Monday, 29 February 2016

ApplePearPlumStrawberryOrangeChocolateCakeIceCreamConePickleSwissCheeseSalamiLollipopCherryPieSausageCupcakeWatermelon

I have no less than six gorgeous nephews. From eldest to youngest: Aidan, Jared, Brandon (Cape Town), Aidan (Ireland), Hayden (Texas), and Odin (Jozi).

Last week my precious Irish Aidan turned one. And because my three nephews before him are Jehovah's Witnesses, it was actually the very first time in my 11.5 years of being an aunt that I was able to spoil a nephew with birthday pressies. Part of Aidan's gift from us was a signed copy of What the Ladybird Heard, which I organised at the Julia Donaldson event a few weeks ago.

My sister-in-law Kim and her husband Dave have been out in SA since early November (he's an IT consultant, so can work from pretty much anywhere in the world), and they go back home to Cork in three weeks from now. It's been great fun watching Aidan grow and meet all his developmental milestones these past four months. The next time they'll be out in SA is probably just over a year from now, and he will have changed and grown so much by then!

Below are some pics I snapped at Aidan's party yesterday. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is his favourite book, so it was a no-brainer when choosing the theme. I just loved all Kim's attention to detail with everything! The cake was made by the supremely talented Terry Pop, who also made Goran's LEGO cake for his fifth birthday in December.































Friday, 19 February 2016

Dungeons & daiquiris


"Sub, dom, or switch?" the door lady barked, stabbing a podgy forefinger at three piles of lanyards on the tiny satin-draped table cowering in the shade of her ample bosom. "Er, switch," I said, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible, as though I had done this a thousand times. Truth was, I was desperately looking for a lanyard that said 'voyeur', but no such lanyard was to be found. A bony chap in a sad, baggy gimp suit lurked behind the door lady, and I could feel his beady eyes clocking me and my three companions as dungeon rookies. Following my lead, my partners-in-crime all selected 'switch', and the gimp shifted smugly in the shadows.

While the lanyards emblazoned with the words 'sub' and 'dom' on both sides of the little laminated card were very specific about what their wearer was into, the 'switch' card could be flipped around, depending on the wearer's mood at any given moment: green on one side (hi, you may approach me), red on the other (stay the fuck away).

Unsurprisingly, not one of us first-timers ever flipped our cards from red to green that night. What we witnessed inside that dodgy Midrand club was unwittingly seared into our memories, like tender calf hides under a branding iron. But that is a story for another day.


Above: 1950s illustration by Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman


For many authors, the process of getting one's book into the hands of readers is a bit like venturing into the S&M playpen at a BDSM party. In the middle of the room you have the seasoned sadists (trade publishers) brandishing their favoured instrument of torture (coveted publishing contracts), beating willing masochists (aspiring authors) into submission (with the grueling querying process). And on the periphery you have the switches (authors like myself) who are only there for a limited taste of pain and humiliation (rejection letters), knowing full well they can stop the game at any time and retreat for cocktails at the (self-publishing) rooftop bar upstairs.

I would hazard a guess that most indie authors sipping cocktails at the rooftop bar have ventured into the dungeon at least once in their lives. Especially at the start of their careers, when the thrill of potentially securing a contract with a big name trade publisher supposedly meant utter validation of one's worth as a writer, coupled with the convenience of appointed industry professionals taking care of all the technical design, production, and marketing stuff, with no need for you, the author, to worry about any capital outlay.

That's all fair and well until the first rejection letter lands in your Inbox, and it stings like a motherfucker. Then another, and another. The pile of rejections will eventually hit double digits, but by now you've hopefully grown a pretty thick skin. At this point, you can decide to stay down in the dungeon and subject yourself to an indeterminate number of future lashings, or extricate yourself and make your way to the rooftop bar with some semblance of dignity intact.

There are two ways to get there. The first is via a hi-tech glass elevator on the outside of the building, but you will need to tip the doorman quite generously for the privilege of such a swift, smooth ride. The second is round the back, via the fire escape, and although it costs virtually nothing, it does require a certain level of techie prowess and stamina to ascend each and every flight of stairs. Thank God for Google, and all those switches who have gone before us, kind enough to leave a few flickering strip lights on in the stairwells to guide the way.

After last month's decision to leave the dungeon, I drew up a checklist of all the individual steps I need to climb in order to reach the rooftop bar. Besides the strawberry daiquiri (and champers!) with my name on it, I've heard the views are incredible up there.




In no particular order, my current work schedule over the next couple of months consists of the following: 

Build my author website with blog functionality. Map my WordPress website to www.paulagruben.com as my primary domain. Pay WordPress their $13 (annual) hosting fee, via PayPal (I had an existing PayPal account, from when I set up my first Indiegogo campaign in 2015).


ISBNs 
Apply to the National Library of South Africa for 4 x International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs); each edition of the book (print, Mobi, ePub, PDF) needs its own ISBN. Generate the barcode for the paperback edition to be incorporated into the back cover design.

Design a hi-res (300 dpi) cover using the 6' x 9' template provided by CreateSpace. Save the cover file as a print-ready PDF.

Apply for a Payoneer account into which both Amazon and CreateSpace can deposit my royalties. Funds from this Payoneer account can then be electronically transferred into my local bank account.


Create an Amazon KDP account.
Complete the online Tax Interview. NB: South African authors no longer need to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Because SA has a tax treaty with the US, we can simply enter our existing SA tax number in the online form, and automatically qualify for 0% withholding on royalties.
Provide Payoneer account details for royalty payments to be made electronically.
Create an author + book profile.
Format my MS Word manuscript to conform to the technical specs required for an ebook, upload to KDP for automatic conversion to a Mobi file, and make the Kindle edition of my book available for pre-order on Amazon (worldwide), at a list price of $6.99 (excluding VAT), or the equivalent thereof across all other currencies.
Wait for file review and, once approved, give KDP the green light to release the Kindle edition for sale on 31 May 2016 at midnight local time in each marketplace. Only then will sample content become available for download.

Create a CreateSpace account.
Complete the online Tax Interview. NB: South African authors no longer need to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Because SA has a tax treaty with the US, we can simply enter our existing SA tax number in the online form, and automatically qualify for 0% withholding on royalties.
Provide Payoneer account details for royalty payments to be made electronically. 
Create an author + book profile.
Format my MS Word manuscript to conform to the technical specs required for a 6' x 9' print-on-demand (POD) paperback, then upload the interior and cover files (both in print-ready PDF format) to CreateSpace.
Wait for file review and, once approved, request a proof copy to be shipped to my birth mom in Texas (she will WhatsApp me the photos to see that everything looks exactly as it should).
Once approved, give CreateSpace the green light to release the POD paperback edition for sale on 31 May 2016 at midnight local time in each marketplace - Amazon (Amazon.com and Amazon.ca), Amazon Europe (Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.it, and Amazon.es), plus the CreateSpace eStore, at a list price of $12.99 (excluding VAT), or the equivalent thereof across all other currencies.

Create a Megabooks account.
Convert my MS Word manuscript to an ePub file using Calibre software.
Send both the ePub and POD paperback files to Mega Digital via WeTransfer.
Wait for file review and, once approved, request a proof copy of the paperback to be couriered from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
Once approved, give Megabooks the green light to release the POD paperback and ePub editions for sale on 31 May 2016, at a list price of R190 and R100 respectively (including VAT, excluding the R59 door-to-door courier fee for the paperback). Note: When ordering online, SA customers can pay Megabooks via credit card or EFT.

[UPDATE: Mega Digital and Megabooks closed down at the end of August 2016.]

Register as a vendor with Skoobs, Theatre of Books. Order my first print run of paperbacks from Mega Digital - using the funds I managed to raise from my Indiegogo campaign - for sale at the Johannesburg launch on 2 August 2016, and delivery to the five places of legal deposit (see below). I did a barter deal with my ridiculously talented mate Marianne Brits-Strodl, who will photograph the event for me, before emigrating to the UK shortly thereafter. It will also be live video streamed on my Facebook page, for those who can't be at the event in person.

[UPDATE: Following the closure of Mega Digital and Megabooks at the end of August 2016, I used Pinetown Printers for my second print run in December 2016.]


Legal Deposit Act 54 of 1997
In compliance with Section 2 of the Legal Deposit Act, I will have to supply the National Library of South Africa with 5 copies of Umbilicus (1 copy couriered to 5 places of legal deposit - Pretoria, Cape Town x 2, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg).


National distribution
All South African bricks-and-mortar retailers in the business of selling new books - from small independents to large national chains - work on a sale or return (SOR), aka consignment policy. Your book is given a shelf-life of around 3 - 4 months. Thereafter, all unsold stock is returned to the publisher / author.

While an indie author can do business with indie bookstores directly, when it comes to dealing with the large chains, you have to go through a distributor on the company's vendor list.

In a nutshell, I need to made sufficient profit from online sales of my ebook and POD paperback to be able to afford the upfront printing costs required to fill consignment orders. Only then will I be able to approach independent bookstores directly, and/or hire the distribution services of a company like Porcupine Press to handle business with the large chains. 


Please note: I will be updating this page with resources and links as and when I work through the steps. Both as a personal record, to refer back to when I'm ready to self-publish future work, and hopefully also as a helpful little 'How To' guide for other South African writers who may be embarking on their own self-publishing journeys. #payitforward

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Scrambled snake and owl ice cream

So today my small human went to his first book signing. Not just any old signing, but a signing by the United Kingdom's best selling author of 2015. Yip, none other than Julia Donaldson, she of The Gruffalo (and many other children's books) fame. Basically the Enid Blyton of this generation.


According to an article in The Guardian last month, Donaldson has been the top selling author in the UK for the sixth year running, with sales of £14m for 2015 alone (JK Rowling made £8m over the same period).

The stage show beforehand was okay (those who say it's like 'a rock concert for kids' have clearly never been to a rock concert), but the book signing was definitely the highlight of the afternoon (for me anyway!) One lady standing in the queue behind me said that she and a couple of friends had driven 14 hours straight, from Bulawayo to Joburg, just to get their books signed!! I must say, I feel very privileged and humbled to have met such a creative force in the literary world. Someone whose incredible imagination, legendary characters, and magical way with words has given me many, many hours of reading pleasure snuggled up with my young son, memories of which we will both cherish for a lifetime.

Below are some pics I snapped on my iPhone.
 
Above: Entering the Parktown Campus of the University of the Witwatersrand with Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital (formerly 'Joburg Gen') in the background
 
 Below: View of Hillbrow Tower from inside the campus

Below: Wits Linder Auditorium on the campus

Below: My boys reading the exact copy of the book above, five years ago. It was brought over as a gift for Goran from our mates Barry and Emma in Wales.

Just reading up a bit about Donaldson's background whilst writing this post, and I was shocked to discover that she lost her eldest son to suicide in 2003. He had been suffering from mental illness since the age of 17 and was just 25 when he died. She is married to a consultant paediatrician, and has two other sons, both married, with two kids each.