Where are the Non-fiction Books?

A quick look at Amazon and I find more than 25 books about the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. There are books focussing just on the events of that horrible night.

Books about the trial. Books about Reeva Steenkamp’s life and her untimely end.

I know for a fact at least three of these books, on which friends of mine worked, that were commissioned by publishers and were being written during the trial with a mad dash as soon as the sentence was handed down to get the book to the printers and into the shops when the interest was still high.

These books were primarily written by journalists or people with a journalism background. One thing publishers know is that non-fiction sells much more than fiction and a trial like this had just what the public loves: high drama, famous people, and murder.

In Botswana, we may not have had a trial with such worldwide captivation as the Pistorius trial, but we’ve had plenty of stories with high drama and intrigue that might have made fantastic books.

In the recent past, the death of Louis Nchindo and the pending corruption trial that preceded it and continued afterwards would have made a fascinating non-fiction book if handled by a seasoned investigative journalist and a publisher with a keen eye for markets.

And what about the murder trial and hanging of Mariette Bosch? It is a real life murder mystery with a love triangle gone wrong waiting to be fully investigated and written about.

The story of John Kalafatis is another story that written as a book I think would fly off the shelves. Even the currently unfolding problematic saga of our DIS chief Isaac Kgosi would make a fascinating book that I think many would rush to buy.

Why are these books not being written in Botswana? Our publishers are missing a fantastic opportunity. These books could be the way to begin to establish a local trade market for books and a culture of buying books among Batswana. They could be the gateway into global publishing for a courageous publisher. 

Already Mma Nasha’s, Rre Merafhe’s, and Rre Magang’s books have shown that Batswana have an interest in non-fiction books. These books got a lot of media coverage and many people bought and read them. But non-fiction books needn’t be only the memoirs of former politicians. There are a myriad of topics beckoning both writers and publishers that books readers would love to read.

In other countries, the rise and fall of Culture Spears and the demise of the marriage of their star duo would be a story authors and publishers would be gnashing their teeth to get ahold of. Why not in Botswana?

Newspapers are snatched up to get the latest from Charma Gal on her divorce, but no publisher sees this as a niche that they could possibly fill? No entertainment reporter is interested in this story? I know readers would be. In South Africa, The Kelly Khumalo Story was a bestseller.

Worldwide non-fiction sells better than fiction. Although I don’t have any figures, I believe this recent spurt of political memoirs have sold well in the Botswana market. Publishers are currently suffering economically because of the continued lack of buying of books by the Ministry of Education and Skills Development. Must these publishers just sit with their hands in their laps and watch their bank balance tumble into the red? Challenges are opportunities.

There is an entire new area of publishing- creative non-fiction. These are non-fiction books that use the tools of fiction, tools such as characterisation, dialogue, and setting. In Botswana, books on the effect of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the country could be well told using a creative non-fiction model.

Taking the story through one family and bringing in the country-wide issues. Even the Segametsi Mogomotsi murder trial would be another non-fiction book well written using a creative non-fiction approach.  And what are we losing by not having these books? I think a lot. These books tell a comprehensive story about issues that held and, in many cases still hold, our national attention.


Books give space for the entire story to play out, unlike news stories limited by space and appearing as piece meal. I believe there is a market for these types of books, the success of the political memoirs predicts this and I think our populace is ready for such books.

Editor's Comment
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