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Jun 03, 2016

A Frank Discussion with Adriaan van der Westhuizen

Author and star of Kortverhale van Stilfontein en ander stories, Adriaan van der Westhuizen, has seen great success with his debut collection. The sAvdW-Kortverhalehort stories that make up this nostalgic and whimsical collection of tales are all true, and tell the tales of his and his young adventures.

We asked Adriaan to share a little more about the man behind the words:

 

What were you like at school?

What you read is exactly how I remember experiencing it. But in those days I wasn’t such an extrovert as I am today. I only discovered my leadership abilities when I went to serve in the South African Defense Force.

 

What was your favourite subject?

Ugh…. Hated school with a passion but I guess it would have to be Biology. I was able to pass exams by just studying the sketches.

 

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

My goal is to write two more books this year. The first will be about cycling. I’m a keen cyclist and, just like the stories in Kortverhale van Stilfontein, I’ve been through some hilarious and awesome experiences. Cycling, especially mountain biking, has been booming in our beautiful country, and there’s a lot I can write about it.

The second book that I’m planning will be about adventure motor cycling, another passion of mine. Both books will be more or less in the same style as this one.

 

Which writers inspire you?

I started reading at a young age. My grandmother worked in a second hand book shop. Even though my home language is Afrikaans, she would bring us all the Enid Blyton books to read, Famous Five, Secret Seven. Then I got all the Hardy Boys books, in hard cover, old as the mountains. Next was Allister McClean (I love Second World War movies), and after that I did all the Wilbur Smith books up to the Egyptian stories. I was amazed to see that a South African writer can be so popular. Then I stopped reading for a long time, until the Stieg Larrson trilogy came out and I found it simply amazing. Then I started reading Deon Meyer. I met him on one of our adventure motorcycling events. But I have to say, my favorite author of all time is Herman Charles Bosman. One of our prescribed reads at school was Mafikeng Road and other Stories. We did it in Standard 6 and again in Standard 8 (Grade 10). I didn’t enjoy it much then, but years later, after I moved to Johannesburg from Stilfontein, I stumbled upon The Illustrated Bosman, a compilation of his work, with beautiful illustrations in water colors. I read the whole book in a day or two, realizing that he wrote much more stories than we were given in school, like Cold Stone Jug, about his experiences on death-row, after shooting his stepbrother

 

Tell us about Kortverhale van Stilfontein. Why did you decide to write the collection?

It all started as an email, in 2002. I sent an email to our secretary, telling her what we used to do in the school bus on our way home after school. I could hear her laughing behind her desk while reading it. I decided to keep the story (Skoolbus Ry).

A few months later, I wrote the second story Kadet Orkes, when my cadet band teacher’s daughter walked into my office. She was seconded to monitor pollution on the mine where I was working at the time. I also sent her an email, telling her what we as a band got up to. Same thing. I kept the mail because it was good reading.

The third story I wrote was Japie Viljoen. He’s a lifelong friend of mine. I wrote his story for his 40th birthday, and his whole family loved it. Then I just kept on writing. Every time I experienced something special, I’d write about it and save it. In December 2014, I decided to compile it into a book and find a publisher. It took me more than a year to find someone that would print it for me.

One of my school friends introduced me to a proof reader and editor who “fixed” my book and then in turn introduced me to “eRreads South Africa”. I never realised that self-publishing was an option.

Then came the front cover. One of my friends suggested that I use a painting that I’d done way back in 2005, as the cover. The painting is about our farm worker, Ismael, who  was tasked by my dad, to collect my sister and I at the bus stop after school, and then bring us home on his bicycle. So I obviously then had to write a story of Ismael, which is the last story that I did for this book.

 

 

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing some of the characters from the book?

Jo….. Never thought of this one. I think for an Audio book, Marius Weyers. The man has an awesome voice. If this book was to become a movie, I wouldn’t know where to start. I reckon that for the child actor parts, kids would have to be interviewed, so that I could find someone that resembles the characters closely. For Japie’s mom, Elize Cawood, and for Shakespeare, our English teacher, Gordon Mulholland would have been perfect.

 

Why did you choose to self-publish?

I couldn’t find any publishers that were interested. I sent manuscripts out around the world with no results.

 

What was the biggest surprise that self-publishing gave you?

I never realised how much preparation must be done before you can hold a book in your hands, and how much it would cost. I had to fund this whole project out of my own pocket, and to get 300 books printed, cost close to R 27,000.00. I was very relieved when I sold enough books to cover my costs, and also have a little left for a second print.

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Feb 02, 2016

The one thing you need to do to read more in 2016

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In these times of clickbait, Buzzfeed and mental devolution, it’s social media suicide to expect your followers to read through anything more challenging than a list of 10.  Ain’t nobody got time for that. There is no place for full sentences or coherence when you’re competing with  ‘17Birds who are complete assholes‘.

Well, we’re going to do you one better. eReads proudly presents, not the 10 things, not the 5 things, but the ONE thing you need to do to read more in 2016:

Realise that reading is not optional.

 Now bear with me, Buzzfeed is not going anywhere. Think about it: The majority of functioning humans take the time each morning to cleanse and preen. We shower, we brush our teeth. We wear something pretty. More than half of us take an additional 30 minutes to lather our faces with various pastes and coax our hair into submission. We consider this ritual of making ourselves presentable to the outside world as imperative. A brave few go even further and drag themselves to some sort of gymnasium, where, I’m told, a lot of healthy things happen. We sacrifice this precious morning time because we have to. To stagger into work wearing pajamas and reeking of yesterday’s sins is not an option.

Now think of reading as a mind shower. Consider that your mind is just as dishevelled as your body. It is slow and uninteresting. It is most likely clogged with an abundance of useless information, including but not limited to Rihanna lyrics, photos of your friends’ food, and an intimate knowledge of celebrities’ personal lives.  This makes you a boring person. You need to take action every single day to preen your mind, just as you do your body.

Because believe me, nobody wants to hear about what you saw on Facebook this morning. They don’t care which Disney princess you are or which procedural cop show you’re currently binge watching. They want to know about Hemingway and the American dream. They want to be inspired and showered with Wildean wit.  Even if they don’t realise it, they need to hear that Derrida is not a type of fish.

‘I don’t get time to read’ is not a thing. You don’t subject others to your dirty, unkempt body. Show yourself and those who share your air the same courtesy by taking a daily brain shower. Invest the time to cultivate a personality.

But first, go read that post about the birds. They really are unbelievable assholes.

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Oct 08, 2015

Plotting: Some useful resources

There are, essentially, two schools of writer – those who begin a plot, and those who begin with their characters. We’ll dig into characterisation a little later, but today, we focus on plot.

Not everyone plots every details of their story in advance. Some prefer to draft of a vague concept and see where the story takes them. But there is no doubt that you do need some idea of your plot before you get writing. The more complicated your setting, the bigger your cast, the more important it is to know exactly what part each person plays before you even start.

Dr-EvilA very famous example of a thorough notemaker is Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series. He kept such precise notes of his world, his characters and his plot, that when he tragically passed away, leaving his series unfinished, another talented author, Brandon Sanderson, was able to step in and complete the series.

James Patterson is another celebrated plotter. His ability to put together a complete, concise plot means that his notes can be passed on to collaborators and ghost writers in order to keep up with the demand for his books.

A well thought out plot makes it that much easier to write your first draft. So where do you start?

We’ve put together a few resources to help you think through your plot before you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

Happy plotting, one and all!

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Sep 18, 2015

Night of the Dogs: A truly South African tale

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Night of the Dogs available on eReads and Amazon.

Night of the Dogs, by lesser-known South African treasure, Maruwan Gasant, is a thought-provoking and insightful look at today’s South Africa, and the difficulties faced by ordinary people in crossing the racial divide.

Night of the Dogs is set in modern-day South Africa, post-Apartheid, post golden era, where the dust has settled and ordinary people get on with their lives. It take place mostly on a farm called Toekoms, in the Western Cape. The farm’s history is torrid and its citizens are ruled by a curse that spans back to the San, who were the first to come across the lush valley.

Gasant delves fearlessly into race relations within South Africa, into our recent violent past, and into the prejudices still held by many. He explores the effects of these prejudices through the eyes of one family that spans three generation. It carries a measure of discomfort that comes with confronting one’s own prejudices head on. A tale of fear, ignorance, violence and revenge is told beautifully. Gasant writes believable characters, characters you can understand, even when they are at their worst, characters you can root for, characters you can pity.

Even at its darkest, Night of the Dogs brings a glimmer of hope through the eyes of the youngest generation.

eReads rating: 4 Stars

Disclaimer: When reviewing eReads titles, any book that gains less than three stars will be referred back to the author for editing. We do not post reviews lower than three stars. Should you wish to submit a book for review, email ereadssouthafrica@gmail.com. 

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Sep 08, 2015

A first draft is not a book

Self publishing is a wonderful thing. It allows authors to control their own work, to put into the world the product that they intended. Unfortunately many authors don’t realise the amount of work that goes into self publishing a book. I am often amazed at how many so-called authors think their first draft is a product that can be sold.

It’s strange, because writers tend to be fairly open with their words of guidance and advice. The community is happy to give pointers to new writers. So why do so many new authors not understand just how much work goes into putting a final product together? Why do they think they can ignore the value of the editor, when so many of the truly great names in writing – Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Maeve Binchy – have in one way or another agreed that a writer is only as good as their editor.

I can only assume that this lack of knowledge is through a lack of effort. And if you can’t be bothered to do some research on the building blocks of your craft, you can’t be bothered to ensure that you are giving your readers something of value. Frankly, it’s insulting – both to the writing community and to your readers.

2349632625_7c2813f45b_oThose lucky enough to have worked with a publisher at some point have a fairly good idea of what the publishing process entails – the hours of editing, of back-and-forth with your editor, the occasional tears, rage, despondency and the eventual triumph when you discover that the final product is that much better than the draft the publisher accepted.

Of course, dear author, if you don’t know the value of editing, you won’t have managed to find a publisher to oversee this process. Your first unedited draft (possibly read by some well-meaning friend who may have a grasp of your chosen language but certainly not of the art of storytelling) is not going to grab the attention of a publisher and it most certainly is not going to grab the attention of a reader.

Editing is the magic wand that turns a draft into a work of art. It is the key to getting your reader to the end of your book, they hook that gets them to need your next one. An unedited or badly edited book will irritate and offend. “Just who do you think you are, charging money for an unfinished product?” screams the reader.

The fact is that as a writer, it is very difficult to see the shortcomings of your own writing. You don’t see the repetitions, the typos. The don’t know where you’re not digging deep enough, because the story and characters are in your head. You know them. You don’t see the gaps. You don’t know where more explanation is needed. You need an editor to help polish your work. That is, if you have any intention of being taken seriously as a writer.

Self publishing really is a wonderful thing, but as an author you need to commit to putting the best possible product out there. You need to realise that there is a time investment as well as a financial one that must be made. Your ‘friend who’s good at language’ is simply not going to give you the feedback you need to make your story shine. You are doing yourself a disservice by skimping on the editor. It’s as simple as that.

Isn’t it time you take yourself seriously? Don’t you deserve to put the best possible product out there? Sally forth and find yourself an editor today.

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Aug 06, 2015

Are you ready to submit your novel?

Whether you’re self publishing or looking for an agent or publisher, there is a lot of work to do before you can start approaching people. Rejections come thick and fast. Readers and publishers give up on a book quickly, and for a multitude of reasons. It’s in your best interest to make sure that you’re putting forward the best work you possibly can. So how do you prepare?

 

Writer struggles

1. Edit, edit and then edit some more

It is very near impossible for an author to properly edit their own work. You’re too attached. You know what’s in the background, so you miss the gaps. It is incredibly important to make sure that someone else has had some input before you start sending your manuscript around.
Get yourself a Beta reader – someone you trust, who will be honest with their feedback and who knows what they’re talking about. If you’re writing an Afrikaans novel, don’t give it to someone that passed the language with 30% on SG just because they happen to be your closest friend. Give it to someone who knows and loves the language, and has some story-telling savvy.
A Beta reader is a good start, but it’s not enough. Work through their changes and suggestions. Take everything on board. Edit. And then hire an editor. One with experience. There is a huge difference between someone with an opinion and some skill with the language, and someone who is active in the publishing industry. Editing may seem like a big expense, but you’re paying for quality. It’s the one thing you really need to just grit your teeth and pay for.
These steps are important, whether you’re approaching a publisher or going straight to your readers. Both publishers and readers will reject your work quickly if it’s filled with plot holes and bad grammar.

 

2.Summary

If you’re approaching a publisher or agent, you need a well-written, thorough synopsis. You need to tell the publisher exactly what your book brings to the table. You need to check each publisher’s guidelines when you submit – some need more detail than others. A proper synopsis will help you write a good book blurb. This is especially important if you’re self-publishing. You need to sell your book, but not give the game away. Why bother to read a book if you know how it ends?

 

3. The approach letter

This one’s for those publisher-seekers. You need to properly formulate a pitch if you’re going to be sending a manuscript out. You need to tell the publisher who your audience is, what your book is about and what makes it unique and marketable. You need to think it through, and gran their attention. If you send an email along the lines of “I want to publish my book” and attach your entire manuscript, don’t be surprised if you don’t get any responses.

 

4. Cover design, layout and conversion

If you’re serious about self publishing, you need to enlist the help of professionals. Books are judged by their covers, no matter what people say against the practice. No one’s picking up your terrible PowerPoint design. Stop fooling yourself. Layout is just as important. Your cover could be brilliant, but bad formatting can put a reader right off. Sales are great, but word of mouth recommendations are better. You want to make sure your readers are engaged and happy all the way through your book, so that they will encourage others to read it, or give you a good review.
Conversion can also be tricky. There are plenty of free tools available that can help you convert, which is a great help to the tech savvy. But make sure that the end result has a good flow to it, and doesn’t incorporate odd characters. Don’t irritate your reader with shoddy conversions.

 

5. Marketing

Ack! Don’t kid yourself. Marketing is hard. And is starts long before your book is even published. You need to build a social media presence, a mailing list, a following. You need to approach reviewers and book shops if you plan to print. You need to contact publications, attend book fairs, meet other writers. Put together a plan. The more you put into marketing, the more you get out of it. It is hard work, the results are never guaranteed and you have to be shameless. The only guarantee in marketing is this: If you don’t market, you won’t sell.

 

If you’ve done all of this, then guess what? You’re ready to publish! If not, we can help you every step of the way. To check out our services click here. To submit your book for consideration, click here.

 

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Jul 06, 2015

What’s the deal with per-page payment?

In the weeks since Amazon announced their intention to pay authors per page read, rather than per book purchased, we’ve been approached by a lot of authors with a lot of questions. Here’s a quick summation of the top questions and their answers:

 

1. Why are they doing this to us?

According to Amazon, the reasoning is that it’s not fair to charge the same for a 96 page novella as you would for a 600 page opus, and that the ‘per page’ rule benefits customers and authors alike. It may simply be that Amazon’s main concern is keeping their customers happy, so allowing a customer to pay for just a few pages if they decide they don’t like a book is a way to ensure this.

 

2. How do I get full payment for my book?

It’s simple – make sure it’s high quality. Have your book professionally edited, formatted and converted. A poor quality book – whether it’s typos, random forced line breaks, or odd characters where your punctuation is meant to be – will put readers off and fast. Never before have the consequences of these things been as obvious as they are now. Yes, sometimes a reader will simply decide they don’t like the style or the subject matter, but you can maximise readership by ensuring that your book is quality. And we can help with that.

 

3. Will you be charging readers per page?

No. Authors can control what they earn by setting their own pricing, and as such we don’t feel that we need to charge per page read.

 

What are your thoughts on the Amazon payment changes? Are they a curse or a blessing?

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Jun 06, 2015

To self publish, or not to self publish?

This question is becoming one that plagues every writer. Do I send my manuscript out to a publisher, or do I just publish it myself? Surely there’s no reason to give a publisher most of my royalties just to get their logo on my cover?

 

The benefits of a publisher

Unfortunately, the decision is not that black and white. A publisher does a lot of work to get a book out there. They source and pay an editor, they source and pay a cover designer and layout artists. They pay for the print run and the production and conversion of an eBook. They can get your book into book stores. They do your marketing.

drafts26All of these things take time. They take effort. They take money. The benefit of going with a publisher is that they cover all of these costs up front, and you can worry about the part that’s important to you – writing!

 

So why bother to self publish?

On the other hand, if you’re willing and able to fund these things yourself, then self publishing may just be for you! Make no mistake, every aspect of the publishing process is important. An editor will help you refine your story so that others will love it as much as you do. A good cover will draw readers to your book. A well laid out text will encourage readers to keep reading. A print run, while not vital, will help you reach a non-tech audience. Marketing is incredibly hard work, and is never-ending, but it’s vital to ensuring that readers find your book. If people don’t know it exists, they can’t buy it, now can they?

Neglect any aspect of the process, and you’re going to be sitting in a corner wondering why you’ve only sold three copies – all of them to your mother.

 

Luckily there are a lot of people out there who offer these kinds of services, and are conscious of the self publisher’s plight. There are ways to market yourself online that won’t break the bank – a huge help to the self published author! At eReads SA we offer most of these services, and oodles of friendly advice. We’ll be investigating each aspect as the blog goes on, so keep an eye.

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May 06, 2015

Why do we exist?

 

It’s simple. South African writers just don’t have the resources and support that they deserve. There is a wealth of talent in this country, but no one knows what to do with it. The publishing industry is small, and the good men and women within the industry can only do so much.

Self publishing is becoming more and more relevant across the world. The mistrust that many have for a self published work is starting to fade – because there have been so many successes in self publishing. Stick around, and we’ll be profiling a few of these in the future.

ePublishing is not just becoming more relevant, it’s the preferred form of publishing internationally. SA is so far behind on this trend, it’s embarrassing. The publishing houses still fear it, to a large extent, or just don’t have the time and resources to get in there. There is some great work being done by a few imprints. For example, the RHS imprint eKhaya is a purely electronic publisher and has given a few SA authors their big break; authors such as Christine Porter, Celia Bayliss and award winning S.O. Kenani.



But the real power comes in self publishing electronically. Electronic publishing has made it so much easier for writers to just get out there and do it themselves. But just because you’re a writer, doesn’t mean you have your head wrapped around every aspect of the industry. And it’s a complex one, from finding the right editor, designing the perfect cover, to marketing. Oh, marketing, thou dark and twisted mistress.

That’s where eReads comes in. Our team has the industry savvy to help you through the rocky paths of publishing. Whether you’re an author seeking a publisher, or seeking to self publish. Whether you’re a publisher trying to break into the world of electronic marketing, eReads can help. It starts with this blog, so keep an eye.

If you have any questions, drop us a comment. We’ll get back to you personally, or in your very own blog post.

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