Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The advantages of writing for the SA publishing market

There are times when I’m grateful that I work in a small publishing market, where editors and publishers are still accessible to authors and respond to correspondence as matter of course.

This feeling was especially strong yesterday morning when I received an email from the publisher I mentioned in the previous entry. She said she was going away for a week and would give proper attention to my manuscript when she came back. Her response arrived just a couple of hours after she received my email.

Swift response like that from an agent/editor/publisher who has no publishing contract with an author is unheard of in the US and UK.

As an author looking for ways to break into those markets, I’ve learnt is those markets are very unforgiving to those who do not adhere to the query and submission guidelines. Agents demand that an author submit a detailed query letter that is just as impressive as the manuscript. Turn around time can be anything from two weeks to six months. That is, if you are lucky and they do read your submission and respond.

Also, most of the publishing houses only look at manuscripts submitted by agents, making the kind of personal contact and caring that I have experienced from this publisher impossible.

The big advantage is that in these markets, there is a potential for a larger readership base and sales revenues. This improves one’s chances of making a decent living solely as an a writer – a dream of mine.

Small markets, like the SA market, are however disadvantaged in terms of readership and revenues. Literacy levels are still not high enough, and millions of families cannot afford to buy books for entertainment purposes. So unless one writes educational material and the book is prescribed for use in schools, chances of earning good money from writing are very limited.

My current strategy is to work hard to build a solid reputation as a children’s author in SA and Africa, while at the same time putting in some effort to crack the US and UK markets. I will also look into the possibility of selling foreign rights to some of the African countries.

Once I’ve conquered SA and the rest of the continent, I’m sure I will become a more interesting proposition for foreign publishers.

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