How I Got Published

It took me four years to get my novel published digitally. Yes, people. Four long years. And another three years before it came out properly in print.

I first sent off a few chapters to an ex-student of mine, Gemma Harries who worked at one of the major publishing houses. She liked my writing and forwarded the chapters to the commissioning editor, who thought it had possibilities. Unfortunately thatís as far as her enthusiasm went and she never offered to publish it. But the fact that someone liked it was enough to encourage me to finish it.

I then submitted the novel the following year to another publishing house that was holding a competition. My novel didnít even make the shortlist but the publisher herself phoned me, told me that it definitely wasnít the Great South African novel but that she couldnít put the book down. She added that it needed some changes but she thought she could get it on to book shelves by the end of the year. I immediately phoned my sister, my cousin and half of Johannesburg and told them that my novel was going to get published, and by Christmas. I duly made the changes, sent them off to her and waited with bated breath for her to get back to me. I shouldnít have bothered. I got a vague response from her mentioning the current economic climate (which was not good), the fact that she was waiting for her readerís response, blah, blah, blah. It would have been better if she had responded with ďf&*k off, Iíve changed my mindĒ. Because after that, I never heard anything from her, she just didnít bother replying to my emails.

Lesson number one: donít make changes until you have a contract.

After that happy experience, I sent the manuscript off to countless other publishers with no luck. Finally, I decided that I was going to self-publish - digitally. My friend, Minky Stapleton designed a fabulous cover, I edited the book and re-edited it and then tried to convert it to HTML myself. After nearly drop-kicking my laptop through the window, I decided that perhaps it was time to call in the professionals. But my enthusiasm at this point was waning, and I was very busy with my day job (as a script writer and script editor), so I did nothing. Thatís when I bumped into an old classmate of mine, Andie Miller who suggested that I should send my book off to the commissioning editor at eKhaya, the digital imprint of Random House Struik. In my enthusiasm, I sent the whole novel to Louis Greenberg. He wrote back and asked for a synopsis. I felt like an idiot.

Lesson number two: donít send them the whole book until they ask for it.

I immediately thought he was trying to fob me off and it took a month before I sent him the synopsis he requested. After I finally sent it, I forgot about it. Then Andie emailed me and asked me if I had heard back from the eKhaya. I sent Louis an email, assuming he had forgotten about my book. But he immediately sent me one back saying that it was with the reader and he should have some feedback for me later that evening.

I got an email that night offering me a publishing deal. The book was published digitally in July 2012, and then on a print-on-demand basis. But if I sold 100 books altogether, it was a lot. And they were mainly bought by my sister and given as gifts to practically everyone in Zimbabwe (sorry, guys). Still, it was a wonderful experience and I was thrilled.

I looked on the whole experience as part of a learning curve and went on to write another book. This one was a psychological thriller, very different from the first book. I had started it in 2010 but was very conflicted about switching genres. I then got together with fellow writers, Gail Schimmel and Casey B. Dolan and we did something we called #writersgym where we would compare notes and check up on each other every Sunday night on Twitter. With their encouragement I managed to get the novel finished in 2014.

However, before I could send it to my publishers, I got an email in December 2014 from Fourie Botha at Penguin Random House who said that they had decided to release Ms Conception in print in June 2015. It felt like an early Christmas present, and because Louis and co had done a good job with the book when it was first released, it didn't need much editing apart from the odd tweak. I have to confess that it was extremely exciting to see that famous penguin on my book and to see it on the ďLatest ReleasesĒ shelf @exclusivescoza.