Podcast: Catalogues, Books and Writing

So I wandered into a lovely office in a nursery in Johannesburg to speak at Radio Today, a community radio station, to talk about the Exclusive Books catalogue that took four months to produce and is now a glorious, bountiful collection of books. We also talk about publishing, books as objects of lust and untapped…

The Foolishness of Book Jackets

Bad cover design delegates books to the wrong sections, gives them the wrong or no readers and so often puts great books on sale tables, alone and unwanted and left to die next to untold numbers of Dan Brown books.

Review of “The Collected Works of AJ Fikry” by @GabrielleZevin

“Like,” he repeats the word with distaste. “How about I tell you what I don’t like? I do not like postmodernism, post-apocalyptic settings, post-mortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn’t be – basically, gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the…

The State of South African Literature

“Why don’t you stock more local authors? Why can’t I find any South African poetry? Why are there so few black authors?” These complaints come my way every now and then, and are often brought up at store level. While these are very valid questions, the answer is more complicated (and a little bit sadder)…

Tony Blair, A Journey and the Armchair Activists

Despite the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey is basically a handguide to how abusive relationships start, and that Game of Thrones is an airbrushed Medieval Europe where feminism and civil rights are things that happen to other books, I would never call for these books to be banned or burnt. You’d think this would…

The Life and Death of the Book Store

I don’t mean to wax lyrical and mewl like an old lady on her stoep with a blanket on her knees and a cat on her lap, but I remember drive-ins. The slap chips, the giant radios that threatened to crack the window, my parents smoking freely while we ran down to the playground just…

Traditional versus Self-Publishing

Let it be said that the current publishing model, as a whole, doesn’t work perfectly. Great writers don’t make it, mediocre ones do, and the idea of nurturing an author into a bestseller is a part of the past. With eBooks, agency pricing and antitrust cases and debacles around author rights, the system is far…

JK Rowling, Pottermore and the Future

As far as moments in publishing go, the launch of Pottermore is massive. But what makes it momentous is that, for the first time in contemporary publishing, an author has dictated to the biggest names in book-retailing. To put not too fine a point on them, she has told Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble exactly where…

Margaret Atwood on Writing and Publishing

In this article about her book Negotiating With the Dead, Margaret Atwood best describes how very difficult the publishing game can be. Even if we avoid signing promissory notes, there are many pitfalls. There is, for instance, the publishing system, and its growing domination by the bottom-line bean-counters. “We don’t sell books,” one publisher said,…

The Price of Books

Everyone loves to complain about the price of things without really thinking about what it costs to make it happen. How can a book cost R200, wails the consumer (nearly always while spending the same amount on silly cocktails).  How dare the bookstore charge this! How disgusting, knowledge and stories should be free to all!…