend to generate a barcode from an ISBN number, there are x different formats for barcodes online! Get the right one - then it doesn't work on the rest of my system. This is frustrating, but my cat sitting next to me makes it better. Thanks, Ginghis!

And the printing place wanted R300 for the printing of barcode on stickers, be it for 50 or 1000 stickers! I stink not... I'd rather keep that cash for more books!

Learn, dear fictitious and future reader: You FIRST organize your ISBN before you go print!


Saturday, August 1, 2009

onna roll

Panama Canal in the spotlight

It was Saturday today. (Ok there are still 1 1/2 hours of today to go, but at least for business porpoises most is finished.)

I sold 4 copies today. Still to friendsnfam, so that's a limited pool. But 4 copies is 4 copies. Iain's out selling another 2 and doing like the computer sales force of the 80's, selling the sequel (it's not even printed yet!!). Well!! He also wanted to sell one for free but that's where I drew the line. I didn't buy those copies for free!

From the amount of commentary I get, I deduce I'm still blogging for myself - more or less like Radomir Lascek's Solar Wind Ship Log, it's just to keep the past organized and keep tabs on the process. That's okay. It would be nice to know someone is benefiting, except myself, but oh well. Maybe who knows, with this blog as a historical record of what I did, I'll be able to write a stepwise manual to self-publishing a novel (in South Africa, today), once it's successful.

Feedback from readers:

So far every single reader who absolved the whole book came back to tell me they loved it and want more.

Correction against bias: All of them are so far people who know me personally, and as they are on a good foot with me, they are unlikely to tell me the story stinks. However on the other hand there are one or two ace critics amongst them who'd really tell me if something bothered them. (Remember: Friends and family!)

Iain made me write these steps down for the marketing campaign:

Radio podcasts and interviews:
Radio Tuks
Book clubs
A friend of mine, S
Find more book clubs
Try to get in at Leisurebooks!
Readings at
house concerts
other devious means of advertizing:
Review by a well-known South African youth author whose daughter I know personally
Magazines - book reviews (find the operative person who writes them and send in a gift copy)
Newspapers: Record
Hot air balloon and small air plane with banner

Thursday, July 30, 2009

...a bit lost...

I wish I had a wisecrack saying to insert here...

so here we are. Thirty-four books on my table and six more in my car boot. Staring at me and asking the "when..." question. Aargh...

A week back it felt as though the wheel was in motion and unstoppable. Now? SIGH...

ISBN numbers being printed on stickers. At R6 per sticker, ih yoy! Next print run they are part of the cover! Next book (the sequel) gets its ISBN before the cover gets designed! Now that I know where to get them...

Still have to mail books to the various official places.

and then the marketing. Organize readings at book clubs, libraries, house concerts, other opportunities. Try to organize book signings at book shops. Try to get into the distribution channels of the big book stores.

But the most important is the mass media. Mags, radio. Especially radio. Wonder what that is going to cost!

The whole thing is a bit daunting. I wish there were someone to tell me the next step here, too...

Well, I gave myself 5 years, 3 years back. We shall see.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Next Step

To-do List

Now that we're "legal" with ISBN and all, the next step is the marketing.

  • Look up book clubs for readings
  • Include others in profit (commission) for selling copies
  • Gift copies to strategic people (bookshop owners, libraries...)
  • Posters and events
  • Find out who the bookshop suppliers are
  • Find special interest groups
Amazingly, while selling copies out-of-hand, there's already one customer who is interested in the sequel. That isn't even printed yet! At this rate I guess I'll have to repeat the small run process for the sequel along with further runs for the first book!

All this is very encouraging. And I have to say, hats off to my professional friend and to the printers. The book is truly beautiful. I love the cover - so does everyone else I show it to!

Signing off for now

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Family Baggage

And then there was my great-uncle.

He was a German in South West Africa, during The War. You see this is why wars are really sick: People are just people, most aren't even interested in politics! Scared of it, sure, but not really interested! But it destroys chances and life dreams, and lives, and life...

So he wrote these really cool adventure stories about gold and South West (Namibia today) with its incredible scenery and harsh semi-arid climate (think the Clint Eastwood style Western movies). I read two of his stories. They are fast-paced and they've basically "got it".

So H.A. writes them, illustrates them, prints them by hand, binds them manually and tries to flog them. Ayayay, in Windhoek of the 40's!

Neesh! There's something to be said for the professional printing process, and making use of professional everythings... cover artist, editor, marketing strategist... money talks, my friends! In my da's words, wish money would shut up!!!


The Mystery of the Solar Wind, and all her sequels and prequels, has NOTHING to do with the hand-printed gem of 4 1/2 generations back at the rear end of Planet Earth!  Except, oh wait... genetics.


My father picks up the copy of the book and grins.
"Oh! You found a publisher?"

Kalinka can't lie. I grin back.
"Yup, daddy... I founded a publisher!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Scene from "Freedom Fighter"

Twenty km’s outside of Caras the lipstick-red Corsair V came to a noiseless halt. The sun was peeping over the mountain tops. Carlos unpeeled his hands from the handholds. He was looking a bit green in the face. Perdita was a fast driver.

“Stay in the car,” ordered Perdita. She got out and breathed in the fresh air. Carlos needed a bath! It was tiring travelling with him. But she didn’t have the heart to send him back to the old man.

The secret Rebellion air base nestled in the nook of the mountains. It was still in full shade at seven in the morning. She marched in, sought out the office. The man on duty was half-asleep from the graveyard shift; nevertheless her appearance had the effect it always had on strange men, that of surprised admiration and a trace of hopefulness.

Perdita produced her identity override card. The man ran it through the system and registered with shocked eyes who she was.

“I need a jet,” said Perdita.

A jet was provided.

Got It!!!

Today I open my email box and YIPEEEEH! here's my ISBN number!

No charge; the price is a number of "gift" copies archived in various legal deposits, oh well.

Now she's official!

Did you know? ISBN numbers were used in the 60's by only one publishing house, for stock purposes. The system was so useful that by the 70's everyone was using it and now it's universal and bookshops won't sell a book unless it has an ISBN. Imagine a similar stocktaking system for clothes LOL.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The history

First there were the rainbows in the breaking waves at Shelley Beach, at 4pm in the afternoon.

The crew of the Solar Wind invaded my home not much later. They hung about my lounge, completely disorganized, insubordinate. The main character was sidelined by the comic relief character; several serious sailors turned into comic relief; the tragic heroine became a magic heroine. And then there was chemistry!!! I never gave them permission for that! Aargh! (anna bottle!)

A year and 13 draft sequels later I got the internet. Yes that is a bit like getting a disease. And it's contagious too, my soulmate got the internet worse than I did.

So we scoured - literally scoured for agents, and publishers. Stepped into every conceivable doodle. There are more voices advising on how to write a submissions letter than should be listened to! I tried it all (and probably stuffed up any chances with several honourable agents)! After following every eejit's headvice, I came to a conclusion of my own (finally). It's this:

Valuable lili insight

They probably don't give a rip about who this new vamped up writer dude thinks she is! Pertinent CV background (such as, having been a scientist) only matters in factual publications (which for some obscure reason seem to be favoured higher than fiction by the Big Boys). Previous writing background is an iffy thing unless you have a previously published book. If you're a newby... it's about the book and all about the book, who cares about the author? It's only when they LIKE it that they want to know more.

Anyone care to correct me on this?

So the next step was online, self-publishing.

My books are available on Click the rainbow mast on the left to take you there.
The first one is also available on Amazon.
Surprise number next: Neither of these deliver to South Africa.

So here I sat with my draft of a marketing plan, and a whole lot of friends and fam clamouring for a paperback copy, and no way of getting my hands on the book.

A friend believed in me and helped me get the small print run together.

I learnt:

Quality of printers varies. It took 2 tries to find a professional printer capable of producing a book-shaped book.


I followed a bit of advice from someone and brought a friendly bookshop owner a gift copy for him to evaluate if he wants to sell the book, and guess what:

You can sell on without an ISBN. But not in real shops.

And: ISBN are available at the National Library, comparatively well-priced. I'm organizing mine now. (I thought one had to pay Amazon hundreds of dollars...)

I'll update this periodically, keep you guys current... hopefully someone will one day find this useful.

Hello and welcome

New Novel hits the market

LOL I'm probably writing this first post all for me lonesome. Because I came over from While I still have a profile and blog there I'm really disappointed - just as it started cooking, some eejit changed everything about the site and nothing works anymore. I hope nobody is going to tamper with this 'ere place like that.

While I'm still watching for any improvements, let me get on with blogging here.

To summarize, we (myself and a few friends) are un- and self-published authors. I've just started out on the interesting road of doing a really small print run and learning about marketing; this is after discovering that doesn't ship to SA, and after realizing that most agents and publishers seem to be chronically out of office. I also realized that there are a lot more authors out there than I ever dared to hope. Some of my unpublished friends write absolutely brilliant stuff. Someone thought mine was brilliant, too, so she (a graphic designer) decided to make a professional cover image for my book and help me with that first print run. Here is the result (camera shake and all).

The idea of this blog is to keep others updated about my progress as a self-publishing die-hard. I'm told that Amazon and (my book is on both) don't deliver to South Africa. I'm told South Africa has no reader's market for English general fiction (unless it features South Africa). I'm told that there is no money in publishing; that there are more writers than readers; that one has to write in a very specific way to stand a "chance".

I don't buy any of that. It reminds me of how they used to spread myths such as, if you're over a certain age you're too old to learn violin. (Busted that one personally! I'm a teacher and I have LOTS of "too old" students!) It also reminds me of science: How progress is sometimes blocked by our "best" theories that have become accepted dogma. Example: E=mc2. Some renegade scientists are actually questioning this piece of celestial truth these days, and guess what: They are making new discoveries that were being blocked by that theory!

So I choose to believe instead that:

  1. I'm a reader too, I like adventure and fast-paced stuff, I like it funny, witty and romantic. I can't be that unique, therefore there are others like me out there.
  2. More South Africans are reading than ever before, thank you MWAAZ!! to J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter! Ergo, there's a market.
  3. South Africans buy a LOT of imported books dealing with Scifi and Fantasy - ergo, there's a market!
  4. If I managed to learn to play the violin, which is fairly complex... if I understood molecular genetics, I can learn marketing, too. It can't be all that difficult if that many are doing it!
  5. If my book can sell, so can others. That, my friends, is the next step. Hang close and watch this space....