Thursday, 28 January 2016

Rolling with the punches

I'm totally stoked for Trevor Noah and his $3 million book deal. The dude is a legend, and I cannot WAIT to get my paws on a copy of his memoir when it comes out. "These are true stories - sometimes dark, occasionally bizarre, frequently tender, and always hilarious. Whether subsisting on caterpillars during months of extreme poverty or making comically hapless attempts at teenage romance, from the time he was thrown in jail to the time he was thrown from a speeding car driven by murderous gangsters..." C'mon, if that doesn't hook you, nothing will!


But I also feel fucking stupid. For thinking the likes of Pan Macmillan South Africa might actually be interested in publishing a memoir by a virtual unknown in 2016, when this is the kind of stuff they had going on behind the scenes. As you'll see from the screen grab below, of my Umbilicus 'Rejections' folder to date, the latest (local) one came from none other than PanMac SA, at pretty much the exact same time they must've been drawing up this Noah deal. Clearly, I didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell.

The only other local ladies who may consider a story like mine are Tracey McDonald of Tracey McDonald Publishers and Colleen Higgs of Modjaji Books, but neither are accepting unsolicited manuscripts until mid-2016 and 2017 respectively. Basically, I have exhausted all narrative non-fiction avenues on home turf, and have come to accept the probability that no trade publisher outside of our borders is going to be interested in a memoir by a paleface plebian from the tip of the Dark Continent (sadly, I ain't no Trevor Noah or Charlize Theron).

After a good, long think about the feedback and constructive criticism I have received from industry professionals over the past several months, about market trends and optimal shelf positioning for a contemporary story like mine, I eventually made the executive decision to change the names of all the characters in my book, repackage the story as an autobiographical novel, and target it at the Young Adult (YA) realistic fiction reader instead.

I also thought long and hard about the cutthroat nature of trade publishing in general, and the agony of spending the next year, or two years, or five years even, [re]submitting my manuscript to the fiction imprints of local publishers, plus UK and US literary agents, with absolutely no guarantee of ever securing a deal. Hey, if my track record on the narrative non-fiction side is anything to go by, what's to say my attempt at the fiction side will be any better?

So I decided to take the bull by the horns, stop the querying process with immediate effect, and am currently hard at work building my author website, creating a marketing plan and publicity campaign, and formatting my manuscript for self-publication in both print-on-demand (POD) and ebook (Mobi + ePub) formats, by mid-2016.

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