Mmegi Blogs :: Wrong ideas about writing
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Last Updated
Friday 23 February 2018, 16:00 pm.
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Wrong ideas about writing

Some of the things people say to me about writing shock me. Itís not like in the past where getting information required someone going to the library and digging through reference books to find the answer. Nowadays itís a matter of a google search.
By Lauri Kubuitsile Fri 26 Jan 2018, 18:55 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Wrong ideas about writing








I would expect someone who is, or wants to be a writer to know how to use Google and to actually use it. If you don’t have time nor inclination to search for your own answers, please give up writing now and find a less demanding occupation.

For example, someone the other day asked if I would be their agent! I have written in this column about many of these issues, as well as spoken about them, and a google search would reveal that a writer, which I am, is not an agent. A writer like me is someone who needs an agent.

A literary agent represents your book manuscript to publishers in an attempt to get a book deal. The agent makes money off of what the author earns on the book, usually 10%. As I’ve written before, in Africa if you’re submitting your book to publishers here, you don’t need an agent. And in fact, if you search carefully, even overseas there are publishers that don’t require an agent, but most do, of course. An agent will only accept books that they feel they can sell, their income depends on that, so finding an agent is tough.

Getting an agent to try and sell your book to an African trade publisher would be a waste of time. Recently, I learned that the typical English literary novel in the trade market in South Africa sells in its lifetime 800 copies, note: not in a year, over its lifetime.

If you do the maths, it becomes apparent why an agent would not work in this equation. Let’s say a book has a cover price of P200. The bookstore will normally get a big discount, let’s be conservative for this example and say 30%. So that brings the earnings for the publisher per book to P140, so for the sale of 800 books, the publisher earns P112,000. Keep in mind that is NOT profit, they

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have to cover all of the upfront costs of putting the book out including: editing, proofreading, cover design, book design, printing, marketing and distribution.

The writer’s royalty rate is normally 10%, so the writer earns P11,200 on those 800 books, and the agent would take 10% of that which would be P1,120. Note this amount might be made over 3-4 years, dripping in each year at royalty time.

That would be about  P3,733 per year for the writer (P311/month) and 10% of that for the agent. So you can see it’s not viable. Writers in Southern Africa need to do their own hustling for publishing deals it’s part of the job.

Despite how many times I say it and write it, I still get people asking me: “Where do you get money to publish your books?” I don’t. I don’t pay anyone any money to publish my books. Most successful writers are published traditionally, and in traditional publishing, the publisher pays everything. The writer pays NOTHING. I earn royalties on the sale of copies of my books.

If someone approaches you and says that they’re a “publisher” and they want you to pay them money to publish your book, turn and walk away. They’re not a “publisher”, they might be a self-publisher or a vanity publisher, but they are not a traditional publisher and they are attempting to use subterfuge to pull you in. Step carefully if you choose to proceed.

It’s the responsibility of the writer to learn the business. I try my best to cover most of these issues in this column, but still people send me the most shocking questions. They can’t take their time to read this column or to google, but expect me to educate them one-by-one; I find this disrespectful. Normally I delete such messages. In any case, my experience tells me that anyone wanting another to carry them rarely learns to walk successfully on their own.

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