Self Publishing / Printing

Book Publishing

The Aspiring Author’s Guide To Self Publishing in South Africa


Today, the advent and popularization of digital printing means authors looking at self publishing in South Africa have an inexpensive means to see their own name in print and get eyes on their work.
Self publishing a book gives authors complete editorial control over it, as well as all the rights to it and the opportunity to earn higher royalties than one would typically see working with a traditional publisher.
But, the road from manuscript to successful self published author isn’t as clear cut as simply editing, printing and waiting for the bucks to roll in...
In this guide, we aim to share everything aspiring authors need to know (that’s you) to learn how to publish a book in South Africa, and more importantly, how to position themselves to maximize their marketability and earning potential from the get-go.
Self Publishing in South Africa Explained

Your journey from draft to published and printed book starts here. Start right from the top if you’re doing this for the very first time, or feel free to navigate to any of the sections that pique your interest below:

  • Book Editing
  • Book Cover Design & Layout
  • ISBN, Barcodes & Copyright
  • Print on Demand Model
  • Book Royalties & Tax
  • Marketing Your Book
Book Editing

So, you’ve written a manuscript that resembles the makings of a bestselling book and your friends and families have given it a read — to outstanding reviews and general appreciation of your literary talents — but, it needs to be polished and prepped for publishing by a professional (see what I did there).

This is where book editing, proofing and formatting comes into play.

You most likely have your own unique writing style and a way with words, not to mention some technically challenging subject matter or complex narratives, but no one is perfect.

Mistakes happen, grammar usage may slip, the structure of paragraphs and chapters may need some adjusting, references to others’ work may need accurate attribution and the list goes on.

A book usually takes a few months or even years to complete, so it’s often difficult to see your own mistakes since the content has become a “part” of you.

Book editing is a technical skill in itself, and like with most things you actually care about, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion by approaching a professional to cast an experienced and objective eye over your work.

Not to mention, it also helps you become a much better writer, which, at the end of the day, is really what you want to be 100% focused on to expedite the process next time around (yes, we can see a long and prosperous series of novels in your future!)

Book Cover Design & Layout

The old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover” might be applicable when it comes to selecting a suitable partner (looks fade) or giving people you don’t know the time of day, but when it comes to your book cover design, its page layout and how all of that translates into sales of your work, it’s a bit of a different story that needs to be considered carefully and judged with an eye for what makes someone pick your book up out of thousands.

There are key elements that need to be considered to pull everything together into a marketable masterpiece:

  • Fonts
  • Sizing
  • Spacing
  • Use of colours
  • Use of artwork

Much like with book editing, it’s extremely important to enlist the services of experts that have design know-how to create something that grabs the attention of your audience and prompts them to the checkout.

As it’s your work that’s going to be put out on display, you probably have a few book cover ideas of your own.

Design is very subjective so it’s recommended that you do a bit of homework yourself to get some perspective before speaking to a designer.

Take a trip to your local bookstore and browse the section your work will most likely be categorised in. Put yourself in the shoes of your intended audience. Get a feel for what catches your eye and what the current trends and layout options are.

This should provide you with an actionable starting point on how to design a book cover that covers all the necessary bases and positions your work for sales success.

ISBN, Barcodes & Copyright

Many of you new to this all might be asking yourselves, “what is ISBN?”

Well, ISBN or International Standard Book Number is a unique numeric book identifier that enables your book to be found anywhere in the world.

It’s especially important if you’re planning on printing paperback and hardback editions of your work (you need a separate ISBN for both).

If you’re also planning on releasing an eBook version, it’s good to know that most of the big eBook retailers out there like Amazon (Kindle), Apple (iBooks), Kobo and Sony don’t require an ISBN.

In the case of Amazon, once you upload your eBook onto their platform they assign your book with a unique tracking number known as ASIN or Amazon Standard Identification Number.

That being said, you’d have to track sales of your work through each of those platforms individually, and that may actually be more of a hassle as opposed to just going through the paces of ISBN number registration from the start.

ISBN registration is beneficial in that your title can be tracked and found by booksellers, libraries, book wholesalers and distributors in South Africa and internationally.

It allows for accurate sales reporting and it also serves as your books unique identifier and date stamp of sorts, which is very useful for copyright purposes.

When it comes to copyright in South Africa, as soon as you’ve put your story down it automatically qualifies you as the lawful owner of your work, but you still have to be able to prove that you wrote it first should unlawful reproduction of your material become evident.

As and when you register your book for an ISBN, you will be required to send a copy/copies to the National Library of South Africa and this can be used as proof that you are the rightful owner. To apply for an ISBN number you will need to supply the following information: the title of the book, name of the author, e mail address as well as physical address and phone number of author.!

Having a barcode generated for your print book from the ISBN is also an important step if you wish to sell it in bookstores, so we will always recommend new authors to proceed with both ISBN and barcode generation.

* We are not copyright lawyers and if there is any doubt in your mind as how to protect your work and have greater peace of mind, it’s best to consult a legal professional.

The Print on Demand Model

If it isn’t already glaringly obvious why self publishing is the best option for you, I felt that it might be prudent to quickly explain the benefits of our namesake and business model that allows for short-run book printing.

Save Time

The print on demand model leverages digital printing technology to slash the time required for production cycles, which are much longer with traditional publishers. That means your book can be printed and sent out within a few days as demand dictates.

Maximise Your Profits

With traditional publishers that finance your idea, they have set royalties. Self publishing through print on demand services means you can negotiate margins to arrive at a rate you’re happy with.

You Own The Rights To Your Work

If you went down the route of working with a traditional publisher, you’d sign over the rights of your book in exchange for royalties. With self publishing, you are the alpha and omega of your decision to print and distribute where and when you like. Your book stays yours to sell even years later, when a publisher would most probably have forgotten all about it.

Easier To Test The Market

Short-run printing gives you the opportunity to “test the waters” for any new niche ideas you may be conjuring up in that creative brains of yours. This is something that is impossible with traditional publishing.

Leaving a Legacy

Whilst profits may be at the top of most authors’ list, sharing content in the form of family memoirs, poems, short stories and the like through short-run printing helps you to leave a legacy of sorts and that is also a very commendable reason to publish.

Print on Demand

Print on Demand (POD) offers full-service support packages for local authors that proves “local is lekker” from editing/proofing, designing and printing your very own book to marketing on their own online book store.

POD has also secured a strategic partnership with Takealot that means authors can advertise and sell their books on the Takaelot site through Print on Demand.

There is also further marketing support provided in the form of a short video of the author with their work for their own marketing purposes (see marketing your book below).

Fees: Costs vary depending on the level of service required
ISBN: Required
ITIN: Not required
Royalty rate: Royalties are discussed with the author and set at a rate the author is happy with and paid out monthly (not quarterly as is the norm in the industry)
Payment: Deposited directly into a South African bank account

Check out Print on Demand for more information on how to get started.

Work out your potential royalties with our book royalty calculator on the POD online bookstore.

Marketing Your Book

Having your book published is really just the start of your journey to becoming a successful self published author.

In order to make money, your books need to sell.

The global distribution coverage that platforms promise to provide you is certainly very helpful, but it is simply not enough to get you earning a living, especially in the beginning.

If you’re serious about being an author, you need to learn how to market a self published book outside of the channels being used to sell it.

How To Market a Book Online

Outside of the channels you’ll be utilizing online, the most obvious and useful thing you can do is to create a personal website.

This gives you the freedom of having your own online book store (and 100% of the profits that you’d otherwise be sharing with other intermediaries).

Driving visitors to your site can be accomplished through a number of online marketing activities that include:

  1. SEO (search engine optimisation) is a long-term strategy based on publishing keyword optimised content on your site’s blog to attract targeted visitors (this method is free and is as suitable as any because it only requires you to write — something you should hopefully be good at)
  2. YouTube videos with links to your sales pages in the description e.g. a video series where you share tips on how to get over writer’s block
  3. Facebook Ads to drive targeted traffic back to your sales pages or your blog articles to help fan the flames of interest in your latest book series
  4. Contact your friends who are local authors to help write reviews for your new book on their sites with a link to your sales page

When you start to see some traffic coming through to your site, it is also advisable to build an email list.

This gives you access to the inboxes of people who are interested in your unique content for you to promote new books as and when you publish them.

How To Market a Book Offline

Marketing your book in the outside world is something that will require a definite amount of legwork on your part.

Your first stop in navigating the waters of PR is a book launch.

This is a must for new authors that are looking to leverage the support of all their adoring friends, family and business associates.

Hosting a book launch event at your house — insert free wine, half for your nerves and half for loosening up the minds and pockets of those invite — will work just fine.

Approaching a local book store or anywhere that you can fit a reasonable amount of people into is also not a bad option, it’s just about getting the numbers there.

Getting this friendly exposure from the start will go miles to giving you the confidence you need to continue in the face of adversity on your selling journey.

Not to mention that a successful launch (where books are almost guaranteed to be purchased) can offset the costs incurred in getting your book published.

If you’ve gone ahead with your own website and you’ve managed to garner a bunch of emails you can market the launch that way.

You may even consider running some Facebook ads or printing some flyers with a QR code on them to redirect potential prospects back to your site and promotional content.

Forgo the traditional publishing route with indie bookstores.

They support indie authors and they may even pay you upfront for some copies of your books to test the market, or take your literary treasures on consignment to be paid once a few or all of them have been picked up.

Reach out to traditional publishers.

Some bookstores have a central office where all orders are generated and distributed to the different branches, but many bookstores operate independently per branch and orders are done in that way.

It can become quite time consuming to connect with separate branches to market you book, so it is good to keep this in mind when planning your marketing strategy.

Implementing a successful marketing strategy is something that takes a healthy helping of dedication and sheer willpower to action over many, many months (but, we know that you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t have it in you to succeed!)

We trust that this guide to self publishing in South Africa has given you the necessary information and tools to get you started on your journey to becoming the next J.K Rowling, James Patterson, Danielle Steel or Wilbur Smith.

Print on Demand is honoured to work with some of South Africa’s leading self published authors and we’d relish the opportunity to help you bring your work to life.

Please feel free to ask us anything about self publishing, our services and how we can assist you today!

Get in touch with Print on Demand
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