Tuesday 30 April 2019

How Many Indie Authors Publish Afrikaans Fiction?

My mother-in-law was up from Cape Town the other week. She reads a lot of Afrikaans stories (mostly romance), and when she discovered she'd left all her books at home, I leant her my old iPad and showed her how to borrow e-books from the library.

I was pleasantly surprised at the selection of Afrikaans fiction actually available on OverDrive (never mind actually owned by the Gauteng E-Library). She read a few of them, and incidentally, I think I've turned her on to the joy and convenience of ebooks! ;)

(Click any of the above covers to view those books on OverDrive. In case you can't make them out, they are Die dood van 'n goeie vrou by Chris Karsten, Die rooikop van Sonnerus by Susanna M Lingua, and Hartklop Omnibus 2 by various authors.)

The problem is, all of those books seem to be traditionally published. Not that that bothers her, of course, but it kind of gives me pause.

So I asked on a writers' group I belong to, if anybody self-published Afrikaans fiction, in any genre. Surprisingly, none of the authors on that group does, but one of them pointed me towards a lady by the name of Francine Beaton (click for her website).

I checked Francine's website, and discovered that she's actually self-published quite a few books in the romance genre. Most of them are in English, but I found two of them in Afrikaans: Blou Somer and 'n Stukkie Blou Hemel.

Click the covers to visit the books' pages on Amazon US (Curiously, they're not available on either Kobo or Google Play, both of which have actual South African stores which sell books in South African Rands).

I'd love to hear from you, dear reader. Do you read a lot of Afrikaans ebooks? Are any of the authors you regularly read self-published?

If you know of any other indie authors writing in Afrikaans, please let me know in the comments. Let's make this post a go-to resource for Afrikaans independent authors!

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Do You Buy EBooks in Rands?

Are you in South Africa? Do you buy ebooks? Consider, if you will, the sheer dominance of Amazon in the ebook market.

If I were to ask you where you bought most of your ebooks, you'd probably say you bought them from Amazon (and if you don't, then I'm glad you've decided to broaden your horizons. Well done!).

Now, think about the fact that Amazon has no South African store. As a South African, you're forced to buy your ebooks from their US store, and pay in US dollars. That means book prices which are heavily dependent on the exchange rate - and effectively change every fifteen minutes - and it means paying currency conversion fees to your bank on top of it.

It doesn't really make sense, does it? To go out of your way to pay more for your books, when there are two perfectly good, reputable sellers, which do sell ebooks in South African Rands, and which are frequently cheaper for us than Amazon.

I'm convinced that many ebook buyers in South Africa don't even know that there are options besides Amazon. Or if they do, buying ebooks from anyone but Amazon has become their Green Eggs and Ham: "I will not do it, Sam I Am."

Memoirs of a Guardian Angel for R9.99

So I guess I should put my money where my mouth is, huh? To convince you to try the Green Eggs and Ham (You might love it), for this week and this week only, South Africans can get my Urban Fantasy novella for only R9.99, all-inclusive.

For you Amazon customers, that translates to $0.71 at the time of this writing. You'd never find it on Amazon for that price because Amazon won't let us authors set a list price below $0.99... and they charge 15% VAT on top of that price, if you happen to live in South Africa. And your bank will charge you currency conversion fees on top of that.

And in case you were wondering (or, if you're a die-hard Amazon fan even now), the Amazon price for South Africans is currently $2.17, plus currency conversion fees. If anyone in South Africa would still click through to Amazon and pay that price instead of R9.99, VAT inclusive, I'd love to know why!

The price is valid when you buy it at either Google Play Books or Kobo (Click on the names to visit the book's page at the retailer). If you own an Android phone or tablet, there's a good chance you have Google Play Books already installed. If you have an iOS-based phone or tablet, or a dedicated Kobo ereading device, Kobo will be your thing.

And when you've bought it and read it, dear reader, please do me the biggest favour: return to this blog post and write a comment about your experiences. How did you find it, compared to Amazon? Was it a better experience? About the same? Worse (and if so, in what way)?

Try the Green Eggs and Ham. I'm sure you won't regret it. :-)

Oh, and did I mention, you don't even need a credit card to buy ebooks from Google Play in South Africa? You can pay cash at stores all over the country for Google Play vouchers, which you can then apply to your account, and they work for ebooks too! (You could conceivably buy vouchers for Amazon, but you need a debit or credit card to buy them in the first place... or someone to buy them for you in the States, and send them to you)

Tuesday 16 April 2019

My most viewed blog post of ALL TIME was a giveaway

Since I'm still on leave, I don't have any new content for you today. But I thought it'd be fun to go look at the most viewed post of all time on this blog, and share it with you.

I was expecting (hoping) it to be an evergreen post, like my list of OverDrive libraries in South Africa or something, but alas, no.

The most viewed post of all time on this blog is the post entitled Short Story MEGA Giveaway from 27 June 2017, and it had a whopping 1595 views!

Go ahead and click on the image above to view that post. While some of the giveaways are no longer active, many are. And even if they aren't, I'm sure if you just Google the book in question, you'll find it for sale (if not free) somewhere on the Internet.


Tuesday 9 April 2019

Judging a Book by Its Cover: Urban Fantasy

One of my friends, Stephen Hayes, recently wrote a book called The Year of the Dragon, about a group of Christians during the Apartheid era in South Africa. He wasn't sure how to classify it, but a few people (myself included) told him we felt it was clearly Urban Fantasy.

This prompted him to do quite a bit of research on different genres, and Urban Fantasy in particular, and this past weekend, he wrote this blog post:

I found his perspective interesting, and he particularly points out how the vast majority of Urban Fantasy covers these days feature naked, faceless, male torsos. He used City of Bones by Cassandra Clare as an example... but he's right. Do a quick search on Goodreads for "Urban Fantasy", and you'll see what he means.

This got me thinking about my own Urban Fantasy contribution, Memoirs of a Guardian Angel (Cover pictured below):

Funny enough, when I first spoke to my cover designer for that book, I wasn't sure how to classify it, either.

But she has a good feel for what sells, and after hearing my synopsis, she insisted it was Urban Fantasy, and I should go take a look at bestsellers in that genre and let her know what type of covers I liked.

I did so, and presently told her that the one thing I did not want on my cover was a naked male torso. She laughed and said that since she wasn't partial to those either unless the book was also obviously Romance (which mine isn't), she promised to keep bare-chested people off mine.

I'm really happy with what we came up with. There's a male chest, but it isn't bare. It's quite abstract, but I think it fits nicely among the Urban Fantasy bestsellers - which is an important requirement for a cover these days - and also captures the feel of the book really well.

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not you agree. :-)

Now, we often like to decry the fact that people judge books by their covers, and we often quote the old cliché about how you shouldn't.

But the fact is, people do judge books by their covers, and that may not be a bad thing. Ultimately, as authors, we do actually need to sell our work, and most people want to read or listen in the genres they're used to... and the best way for those people to judge whether a book is something they might want to spend their hard-earned money on is the cover.

Do you agree? And how do you feel about the current trend in book covers, particularly for Urban Fantasy? Can you immediately figure out what genre a book is, just by looking at the cover, and are you turned off buying books because the cover implies the book is of a genre you don't normally read?

Please let me know in the comments below. I'd love you hear your opinions!

Tuesday 2 April 2019

Does Your Favourite Author Write Under a Pen Name?

There's been a lot of talk lately in writers' groups, about pen names (nom de plumes, if you still have some culture).

There seem to be a few reasons why an author may choose to write under an assumed name. Some writers say they do it because they write true-to-life stories with characters heavily based on people they know in real life, and they live in tiny communities where it'd be impossible to do that under their real names without ostracising themselves.

Others do it because they're known for writing in a particular genre, and they want to branch out and try something different. Sometimes they don't particularly care if people know (for example,. J. K. Rowling and Robert Gailbraith, or Stephen King and Richard Bachman); it's just a way of keeping their fan-bases separate. For others, it may be crucially important that nobody ever finds out - for example, if they're known for Christian or children's fiction, and they decide to try their hand at writing erotica.

Some women even do it because they write in what's perceived to be a male-dominated genre, and they don't want to give away their gender because they feel it might affect their success. Joanna Penn writes supernatural thrillers under J. F. Penn, for this very reason. It's not a huge secret; she doesn't mind the fact that those of us who already know and respect her as a writer know about it. She just doesn't want random browsers who've never heard of her before assuming she's female and letting that bias them against her.

Come to think of it, I'm sure some male romance and erotica writers do the opposite, and invent pen names that make them sound like women.

One of the authors I respect the most, Rayne Hall, writes under a pen name. She doesn't write anything particularly controversial or taboo, but she still keeps her real identity secret. I don't know her real name, myself. She once said that she does that because she wrote some really terrible, cringe-worthy (in terms of quality, not in terms of subject matter) stuff under her real name when she was younger, and she doesn't want any of her professional writing to be associated with that.

As a reader, does your favourite author write under a pen name (or perhaps they do, and you don't even know). If so, do you know their real name?