Voxate Writing & Editing

South African Writer, Copywriter and Editor
Browsing Other Writers

Published Author – Meet Angela

February13

Angela Shearer has gone the self-publishing route twice, and shares her experience.

Angela Shearer - author of The Scarlet Letter and Mad Mischief

Angela Shearer – author of The Scarlet Code and Mad Mischief

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and the book(s) you have written, including the genre you prefer:

The Scarlet Code was my first book, a non-fiction book which is a guide on how to re-invent yourself as a woman and become financially and emotionally independent of other people. The book teaches us how to remain relevant in a changing world and how to give ourselves permission to live the lives that we sometimes only dream about in secret.

My Second book is called Mad Mischief and its total fiction, a throng of short stories that touch on many contentious topics and ideas.

I don’t really have a favourite genre when it comes writing. I love to tell stories and have discussions and I believe that it’s important to write about anything, no matter the genre, if we have something of substance to say.

2. Why did you decide to self-publish? What was the process leading up to this decision?

I initially submitted my book to one of the big publishers and it took them over six months to respond. When they did respond they said that they were not publishing “that genre of work” and recommended that I try a few other publishers instead. I then submitted my manuscript to another two traditional publishers and waited for over six months to follow up. The one publisher gave the same response twice, over a year period, which was “We are busy reviewing the manuscript and will let you know the outcome”. The other publisher never even responded to my follow ups.

In the end, neither of the two publishers ever came back to me with an outcome or feedback. I went on to do some research and realised that going via a traditional publisher isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, I came to understand that there is actually a massive down side to publishing through them in terms of rights to your books, reduced royalties and various other compromises that come with giving power over to someone else. This lead me to look at the Independent publishing option through Amazon. I haven’t regretted it for a minute.

3. What kind of feedback have you had from your readers and editors?

I’ve received great feedback from my readers on the Scarlet Code specifically as they have found it to be very useful when making big changes to their lives. Their comments and feedback can be viewed on my website.

4. We’d like to know the results of your decision. Would you consider it successful? Why? What does success mean to you?

I published both books in 2016. One was published in April and the other in August so it’s still early days in terms of sales but, that said, they are selling via Amazon in both Kindle and hard copy and they are also selling out of two book shops in SA. I retain complete control over my sales distribution and I also control the price and the profits. I absolutely think its successful. I realise that any author needs to play a very active role in marketing their books whether independently published or published through traditional channels. There are so many writers out there and so many books, you can’t expect to make it big overnight. Writing the book is one part of the journey, marketing yourself and the book is the second part of the journey. I personally prefer to retain control.

5. If you knew then (before embarking on the journey of self-publishing) what you know now, what would you tell yourself?

I’d tell myself to research more about what other authors do and the channels that they use to market their work and then put a comprehensive marketing plan in place. I’d also tell myself not to expect instant gratification.

6. Please give us a quick list of pros and cons for the self-publishing route:

Pro’s

· You retain control over your work.

· Your set the price.

· You control your distribution channels.

· You don’t have to share your profits.

· You aren’t limited by contracts or personalities.

· Nobody tells you what you may or may not do or say.

Con’s

· There’s no comfort zone. You are completely on your own.

· You can’t blame anyone else but yourself if your book doesn’t sell.

· You don’t have other resources to draw from like design, printing, legal, marketing or logistics. You pretty much have to know how to do this yourself or outsource it to freelancers or small companies. Outsourcing could prove to be expensive.

7. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

· Editing and proof reading advice – Edit, edit and edit some more. Get hard copies of your final draft printed and then get as many people as you can to proof read them for you. Understand that even after they have been proof read by numerous proof readers there will still be some landmines hidden between the lines. Use an electronic review tool like Paper Rater to proof read it again because it picks up errors that we don’t see as humans.

· Make sure that you know who your target market is and that there really is a market for your product. Align your marketing to this target market.

· Build up a reader base using social media. Get an account on all social media platforms.

· Never ever become that sleazy sales person trying to peddle your books because it just comes across as desperate. People will buy your books if they get good reviews, can benefit then in some way or if they are entertaining.

· Don’t include your friends, family, acquaintances or colleagues in your reader base. They should retain their rightful roles in your life without feeling like they owe it to you to buy and read your book. They are not a reliable reflection because they know you and will either judge you too harshly or be overly kind. Aim to have strangers as your readers and market your books to the great audience “out there” because when they buy your books, you know you have something to sell.

Then, just some fun questions:

8. Do you try to be as original as possible? Or do you prefer to stick to what you know readers / publishing houses are looking for?

I like to be more controversial and original in my thinking and writing. I enjoy contentious topics for non-fiction and totally warped and twisted ideas or stories for fiction.

9. When did you first experience the power of literature?

When I was about 9 years old I remember writing my first script.

I enjoyed writing it so much that I just kept on writing and then I finally discovered that I had to write even if nobody ever read what I wrote down.

10. How much time do you spend writing per day / week?

It depends what I’m working on. If the book needs a lot of research, then a lot more time is spent on that. A lot of writing takes place in your head like while you are in the traffic, waiting in a queue or lying in bed. That said, when the book is formed in my head then I can write from 4 to 8 hours a day until I meet my target. When I’m between books, like I am at the moment, then I don’t write much more than work emails.

11. What do you tend to edit out of your books after the initial writing?

I tend to edit out lots of extra words that aren’t really necessary. Sometimes dialogue also sounds stupid when you read it out loud so I edit that a lot to make it sound more authentic and natural.

12. What are the hardest scenes for you to write?

Love scenes are my most difficult just because I think they give a lot away about the person who writes them.

13. What could you have done as a child or teenager to ensure that you were an even better writer today?

I could have read more. The more you read the more you develop original thought and also pick up on different styles and understand what works and what doesn’t.

14. How long (on average) does it take you to write a book and how many times do you edit it?

Four months and you don’t stop editing – there really is no ideal number of times to edit. You just keep searching for those little typos, grammer and spelling gremlins and exterminate them one by one.

15. What else do you do, if you aren’t a full-time writer?

I’m a Project Manager in the Cyber Security space for a financial institution.

See this video on The Scarlet Code

Published Author – Meet Mia

February3

Mia has known the highs and lows that life throws at us in what seems to be such wreckless abandon. She used writing as an outlet, and discovered a love she hadn’t explored until recently. Read about her writing and self-publishing adventure here.

Self-published author, Mia Henry, and four of her gorgeous furry kids

Self-published author, Mia Henry, and four of her gorgeous furry kids

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and the book(s) you have written, including the genre you prefer:

I will always be a mother to three beautiful daughters and a handsome son, even though two daughters now rest in peace. I have always worked, helping with the running and managing of my husband’s medical practice, so I had to learn the art of being able to juggle between motherhood and being an entrepreneur. Both tasks are not your normal 9-5 job, so it was important to understand the definition of balance. Sometimes your children need a lot more attention than your business but then there may be times when your business needs more attention. You learn to be flexible and the ability to quickly change direction. The upside of this is that it teaches your children to be independent and self-reliant, important skills to have in this day and age. Although I must admit that I do wish I had spent more time with my children.

I started writing close on 7 years ago, which was inspired by a difficult family situation that took years to resolve. I thought then that it being so dramatic would make a good story. I started, got to chapter 3 and then laid it aside. Suddenly in 2012, I was confronted with one of the most heart rendering tragedies in my life and couldn’t help recalling my mother’s agony. Do children suffer because of the sin of their parents? So my book, A Mother’s Sin, arose from recollections of my mother’s verbal agonizing, brought back to mind each time a tragedy struck. Reflecting on that, I felt I could add far more to the originally intended story. So six years later, I once again picked up my pen and completed it within four months. I took real life tragedies and turned it into a novel. The protagonist in this story is Ella. She had a fair number of tragedies in her life. When tragedy strikes any family, many questions arise. Although reliving some moments in my writing proved exceptionally traumatic, I tried to portray the raw emotion, so I hope my book will be an inspiration and a catalyst for healing to those whose lives have also been struck by tragedy.

2. Why did you decide to self-publish? What was the process leading up to this decision?

After researching both options, I realized I lacked a bit on the side of patience besides the fact that by the end of the six years any patience I did have was now exhausted. After doing some research I felt that going the traditional route was like playing the Lotto …. You may or may not win, what are the odds? I was also wary of using a company which assists with the self-publishing route. Internet is full of trolls everywhere, and with all the warnings and scams, it was very disconcerting. Fortunately, I knew an author who used the same self-publishing company I chose to use. Her reassurance put my mind at ease that I was dealing with an authentic company. I have been very impressed with their proactive approach and how quickly they respond to any queries I may have. It doesn’t come free, but making the publishing so hassle-free has to me, been worth every cent.

3. What kind of feedback have you had from your readers and editors?

The book was supposed to have been launched in December but the OCD in me kept changing things so the marketing team then decided to rather launch it as a 2017 publication. Now just waiting on a launch date which will be sometime in February. The reviews from the publishing company have been great. They want me to attend the book-to-screen Pitchfest in New York in May, and are even willing to subsidize some of the costs.

4. Please give us a quick list of pros and cons for the self-publishing route:

I think I covered that in point 2. My only criticism is that they kept pressurising me to submit the manuscript. I would have liked more time to spend on the editing.

5. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

They need to work out what will work out best for them. Speak first hand to those who have gone both routes and then decide what you can afford and what will suit you better. There is a lot the self-publishing assist companies can offer, but that comes with a price.

I loved being consumed in the world of writing so I have started on another book.

Then, just some fun questions:

6. Do you try to be as original as possible? Or do you prefer to stick to what you know readers / publishing houses are looking for?

Prefer originality

7. When did you first experience the power of literature?

Always loved reading. My preferred genre are biographies. I also enjoy legal thrillers.

8. How much time do you spend writing per day / week?

When I’m on a roll, I can spend hours and into the night for days. Then I can go weeks without writing, but my mind is constantly thinking and plotting. I’ve even stopped my car whilst driving to make quick notes.

9. What do you tend to edit out of your books after the initial writing?

I tend to add more to enhance. Although I do often need to change words so that they don’t become too repetitive

10. What are the hardest scenes for you to write?

Emotionally, it is reliving through tragedy. Also accepting the fact that sometimes in order to make a character authentic to his/her personality will require cursing and profanity that could be offensive.

11. What could you have done as a child or teenager to ensure that you were an even better writer today?

Read more

12. What else do you do, if you aren’t a full-time writer?

A juggler ….help manage husband’s businesses, own guesthouse, interior-designer, wife, mother, traveller.

Mia is on Facebook and Twitter.

*Note: all interviews are published as submitted, and not edited*

A Mother's Sin

A Mother’s Sin

Published Author – Meet Melissa

January26

I loved being a small part of proofreading Melissa’s first soon-to-be-published novel. I love her style. But, more than that, I appreciate her approach to life, love and literature.

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and the book(s) you have written, including the genre you prefer:

Meet Melissa - author, blogger, beauty therapist, mom, and watersports enthusiast

Meet Melissa – author, blogger, beauty therapist, mom, and watersports enthusiast

I am a writer, blogger, recycler and beauty therapist; also the slave of one presumptuous cat. I live in Cape Town with the aforementioned feline, a patient husband and two smart daughters. I am a serial defaulter on Kayla’s bikini body programme and I surf my SUP when the ocean allows me to.

I have written two books. One was rejected by all the publishers in the Southern Hemisphere and a smattering of those in the North before I gave up and ate chocolate. The second, A Fractured Land, was *yay* requested by publishers in both hemispheres before I was offered a contract by Literary Wanderlust of Denver, Colorado. I write eco-romance. A Fractured Land has a few scenes set in Texas, but it’s mostly on a farm in the Karoo. There, Lexi Taylor is peacefully managing a guesthouse,until the land is earmarked for shale gas exploration by the brusque, yet intriguing Texan geologist, Carter O’Brien.

2. What was the process of getting published like?

The road to publication is paved with rejection. Also desperation, self loathing, great sadness, crocodile-thick skin and mediocre wine. When you feel you are ready to query your manuscript, it must be complete, edited and so polished that it gleams. In South Africa, if you would like to go the traditional route, you query the publishing houses directly. You write a letter that contains a bit about the book, a bit (a very small bit) about you, and then you attach the first three chapters and a synopsis. There are about 5-7 major publishing houses in South Africa and a couple of independent ones. You submit your query and wait. It can take 6 weeks to 6 months to hear back from them, if at all. And then they might ask for a partial (half the manuscript) or the full, before they decide whether to publish it or not. Some don’t take unsolicited submissions, except during certain windows stipulated on their website, so you need to stalk them a little and time it right.

If you would like an international publisher, you need to find an agent. The query process is similar, you send out query letter, 3 chapters and a synopsis, if that is what they indicate on their website. It is important to review their submission requirements before you submit.

Then you wait. Soon you begin to empathise with Miss Havisham at her wedding table. You may even channel your inner Mrs Rochester and wail in your attic.

If you would like to go the self-publishing route, you must be sure you are at peace with not traditionally publishing your book. Because you can’t go back. Also you need a bit of cash, as you are going to have to pay for the cover design, editorial process and all the behind-the-scenes stuff that produces a book. Staging Post (the self-publishing imprint of Jacana) recommends crowd-sourced funding like Thunda Fund or Go Fund Me.

A Fractured Land got lots of interest straight up, from all areas of traditional publishing: local publishers, an agent and two international publishers. I knew I was onto something straight away. (Unlike the previous manuscript. That manuscript had so many rejections I lost count. One agent said there was nothing about the sample chapters that made her want to read further. Which was like a kick in the teeth after my editor and writing teacher told me it was so good.)

3. What made you decide on the publishing house you did?

I think you have it the wrong way round. What made them decide on me? I entered a Twitter contest, where you pitch your book (ie. query your manuscript) in 140 characters. (It was the fourth time I have entered such a contest, for you to get a sense of the mountain of rejections). Literary Wanderlust was among the respondents who liked my pitch and asked for the full manuscript. They were first to send me a contract. (Which is basically the best love letter you can send a writer.)

4. What kind of feedback have you had from your readers and editors?

My beta reader, a prolific and talented writer, gave me some tough advice, which I followed. It was hard to do, but it turned out to be the right advice. I am thankful to her. My editor found a huge hole in the plot, which we fixed, and since that, I have had good feedback. I’m stoked.

5. We’d like to know the results of your decision. Would you consider it successful? Why? What does success mean to you?

I feel it’s a success because I worked so hard to get the manuscript to a standard that interested publishers and I didn’t give up despite the odds and the difficulty. It’s also terrifying. The thought that the things I wrote in private are now going to be in the public domain is paralysing. But I am pleased that I no longer feel like a fraud when I say I am a writer. I am stoked that I have the credibility now.

6. If you knew then (before embarking on the journey of publishing through a formal publishing house) what you know now, what would you tell yourself?

Stock up on wine, chocs and tissues. And a nice comfy chair because you are going to have to own that desk if you want to get a book written in the first place. I would also tell myself not to let the rejection define me. I was determined to view the rejection, not as a rod that beat me down, but rather, as a mollusc treats any irritation inside its shell. It uses it to create a pearl.

7. Please give us a quick list of pros and cons for the traditional publishing route.

There are no cons to a traditional publisher offering you a contract. Stephen King sank to the floor when he was finally offered a publishing contract. I nearly did too. Literary Wanderlust have been amazing, so professional and supportive, from the editorial and marketing perspective, as well as the art and cover design. It’s been a fantastic experience working with them. After I received the contract, I was invited to become a member of PEN South Africa and I am really excited about that. I feel that the personal validation afforded by traditional publishing is invaluable.

8. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Write the book. Even if it’s terrible. It’s kind of like sculpture. If you don’t have a big ungainly hunk of marble, you will never be able to refine it to the Venus De Milo. Your first draft will be big and ungainly. Edit it, shape it, take out the rough spots, polish it, but if you never throw it down in its large ugliness, you will never have a book. Social media can be helpful to build a platform. But you need to be authentic on social media, mind your manners and know your lane. Bitter rants are best avoided. Writing and publishing can be a small community, so good online (and offline) behaviour is paramount. Nanowrimo is also useful if you need a kick in the writing pants. It gets you going or back on track. Also, do not let rejection define you.

Then, just some fun questions:

9. Do you try to be as original as possible? Or do you prefer to stick to what you know readers / publishing houses are looking for?

I write what I like to read. Writing is such a consuming thing, you must enjoy the process. And half of writing is reading what you wrote. I know I’m writing well when it moves me emotionally, even though I made it up and knew it was coming.

10. When did you first experience the power of literature?

I loved all the Little House books when I was a child and, for years, our garden was my mind prairie. I remember being deeply upset by Csardas when I was a young teenager. I think when you have a more intense emotional experience in a book than you do in real life, you feel the power of literature.

11. How much time do you spend writing per day / week?

I’m a binge writer. I write in clumps. I should write a regular 2 hours a day. Successful people like Stephen King do that. Instead, I write when I have blocks of time or I when I am on a roll. I think a lot about plotting while I drive.

12. What do you tend to edit out of your books after the initial writing?

I edit out about 15% of the first draft, most of which is from the first few chapters. I think I set the stage for myself and my writing process by a long involved beginning which is a death knell for any book. So I end up cutting most of it out.

13. What are the hardest scenes for you to write?

Dialogue is quite tricky. It’s hard to make it sound natural but still be the literary device that shows character and drives the plot forward.

14. What could you have done as a child or teenager to ensure that you were an even better writer today?

I read a lot as a child and a teenager. I guess I could have read more but I should have written more. I didn’t know that all first drafts are terrible. I just assumed my writing was bad.

15. How long (on average) does it take you to write a book and how many times do you edit it?

It takes me about a year to write and a year to edit.

16. What else do you do, if you aren’t a full-time writer?

I work as a beauty therapist in my home salon. It’s a great job. I love the people I meet. Writing can be a lonely business, so I enjoy the human interaction in my day job. I thrive on the energy my clients give me.

You can find me on twitter @MissyAnnV my blogs are missmelissawrites.com and sunrisebeautyblog.wordpress.com

*Note: all interviews are published as submitted, and not edited*

I am on Instagram @sunrisebeautystudio.

Published Author – Meet Paula

January25

I loved hearing about Paula’s experience of the publishing and self-publishing scene in South Africa.

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and the book(s) you have written, including the genre you prefer:

Paula Gruben; author of Umbilicus

Paula Gruben; author of Umbilicus

I am a writer, inspirational speaker, mom, and wife. I live in Jo’burg and self-published my first book, Umbilicus: An autobiographical novel, in mid-2016. It’s a coming-of-age story, set in Durban 1995, and is based on my personal journey as an adoptee going in search of and reuniting with my birth mother. I am currently working on Incomer, which is due for release in late 2017. It’s a direct follow-on from Umbilicus, although both can be read as stand-alone stories. Incomer is set in 1997, and is based on real events, which took place during my two crazy years living in London and working in an adult store in the heart of Soho, the city’s red light district. Umbilicus is marketed as Young Adult (YA) realistic fiction, and Incomer will be marketed as New Adult (NA) realistic fiction. My preferred genres for both writing and reading are autobiographies, memoirs, crime fiction, and psychological thrillers.

2. What was the process of getting published like?

Like most budding authors at the start of their careers, I was lured by the thrill of potentially securing a contract with a big name traditional publisher, which supposedly meant utter validation of my worth as a writer. But after about six months of querying and not getting any joy (there were exciting flashes of interest, but no firm offers), I grew increasingly impatient and finally decided to call it a day. I figured I could spend the next year, two years, five years even, embroiled in the submission process, with absolutely no guarantee of ever securing a contract. Or I could take the bull by the horns, stop the soul-destroying cycle with immediate effect, and self-publish instead. It was a no-brainer. I don’t regret the traditional submission experience one bit, as I learned an awful lot about the industry, and grew a much thicker skin. But, in retrospect, I’m so glad I decided to go the self-publishing route, as it is far more in line with my more maverick ‘indie sensibilities’, which extend to just about all aspects of my life.

3. What kind of feedback have you had from your readers and editors?

Mercifully, Umbilicus has been extremely well-received. These are just some of the words that readers have used in reviews to date: affecting, authentic, beautiful, bittersweet, brave, candid, captivating, compassionate, consuming, emotive, engaging, enthralling, exhilarating, fascinating, fearless, gripping, heart-rending, honest, humbling, important, informative, insightful, inspiring, interesting, motivating, moving, open, original, poignant, powerful, raw, real, refreshing, relatable, remarkable, revealing, sad, soulful, thought-provoking, touching, truthful, unforgettable, unique, uplifting, well-crafted, and well-paced.

4. What are the publishing houses looking for, based on your dealings with them?

Unless you are a Trevor Noah or Helen Zille or Chris Hani’s daughter, you stand a snowball’s chance in hell of a local non-fiction publisher picking up your memoir. You will have to fictionalise your story and try submitting to their fiction imprints instead. Even though I ended up self-publishing, I am grateful for the advice and insights I gleaned from traditional publishers, mainly about current market trends and optimal shelf positioning for a story like mine. Although I didn’t take every single bit of advice on board, I did end up changing Umbilicus from a memoir to an autobiographical novel, from non-fiction to fiction, and it’s worked out really well.

5. We’d like to know the results of your decision to self-publish. Would you consider it successful? Why? What does success mean to you?

The average novel written in English by a South African will sell 600 – 1,000 copies [http://gbas.bookslive.co.za/blog/2016/08/10/how-many-books-get-sold-in-sa-every-year/] in its lifetime. Taking into consideration I’m about halfway there already with Umbilicus, just seven months after its release, I guess I’m not doing too badly. But, to achieve my goal of seeing this book included as recommended reading in high schools around the country, much work still needs to be done. Perhaps with the clout and connections of a traditional publisher behind me, I’d have achieved this goal by now. But, there’s no way of knowing. For me, over and above not-too-shabby book sales and phenomenal reviews, surprising personal fulfillment has come in the form of a steady stream of invitations to do author talks. This has not only created another income source for me in the form of speaker fees, but also a valuable platform to engage with and sell my book directly to readers at each event. I use Umbilicus as a launch pad for all my talks, but I tailor the content and the message to suit the unique needs and intended outcome for each audience. The feedback from these talks has been incredibly gratifying.

6. If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell yourself?

Stop doubting yourself! Your story does matter. You are a good writer. You are a good public speaker. Your testimony will touch hearts and change lives.

7. Please give us a quick list of pros and cons for the traditional publishing route:

Sure, there’s still an element of ‘prestige’ attached to being offered a traditional publishing contract. And it’s nice having someone handle much of the marketing and publicity on your behalf, leaving you more time to actually write. But realistically, your odds of landing a publishing deal in the first place are slim to none. And, even if you do, there’s no guarantee of commercial success. As a writer, you have to decide what you want most – the ‘prestige’ of a traditional publishing contract, perhaps only years after you start the submission process, or the reward of seeing your work in the hands of readers, now. For me, it was the latter. And thanks to technology, plus lack of ego, I was able to embrace the idea of self-publishing as a truly credible alternative. During the process of birthing my first book baby, I acquired a whole new skill set, which I can use again and again in the birthing of all my future book babies.

8. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Read, read, read! You cannot write unless you read. Attend writing workshops and courses – online or in real life. Write like you speak; simple is always better. Dialogue makes up about seventy percent of contemporary novels so learn to master the art of writing dialogue and you’re well on your way to producing marketable material. Go to book launches and don’t be shy to ask authors and publishers questions. Put yourself out there – network, network, network! And use Google – Google is your friend, as are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest – to connect with other writers and potential readers down the line. If you’re like me and write in ad hoc chunks rather than full, chronological chapters, then yWriter is a marvelous little tool. It’s a free downloadable programme that helps you sort and structure your work into scenes, chapters and, eventually, a complete, coherent whole.

If you decide to try your luck with the traditional publishing route, be prepared for rejection, and probably lots of it. To help soften the blows, follow @LitRejections on Twitter. Their daily tweets of ‘inspiring rejection stories’ (not an oxymoron, believe it or not!), motivational quotes, and genuine empathy will encourage you to persevere, and most importantly, remind you of why you started this publishing journey in the first place.

If you choose to go the self-publishing route, make sure to outsource the services of professionals, like Staging Post and MyeBook, for areas where you know you lack expertise. Very few authors are able to single-handedly see the entire process through from start to finish, from first draft to physical paperback. From the editing, proofreading, and typesetting of their manuscript, to ebook conversion, cover design, website design, distribution, marketing, and publicity, it’s a pretty Herculean task, by anyone’s standards.

Luckily, I had the experience needed to do everything myself, but what I didn’t have was the capital needed to do my first print run. I used Indiegogo to raise enough funds to cover the costs of my first print run (200 units), and I used the profit from the sales of those books to bankroll my second print run (another 200 units). If I need to crowdfund again, I will give Thundafund a go. It’s apparently the leading crowdfunding platform for South Africa (it wasn’t around when I used Indiegogo a couple of years ago).

9. How much time do you spend writing per day / week?

When my son is at school, I try to spend at least two to three hours every morning working on my books – either marketing the first, or writing the second. During school holidays, however, this routine goes out the window. Then I take whatever free time I can get – an hour here, half an hour there. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. Like Franz Kafka once wrote: “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”

10. How long (on average) does it take you to write a book and how many times do you edit it?

With Umbilicus, the research, writing, and assembling of all the puzzle pieces into an identifiable narrative arc probably took around two years. Although the end result is a work of fiction, the book started life as narrative non-fiction, and I wanted to get all my facts straight. The sociopolitical setting of the story, and details of the locations and historic events narrated by the protagonist are all factually sound. It went through at least a dozen edits, maybe more. Now that I’ve got templates to work from and systems in place, I’m hoping Incomer will take around 18 months. Being the perfectionist that I am, I reckon this manuscript will also go through around a dozen edits to get to the point where I am completely satisfied. But, I know that, in the end, it will all be totally worth it!

Check out Paula’s website and Facebook page for more.

 

Umbilicus

Umbilicus

*Note: all interviews are published as submitted, and not edited*

Published Author – Meet Sizwile

January20

Sizwile is a vibrant young South African author, and I’m thrilled to have her be part of the interview series.

Sizwile is the self-published author of The Good Girl

Sizwile is the self-published author of Good Girl

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and the book(s) you have written, including the genre you prefer:

I am an accountant by profession but I love reading. I read all types of books, and particularly like inspirational books and romance novels. I have only published one book so far, and it is novel. I would classify it as a romantic drama, if such a thing exists!

The novel is called “Good Girl” and follows the journey of a young woman navigating life away from the safety of home, and going through heartbreak and some very bad decisions. Anyone who has studied at a tertiary institution will most likely identify with some of the behaviors and challenges.

2. Why did you decide to self-publish? What was the process leading up to this decision? 

I realized that it would be difficult to get a publisher to publish my book, because it does not fit any mold of what has been previously published by publishing houses. I am not a celebrity or public figure, and I had nothing to sell myself with. I did not have the money to use a self publishing service, so when I say I self published, I mean I did everything myself, including ISBN, editing, formatting etc.

3. What kind of feedback have you had from your readers and editors?

I have received an overwhelming feedback from readers. I sent out a sample of the book before publishing it, and the readers immediately requested information on how to purchase the full version. I then published an e-version on Kindle, but I still got a significant amount of requests from people who want the hard copy. I realise that Kindle is not as common as I thought, and am researching other e book platforms that could work in South Africa.

4. We’d like to know the results of your decision. Would you consider it successful? Why? What does success mean to you? 

I think this has been a success. I am motivated to publish more of the stories I have written. The social media feedback suggests that readers are hungry for the hard copy of the book.

5. If you knew then (before embarking on the journey of self-publishing) what you know now, what would you tell yourself?

Do what I do best, and leave the rest to professionals, in particular issues to do with design. I attempted to design my own book cover and ended up with a cover that looked like a manual. I then approached an inexpensive service provider who did a sterling job. Next time I will not even attempt to do that. Also, I would be kinder to myself, because with this novel I second guessed myself a lot and even though people love the book I am still second guessing myself.

6. Please give us a quick list of pros and cons for the self-publishing route:

Pros: Control of your own work, ownership of the rights, no publisher deadlines and demands, no heart break of being rejected by a publishing house

Cons: Having to pay for everything from your own pocket, no marketing support

7. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

I don’t feel qualified to give advice, but I would say don’t be in a hurry to publish, take your time, and be happy with your own work before putting it out there. Also, be prepared for negative feedback and don’t take it personally. I was a little hurt when a few people close to me disapproved of the novel as they felt it clashed with my Christian faith, but had to quickly recover and remind myself that they were saying it from a place of love.

Let professionals do the work, where you can afford it. In future, if I afford it, I will engage an editor to deal with all those little grammar mistakes etc

I would also say research extensively for service providers, you will be surprised at the price variations for the same quality. My book cover cost me R70 on fiverr, but I had quotes of up to R450 per hour.

Then, just some fun questions:

Good Girl

Good Girl

8. Do you try to be as original as possible? Or do you prefer to stick to what you know readers / publishing houses are looking for?

I try to be original. I don’t want people to start thinking ” what’s so different about this book?”

9. When did you first experience the power of literature?

Probably at about 7 years of age when I started writing (with Dad’s help) public speaking speeches for school competitions.

10. How much time do you spend writing per day / week?

I have no set time. I can go for a whole week without writing, or write everyday for hours!

11. What do you tend to edit out of your books after the initial writing?

Dates and times, I worry if they do not make sense for the story line.

12. What are the hardest scenes for you to write?

Scenes to do with the loss of a child. I cry my eyes out!

13. What could you have done as a child or teenager to ensure that you were an even better writer today?

Read more!

14. How long (on average) does it take you to write a book and how many times do you edit it?

I wrote my first book in a week but I did not publish it. It left me emotionally drained. It took me a month to write the second one, which I published, but I lost count of the number of times I edited it.

15. What else do you do, if you aren’t a full-time writer?

I run a kids cooking club called iCook Kids Club. I’m also an accountant.

Keep in touch with Sizwile via Facebook.

*Note: all interviews are published as submitted, and not edited*

Published Author – Meet Sultan

January17

I had the fun and exciting job of doing the initial edits and proofreading of Sultan’s first novel, which she is now in the process of publishing. She’s the first in our latest interview series.

Sultan - published author

Sultan – author of Finding the Stranger

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and the book(s) you have written, including the genre you prefer:

I am a foreigner; came to South Africa in 1996, fell in love and adopted SA as my home. Besides working to pay for my living expenses, I am an avid reader, passionate about philosophy, psychology and spiritual lifestyle. I wrote my first book over four years ago. Although it is a biography, in essence, it is also a quest for self-discovery, which invites the readers into a fascinating cosmic journey. The genre of my book is ‘magical realism’.

2. Why did you decide to self-publish? What was the process leading up to this decision?

It was a life-long dream to write. I did not have the commercial mindset or the goal of publishing. After approaching a few publishers, I understood that my novel was not commercial enough to be published. Therefore, I decided to publish it myself. The challenges I faced with publishing houses were mostly that they have a commercial approach rather than aesthetic or depth. Although I have gotten superb feedback on the style and the story, the assumptions were that there was a slim chance to make money. This is my take. However, it is important to go through that process. One learns a lot in doing so.

3. What kind of feedback have you had from your readers and editors?

Interestingly enough, I have only had great feedback. Readers were very enthusiastic and provided feedback that they read through it overnight. I had two editors, both very positive, and both encouraged me to go for publishing.

4. We’d like to know the results of your decision. Would you consider it successful? Why? What does success mean to you?

It has not yet been published, we are in the process of finalising the editing. In a month or two, it will be published, I will be able to provide further feedback then.

5. If you knew then (before embarking on the journey of self-publishing) what you know now, what would you tell yourself?

No matter what publishers say to you, if you believe in your book/story, go ahead and self publish. In the end, it is your journey and your story. Whatever healing that it is supposed to bring, it is supposed to bring it to you and to the reader. So, do it and impact others through your writing/story.

6. Please give us a quick list of pros and cons for the self-publishing route:

Pros: It is a definite avenue that you will be a published author with an IBN number etc… and you can advertise your book on Amazon and at the bookshops.

Cons: It can be a little unstructured and take time. I also found that finding the right editor who grasps your story and is able to edit it is super crucial. I have lost more than a year with the wrong one, and had to find a new one.

7. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Contrary to my beliefs, writing did not turn out to be an entirely creative process. Prerequisites are first: structure, discipline and dedication. Once you have the first three in place, the creative process inside you begins unfolding. The starting point is your will to write a book and to make the necessary time in your calendar to get up and do it. I have spared two to three hours on the weekends for my writing, and it took about four years to complete this while having full-time jobs.

Then, just some fun questions:

8. Do you try to be as original as possible? Or do you prefer to stick to what you know readers / publishing houses are looking for?

This is a choice. If you are in it for commercial gain, then you have to adapt to what publishing houses are looking for. If you are writing authentically for what you believe and what you want to write, then you have to be original. I chose to be original.

9. When did you first experience the power of literature?

I was 13 years old when I read ‘Follow Where Your Heart Takes You’ by Oriana Fallaci. It was more the title that grabbed me, and then the content of the book, which was a very personal narrative of the author.

10. How much time do you spend writing per day / week?

A few hours per week.

11. What do you tend to edit out of your books after the initial writing?

The syntax and grammar

12. What could you have done as a child or teenager to ensure that you were an even better writer today?

Read more, dream more and write more 🙂 I had an imbalance of the three: I dreamed far more than I read and I never carried a notebook and a pen with me. So, I wish my parents had encouraged me to carry a notebook and a pen and encouraged me to write.

13. How long (on average) does it take you to write a book and how many times do you edit it?

It is a very unique to each author and story. So you can write a book in one year or in four, ten, twenty years! In my case, I had the novel edited three times.

14. What else do you do, if you aren’t a full-time writer?

I own my own business, so most of my time is spent working! However, I have started my second book, which I try to spend a few hours a week on.

Finding the Stranger will be available via Porcupine Press and Amazon.com later this year.

*Note: all interviews are published as submitted, and not edited*

Getting Published – A Series of Interviews

January16

Over the years, I’ve been approached by loads of aspiring or actual authors. Some have an idea for a book, others have ventured into actually writing the book. But all of them have one thing in common – they want to get published. And, the more writers that I meet or chat to, the more I realise how vague, misunderstood, complex and maybe even frustrating the publishing process can be.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be interviewing a number of authors that have been or are being published. Some have opted for publishing houses, others have gone down the route of self-publishing. I’ll be chatting to them about their experiences, and gleaning some valuable advice from them so that those wanting to head down this very exciting course have some sort of direction, and a better idea of what to expect.

I’m excited to share these insights with you.

Meet Tiffany Markman

November28

South Africa is brimming with literary genius. Meet some of these writers…

Tiffany Markman

What 5 words would you use to describe your writing?
– Careful, considered, clean, symmetrical, necessary

tiffanyWho is your favourite author?
– Today it’s Andy Bounds (non-fiction).

What are you reading right now?
– Actually, nothing. I’m working such long hours at the moment that the last thing I want to do during down-time is read. I use QuizUp (an app) to relax.

How do you define a good piece of writing?
– Cleverly planned and stylishly executed

Why do you write (to relax, to vent, etc…)?
– Because I love it.

What do you listen to while writing?
– Ambient coffee shop noise (and soon, I imagine, our generator).

Who would play you in a movie of your life?
– Rosemary DeWitt (Google her).

What’s on your desk right now?
– A completed vendor application form. A bowl of blueberries. A Sharpie. A broken plastic tiara (don’t ask). A tax invoice from AAA Aabacus Emergency Locksmiths.

What other art / creative channels interest you?
– Painting.

Writers have a reputation for being a little eccentric. How would you respond to this?
– We’re not eccentric – just misunderstood.

Check out Tiffany’s website, book review blog and Facebook page.

 

Meet Derrick Spies

September25

South Africa is brimming with literary genius. Meet some of these writers…

Derrick Spies

What 5 words would you use to describe your writing?
Words on a page / screen

Who is your favourite author?
There are plenty. Terry Pratchett, James Patterson, Brent Weeks, Trudi Canavan, Peter F. Hamilton. George R. R. Martin (before the rest of the world heard about Game of Thrones)

What are you reading right now?
The correct answer to this question would be your e-mail and the sentence I’m typing, but fiction wise, I’m not reading anything at the moment (there’s just not enough hours in a day). Current non fiction reads includes articles on Fracking and tips for organic planting.

How do you define a good piece of writing?
A good piece of writing is hard to define… there are so many different styles and genres of writing, and I have different expectations from each of them. As a professionally trained journalist, with ten years plus of writing for a living behind me, I do tend to be a bit or a grammar Nazi. Correct spelling and punctuation are always important and the lack thereof tends to put me off immediately. 


But it’s more than that. From a journalistic perspective, a piece of writing is good if it makes sense. There is an adage that states write what you know. For a journalist, this is probably the best advice anyone could ever give you. I always maintain that if I don’t understand something I’m writing about, how can I expect my readers to? 


It’s also a good piece of writing if it succinctly portrays the events that have taken place while at the same time going beyond the straight forward who what where when how. A great example of good journalistic writing would be the recent feature done by City Press on the Faces of Marikana (http://www.m24i.co.za/facesofmarikana/)

A good piece of fiction, for me, must create a believable world that you can immerse yourself into. 

Why do you write (to relax, to vent, etc…)?
Why do I write? Because I must. Because the ink is in my veins. It’s a compulsion. It’s so bad that I started my own newspaper just so that I could have a platform to continue writing. 

What do you listen to while writing?
When writing news articles I’m usually not listening to anything, except the click clack of the computer keys as I type. When writing fiction, sometime between midnight and 3am, I tend to listen to Metallica. (In fact two tracks on repeat, Turn the Page and Whiskey in the Jar).

Who would play you in a movie of your life?
I would never do that to any actor, ever… unless, maybe, Morgan Freeman?

What’s on your desk right now?
Perhaps a better question would be what’s not. Invoices, stapler, various assorted papers, notes, bluetooth keyboard, computer, newspaper, hand sanitizer, flash drive, empty tea cup (which reminds me… I want tea).

With other art / creative channels interest you?
 I love gardening, graphic design and photography.

Writers have a reputation for being a little eccentric. How would you respond to this?
 I have no idea what they’re talking about 😛 

 

Have a look at Derrick’s website,  Metro Newspaper.

 


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