In 2004, I had proudly finished my first manuscript of the YA/time travel novel “Children of the Moon”, and there was still a long way to go from manuscript to published book. After about 15 test readers had given me the thumbs up, I began sending the manuscript out to publishers in South Africa. Yes, in those days we weren’t allowed to send anything by e-mail but had to post the manuscript then waited for it to come back before we could send it to the next editor.
Time-consuming and expensive? You bet!
Imagine my surprise, when editors told me that, had the story been set in South Africa, they would have taken my book in a heartbeat. I fondly remembered growing up and reading books that were set in countries other than my own (Germany) and thoroughly enjoying the diverse cultures I was reading about. One day, I was in the middle of the civil war in Louisiana, the next part of the French revolution, lived in Chinese villages and on Swedish farms. In South Africa, this would not do. A story had to be based in this country and nowhere else.
Now, that’s almost like telling somebody, they won’t get a job, because they have grey eyes. There is simply nothing you can do about it. And I didn’t want to change my story. Could publishers really be so narrow-minded?
Despite this apparent set-back, I found two publishers in 2005 and 2007 who took me on and “Children of the Moon” enjoyed a certain success until the publishing industry collapsed at the end of 2008 in financial chaos that brought our world economy to its knees.
But that’s a story for another day.
Those editors had left me thoroughly puzzled. Feedback from readers, on the other hand, was very different. One of my Xhosa readers, 23 at the time, said that ‘We already know what life in a township is like. I want to read what’s happening in the rest of the world.’ So, publishers wanted one thing and readers wanted another. Where did that leave the author? I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I whole-heartedly approve of South African stories – but not exclusively, please. The spice of variety was missing, and regardless of the fact that books imported from overseas were much sought after, South African publishers stuck to their guns.
Without any doubt, this situation contributed to self-publishing taking off like a rocket. The internet exploded with possibilities. At last books could be published without having the ‘gatekeepers’ disapprove of the author’s choice of location. Now anybody could publish a book, any book, many books… and that’s exactly what I did – and other South African authors, itching to publish their stories.
Thanks to international internet platforms, authors were now able to share their stories with readers here and in the rest of the world. It’s going swimmingly, thanks for asking. And what about South African publishers, you want to know? Well, not much has changed, it seems. I attended a seminar recently to which writers and journalists had been invited. The speaker represented a renowned publishing house and told the audience that all was not well with the local publishing industry. I asked why they didn’t try to go with the times and was told that ‘things had always been that way’. The internet was the bad guy. Ah well, until they wake up to a new world of literature, our SA authors are busy as bees and delight with their books at home and overseas.
Award-winning author, Evadeen Brickwood,
writes adventure mysteries and time travel books
and lives with her family in Johannesburg. j3�