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 Lulu.com 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 24.com, 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