Being an Indie Author in South Africa by Rachel Morgan
Introducing author Rachel Morgan (see my review on her book here). Thank you so much for agreeing to write a guest post on my blog!
Being an Indie Author in South Africa
Self-publishing has taken off in a BIG way overseas, due mostly to the ebook revolution. If you have any interest in the publishing world, you’ll have heard of names like Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath, and Hugh Howey (and there are loads more!). But what about here in South Africa? What does it mean to choose the self-publishing route?
As a South African author who’s chosen to go independent, let me share a little of my experience …
Amazon is great but FAR away!
Amazon is the biggest player on the board, so after deciding to self-publish my books, it was only natural that I’d upload my works to Amazon before looking anywhere else. When it comes to ebooks, it doesn’t matter how far away Amazon is. Having internet means that no matter where you are in the world, purchasing an ebook is little more than one click away. When it comes to print books, however, Amazon isn’t quite as convenient for the South African author. Yes, using Amazon’s print-on-demand service, CreateSpace, is easy and inexpensive (free, if you take care of the cover and formatting yourself). Printing a single copy of my first book, The Faerie Guardian, currently costs $4,42. That’s cheap! To get a unit price that low from my local printer, I’d have to order at least 200 copies, possibly more! So that’s a plus for Amazon. BUT the problem comes in when I want to have that book (or several books) sent to South Africa. To deliver one book to South Africa, the shipping cost is $11. And the book will only arrive on 15th APRIL if I order today! APRIL, for goodness’ sake! The earliest I can get the book delivered here is 7th March, but then I have to pay $46! Now let’s just say I want to order, say, 30 copies to do a book launch and signing. Can you imagine the cost?!
Bottom line: Amazon’s CreateSpace is awesome if you’re an author based in the US (and I do use them to get my print book listed on Amazon so that international customers can easily purchase it). Otherwise, I recommend Mega Digital if you’re a South African author looking for a good local printer.
Getting paid by cheque
Amazon won’t pay into South African bank accounts. Full stop. They also do not use PayPal. This means that South African indie authors are stuck waiting for Amazon to send cheques. Cheques are made out in a foreign currency, which means when we cash them, we have to pay sizeable foreign exchange fees. Sure, if the cheque is enormous, it’s not a big deal (I can keep dreaming, right?!), but for the very first cheque I cashed, the fee worked out to be more than 10% of the value of the cheque!
The mission of getting an ITIN
Amazon automatically deducts 30% of an author’s royalties for tax. If you don’t want this to happen (because you’re technically supposed to pay tax in the country where the work was produced, and because the US has a tax treaty with South Africa), you need to apply for an ITIN number. This was a mission that involved me driving into scary parts of the center of town to find the US embassy so that I could get a US notary to notarise a copy of my passport. I then had to send that off with forms to the IRS and wait a number of weeks for my ITIN number to be sent to me. And then there were more forms to send to Amazon and Smashwords and CreateSpace …
Bottom line: MISSION! (But worth it.)
Print distribution is tough
You can’t simply walk into Exclusive Books and say, “Will you please put a few copies of my book on your shelf?” They work with approved distributors, which means I’d have to approach those distributors. The distributor wants to make money, Exclusive Books wants to make money, and it would be nice if I could also get paid a bit for the books I spent many months slaving over! And that all results in a book that is just too expensive for the average browser to think about buying.
Bottom line: I’m still investigating options for print distribution in South Africa…
It can be a little “lonely”
There are other South African indie authors out there. I know there are. But they’re difficult to come across because there aren’t nearly as many of them here as there are overseas. I see all the many, many authors I interact with online meeting up with each other, going to conferences, attending and hosting workshops … and it feels a little lonely to be on this side of the world. (But that will be changing soon, thanks to the efforts of the lovely Carlyle Labuschagne and the upcoming SA Indies Rock Book Festival!)
Readers love a good book, no matter how it’s published
I’ve visited a number of schools, and I’ve chatted to many teen readers, and it doesn’t matter to them who published my books. They don’t care if it went through a Big Five publisher, a small publisher, or whether I produced the interior format myself (which is exactly what happened). All they care about is whether they like it or not and where they can get copies for themselves.
Bottom line: WRITE A REALLY GOOD BOOK! That’s the most important thing!
Thank you so much, Sue, for hosting me today and allowing me to share my indie author experience with your readers 🙂
A little bit about Rachel …
Rachel Morgan was born in South Africa and spent a large portion of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making. After completing a degree in genetics, she decided science wasn’t for her—after all, they didn’t approve of made-up facts. These days she spends much of her time immersed in fantasy land once more, writing fiction for young adults. She is the author of the Amazon bestselling YA fantasy series, Creepy Hollow.