Lately I’ve been reading astounding things from writers in our local press.

About a week or so ago I read an article about a self published author who had written a self help book based on his own experiences.

In the article, the author said that he had sold 10,000 copies of his book in Botswana.

This was obviously a press release written by the author that numerous papers published without any authentication of the figures given.

I know that the figure is not true.

It would be impossible to sell that many books in Botswana’s trade market even if you had the backing of an established publisher with a marketing and distribution team.

Even in South Africa where books are bought, a bestseller sells about 4000 copies, only a very rare book, in example the Spud books, might sell 8000.

This is a book that was made into a Hollywood movie, it was published by Penguin, a huge international publisher with ample marketing budgets.

So what- you might ask me, so what if the author is inflating figures?

Maybe it is some kind of marketing ploy, to convince readers that so many people have bought his book so they must too.

What’s wrong with a little white lie here and there to generate hype?

The problem in our market, where so many people who want to be writers have little understanding of the publishing industry, such hyperbole (I’m being kind) is dangerous.

I get emails and messages all of the time from people asking the most naive questions.

That lack of knowledge can lead them to wrong conclusions and can make them vulnerable to folks willing to exploit them.

People can do the maths. If as a self published author you print 10,000 books it might cost you about P60,000, I’m guessing but I would suspect it would be at least that, likely more.

It would depend on the length of the book, the design etc.

Now if you sell each book for P200, you’ll make P2 million- that will leave you with a huge pile of profit.

A newbie writer (even an oldie like me) would jump at making that kind of money.

So now what happens? The newbie does a bit of research, enough to find out that “publishers” are sprouting up in Botswana, folks willing to help a new author publish their book.

The aspiring author gives them money, and they hand over the published book. Easy. You are on your way to riches.

The problem is that riches don’t come that easy- they never have and they never will.

And now the newbie writer has popped out a big pile of cash, likely all the money they have, and in turn they have a garage full of books they will never be able to sell.

They will try. They will try because they read in the newspaper that a local author self published their book and sold 10,000 copies.

If he can do- it why can’t I, they will ask themselves. But see the problem is- he didn’t do it.

And now the situation is made clear. Lies like this are dangerous because people believe them and that belief could cost them dearly.

I am not against self publishing, in fact in many instances I would advise a writer to self publish instead of going the traditional route.

But you need to enter all such decisions from a position of knowledge. Learn about this business.

Make sure your writing is up to the correct standard. Make sure your book is something worthy of folk’s money.

Have a marketing plan in place, establish distribution lines. All of this takes a lot of work.

And for writers, lying dents your integrity. Dress it up how you want, but dishonesty- even just once, makes a person question everything about you.

Now if you’re writing a nonfiction book, such as a self help book, even more than with a novel, your integrity is bankable.

Readers need to believe that you are an honest person so that they can accept the things that you are telling them.

If you start out with a lie, even about sales, you have shot yourself in the foot even before you started walking.

You say your book is well researched? I don’t believe you anymore. You say it’s based on real things you went through?

Again, I doubt you. I’m not saying that is not the case, I’m saying you have no integrity because you chose to be dishonest.

Dishonesty is not the way to sell anything, especially books, and more especially nonfiction books based on your personal experiences.

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Hi Lauri. I am a self-published author. I love writing and impacting people’s lives. I have read majority of your articles over a long period. What I have seen in you is:
a. You are passionate about writing
b. You love to help other authors so that the Botswana and Africa flags rise high
c. You call a spade a spade.

Keep up the good work that you do