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

Introduction 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. Find out how we can help you distribute your book locally and internationally
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 – receiving outstanding reviews and appreciation of your literary talents. It now needs to be polished and prepared 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 book’s 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 the author!

Having a barcode generated for your print book from the ISBN is an important step if you wish to sell it in bookstores, so we’ll 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 to 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 optimise 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 brain 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, designing and printing your very own book to marketing our local and international distributions platforms.
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 invited — 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 your 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.

Contact us to find out more