The local publishing industry in Namibia is small and authors struggle to sell their books.
Publishers also face problems with the tiny book sales market in Namibia and the high cost of printing, editing, marketing, and artwork. Selling text books to government schools is the only profitable area and this field is limited. Some of those involved in the book industry, spoke to the Windhoek Observer about their frustrating experiences.
Author Johan Beyers refers to his first fiction book, the Kupferberg Mining Company as a total disaster. He moaned that the marketing was not done well. “The book was never launched. The publisher did nothing to boost the sales of the book. There was also no an opportunity for me to sign the book or meet with the public to speak about the book,” Beyers said.
Beyers said he was struggling to get the book sold. “No one can buy the book if they are not aware of it.”
From his past experience, Beyers said that in future he will consider self-publishing.
When questioned about the lack of a reading culture in Namibia and the relatively low numbers of Namibian book lovers (or those who can afford to buy books), Beyers said, “The market for literature in Namibia is very small. There is not a huge fan base for books in Namibia and this greatly effects the amount of books that authors sell.”
He further groaned that in Namibia there are only a few publishing houses. “I have seen dormant plot proposals piling up at publishing houses. These are good Namibian stories, but publishers are unable to move on them. Many authors are self-publishing, but this is also not easy. It requires plenty of work such as to find and pay someone to edit your book and to print, market and sell it on your own, the Kuperberg author said.
Author and editor, retired book publisher, Jane Katjavivi – agrees with Beyers. In an earlier interview on this topic with the Windhoek Observer for our Education Supplement, she said that it is not easy to start a publishing venture, because it is hard to sustain one. “You need good people to help the authors develop their books, and to edit them. You need money to pay high printing costs and wait for the books to sell so you can recoup your investment. I wanted to build a publishing company that would last, but I did not manage this.”
She said the Arts Council does provide some funds to authors to help them publish their books themselves. However, they (authors) need greater investment, to cover editing and printing costs, run workshops to guide new writers, etc.
When questioned about some of the challenges that authors might face, Katjavivi mentioned that confidence and tenacity is necessary for all authors. “You will need to write and rewrite your story many times, until it can stand on its own and speak to the readers. You must not get frustrated by the process,” she said.
Katjavivi said she published ten books of Nama folktales, in Khoekhoegowab, but unfortunately these did not sell. She said the Ministry of Education was also not interested to buy them for the schools.
Namibia author, Hungiree Wilson Billawer who wrote Outside the Box: A Book of Poems in 2013, said one of the greatest challenges that he is faced with is to sell the book. “It is a lot of work. You need to go from one place to another. You have no other choice, because the public needs to know about the book. I often attend events and showcase my work there,” he said.
Billawer said despite the challenges that he is faced with he remains faithful to writing because it is his passion. He is currently working on another book that he plans to launch later this year.
The poet said when he prints his second book he will use social media to promote it. “I have not done this yet. Others are doing this and they have been successful,” he said.
Speaking about the increased use of e-books, author Beyers has mixed feelings on the topic. “I am personally not a fan of e-books, because I like the smell of an actual book, but they have a positive side. If they are making people read, then it is a good thing and more people are reading and buying their books using that method,” Beyers said.