I often get messages from writers/bloggers/people with words in their heads asking me what is the best way to get published. The truth is, I don’t actually know what is the best way but I have picked up a few things on the way. Diary of a Guji Girl, my debut novel, was published by an independent publisher called Wordflute.
The inimitable Shafinaaz Hassim picked up the blog and set up a meeting with me one chilly evening in 2013 to chat about the possibility of publishing. It took a few months to convince me and a solid NINE months to work on the book. The advantage I had was that my characters were already defined, I just needed to refine the plot of the story and polish it up a whole lot. It took weeks and weeks of writing and rewriting. The process was most daunting.
But in the first week of December 2015, I launched my debut novel about Indian/ Muslim subculture in South Africa through the story of a very stereotypical young girl. The reception the book received from all types of people was overwhelming. We were sold out in a week.
And then I wrote this blog post of the process of being published. But time is the best teacher. I thought I learnt all the lessons life had for me when the book was launched last December. The truth is, I had no idea of what was yet to come.
The thing about publishing a novel is that you are only as good as the number of people buying your book. And when the book hit bookstores, the book tour began. It is only as glamorous in the movies. I travelled most of the country- paying my own way- speaking to groups of hundreds of people to sometimes just one person. I remember once at a book signing, only one lady showed up. I was very demoralised. But a few weeks later I did a TV interview that was phenomenal. Then big newspapers rated the book a must read. Also a book show on national radio gave me some time to chat about my book.
There were times when I could never believe if it was all real. Then there were times when i questioned every life decision I had ever made. I don’t think I know the ins and outs of publishing just yet. But here is a brief summary of things you need to keep in mind if you want your writing out there. Most importantly, you have to believe in yourself, your idea and your writing. In your mind, your story has to be worth the pages it would be written on.
So here is a few things I learnt about publishing so far for newbie writers or people who are not celebrities or people who are not related to people who dated an paralympian who shot his girlfriend.
– Publishers don’t publish ideas.
– Publishers want to sell books.
– Publishers want to sell lots. And. Lots. And. Lots. of books.
– You will NOT become rich by publishing a novel. Or even five.
– The South African fictional genre is mostly ignored by big publishers.
– Big publishers actually don’t publish unsolicited manuscripts.
– If it is your first book, small and independent publishers are the way to go. They look after you and your work.
– Publishers will want to suck out the most of you. Make sure you are clever when negotiating a contract. Also, know you place.
– Writing books do not make you rich. At least not in South Africa. Did I mention that before? Eh. Well…
– Write. Write everyday. It is the only way to get recognised.
– Only write a genre that inspires you and makes you happy. You can’t force writing.
– Hits on a blog doesn’t mean you write well. I had more than 2 million hits in under a year but my writing was crap.
– Read a lot of authors you want to be like someday but be weary of copying their ideas.
– Nobody needs to agree with your ideas before you write it.
– Take risks.
– Network. Talk to people. Push people to your writing.
– Take feedback like a dose of vitamins. It may taste weird but it always helps.
– Enjoy the writing process.
– Punt yourself.
– On that note, you can buy Diary of a Guji Girl from all Exclusive Books countrywide as well as a few independent book stores.
I have had the great fortune of having my debut novel published and in major book stores at 21 years old. I have learnt a lot. And I have made a million mistakes. Sometimes when I read a section of my book I cringe. Was I too verbose? Why am I using so many adjectives? These are some of the thoughts that run through my mind. But it has been one of my biggest achievements to date.
2014 was a year I dedicated to this achievement. The early parts of 2015 I had to adjust to having my writing out there for people to read and judge but also to reach targets of the book’s reach. I am so grateful that we have met almost all of our targets. However, by the second half of this year, I had Diary of a Guji Girl fatigue. I could barely punt the book or even talk about it. It became too much to handle.
But on the one year anniversary of the publishing of my debut novel, I know that writing is something that is pretty much part of my being. While my day job allows me to play with words, fictional writing would always be my ‘sidechick’ that fulfils me in so many ways.
Yours in writing.