The Sunday News
ARTS focus with Raisedon Baya
WRITING books and selling books is not the same. Both are not easy but still not the same. Writing is usually a lonely experience where the writer has to spend hours and hours creating, throwing away things and redoing some.
Many writers will tell you that writing is re-writing and more re-writing. But selling books is a different ball together.
It is about convincing the public to part with their hard-earned money in exchange for your book. Marketers will tell you a lot about selling – from packaging, to communicating the right information and to making a sale.
Why should writers be bothered about selling books? Their job is writing books. One may argue. But not anymore.
Long back writers used to write, give their manuscript to a publisher who then did the rest. But things have changed.
Writers are now writing their stories, publishing them and going all the way to selling the books themselves. For some it has been an eye-opening experience and for some it has been a nightmare. Some have failed to sell a couple of books. But the truth is there is no formula to this. Sometimes the sales are not based on the content of the books but the personalities that wrote the books and are selling them.
I know one or two writers that say they tried the process and will not do it again. However, the reality on the ground, especially in Bulawayo is that there are no publishers anymore, especially for fiction. So, this means the only option available to many writers is self- publishing.
We went through the process recently. We published our novella Shut Your Eyes and Run. This is a coming-of-age story set on a backdrop of Zimbabwe’s land reform. The book took several years to write. Many people helped shape it, editing and proof reading. After publishing it was sold mainly through social media platforms. This was mainly because it was released during the lockdown period. Fortunately, this proved a blessing in disguise as we were able to sell out our first print run. More people bought the book via twitter, and surprisingly it was not people we knew.
We had buyers from Beitbridge, Kwekwe, Harare, Mutare and Chinhoyi and the diaspora coming through for us. The diaspora community, South Africa and UK mostly, were very support. Some, like Vusa Mkhaya, Nodumo Nyathi, Dumisani Luphahla, AB Lunga, Frank Gupta Mpofu and Qhubekani Madonko bought books and donated them around.
For us the project was a gamble. The costs of printing copies are favourable for a lot of writers. To be honest most cannot afford. We are thankful it was a gamble that paid off as we were able to recover our investment and make some profit. But it was the experience in the process that was life changing. Now we can proudly say we went through the whole process and know what to expect next time we embark on a similar project. The beauty of the process, especially the selling part was that it enabled us to meet many people. We met former classmates who knew of our passion even when we were in school and came to support.
We met old friends who were more than pleased to support. But most amazing were the number of people who told us they read our short stories in the Sunday News many years ago and were glad that now we have graduated to bigger projects.
Also, very interesting was the trust we were given by people who went out of their way to buy the book before it was or before seeing it. People sent in their money and hoped we would deliver. And we delivered. Another beauty of the process is the instant feedback. Readers have quickly come back after reading to offer their opinion about the work – and this was so enlightening.
The common feedback for us was that the story ended quickly and that we must write a book 2. This we are giving serious considerations.