I saw this post on the Facebook page for The Writers Association of Botswana:

If u wnt 2 publish yo book bt hv no money 2 do so apply fo a grant @ Departmnt f arts & culture now b4 closn date n Publish wit BrandFire Publishing.

First my prejudice- I find this sort of writing offensive from nearly everyone, but if a publisher wrote to me like this, I would disassociate myself from them as quickly as is humanly possible.

How on earth could anyone who is even remotely serious about writing take such a person who is attempting to market their publishing business in this way seriously?

I found the post extremely unprofessional.

Second, I thought if Arts and Culture does give grants for the self publishing of books, in this instance, the only person who is going to benefit will be the owner of BrandFire Publishing because the likely end product will be something no one will want to buy.

It doesn’t seem right to use the limited money available for the arts in this way.

I decided to do a bit of investigating and first went to the Facebook page for BrandFire, I found this:

“wi do self-publishing wit js P4 000 d best deal u cn eva get so hurry now whl d price s stl low…”

and “If u r a writer wi do; editing,cover & poster design,apply 4 isbn,self publishing & marketing! So u can publish wit us”

There was a cell number, so I phoned it.

I got a man named Gaofenngwe Jabari, he is the owner of BrandFire Publishing, two of the books on the page are written by him, both are motivational books.

I asked him about what an author would get for P4000. He said the price includes: editing for content and grammar, layout of the book, cover design, ISBN, and marketing posters.

The author will get the electronic copies and it will be up to them to go to the printers to print their book.

Despite my initial misgivings, I thought this was quite a good deal.

Yes the editing, at least from the blurbs, was not perfect, and the covers were not so hot, but as is always the case in business- you get what you pay for, and in this case it seemed not such a bad deal.

On the FB page he said the P4000 also includes marketing. I asked him what marketing the company does for the book and he said when he is interviewed on BTV he mentions the books he has published.

Also, he said that he deposits the two required books at the National Library, as per the law.

He said that once the two books are with the National Library, they will ask the author for a quotation for one hundred books and then the Library will place an order.

I am aware of this programme, and I know too- they buy at their “discretion” (as I was told by a Library employee) so a guaranteed sale of one hundred books is not a done deal.

I think Mr Jabari is genuine. He is filling a need. There are writers all over the country who are begging to have books published.

The problem with these writers, in nearly every case, is that they do not actually want to work hard enough to produce a quality manuscript.

They don’t want to put in the effort to improve their craft.

They think their rough draft is of publishable quality. All they want is to have a book with their name on it.

This is fine; I have no real qualms with this, except for the fact that it is not moving our literature forward.

It’s producing a lot of books that few people want to read.

The authors who take this route should take it with their eyes wide open.

They should be realistic about expectations. If that is the case, then I wish them the best of luck.

If, on the other hand, you go in thinking this is the route to riches and fame, I am afraid you will be sorely disappointed.

As I have said in past columns, I think self publishing can be a good thing especially in our country with no real trade publishers.

I think it works best for people who have a platform already.

For example, if you are a regularly hired motivational speaker, it’s a good idea to self publish a motivational book to sell at your gigs.

Or if you are a performance poet with a devout following, it would be wise to self publish a collection of some of your poems to sell after your performance.

But it’s tough to be an unknown novelist and self publish a book unless you’re a marketing whiz.

So there are instances where self publishing moves us forward, but as I’ve said above, in most cases it doesn’t.

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