Calling all authors: 5 ways to succeed at self-publishing

20 September 2018 - 07:00 By Thango Ntwasa
Self publisher Lebohang Nthongoa book called The Nothing Ones.
Self publisher Lebohang Nthongoa book called The Nothing Ones.
Image: Lebohang Nthongoa

More and more writers are self-publishing to tell their unique stories. One of these authors is Lebohang Nthongoa, who recently launched the second volume of her two-part novel titled The Nothing Ones.

It tells the story of the difficult path taken by twin brothers with albinism who have to survive in a world that would much rather see them dead.

Nthongoa says that for the longest time she often thought of having her work distributed through a regular publishing company, but she quashed that dream to have more control over her work.

“Being online helps open you up to the other options out there. The big drive for me was ownership. People will tell you, ‘Oh, at least you have a published book.’ No, I want the money too, boo!”

While self-publishing gives her total control, Nthongoa admits she has struggled with getting her books enough exposure. However, the costs of putting the book together brought about many revelations. “Barcoding is very cheap, it’s like R200 max; the ISBN is free. You just send an e-mail to the national library and in a few hours you will have your ISBN.”

Nthongoa also cut costs by working with editors and a designer who helped her for free or next to nothing.

She has shared her five tips for owning it in the world of self-publishing.

Just sit down and get it done

“People are too relaxed in terms of demands on their own time. If you have no deadline pushing you, you can make this take as long as 10 years. I didn’t have a social life – I had to be a hermit at home and write.”

Relax but don’t forget about it

“You will have writer’s block. I had a good six months of it. I guess that’s what made it long. I didn’t pressure myself too much; I just relaxed through it. So, just relax through dry spells but don’t forget about it.”

Ask questions

“Research, Google and YouTube search; it’s a good thing I work in an internet space because it comes naturally for me to search for stuff. If I was not on YouTube, I would have paid someone else to find a free ISBN. There are businesses out there that will charge you for something you can get for free. So do your research. People are more willing to help than you realise.”

Don’t be precious about your work

“Don’t be precious about your work. Especially if you’ve asked people to critique your work, do not be hurt when they say ‘this reads wrong’ or ‘I don’t understand this’ because that will sink any sort of mistakes that people will catch. I probably read each of my books 20 times and I missed so many mistakes because first, I’m reading them back to back and you need a gap in between, and second, I knew what I was trying to say so I could read it fluently.”

Make your book a priority

“There are pressures from work, but look at writing your book as a second job. Give it as much importance as anything you want to get done. You have nobody to police you, so if you don’t prioritise it can get frustrating at times.”


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