Local reading is lekker

By Margot Bertelsmann

In Plain Sight by Mandy Collins

In Plain Sight – Mandy Collins, R198 only on Kindle

One Night Only book cover
One Night Only by Briony Chisholm

One Night Only – Briony Chisholm, R70 on Kindle

Why review two titles together? I’ll try to explain.

Both authors should be of interest to Safrea members. Mandy Collins is a freelance writer like many of us here, while Briony Chisholm is a pharmacist at the National HIV & TB Hotline and doing an MSc, who writes in her spare (ha!) time. Both authors are South African women, both have written romances, set in Johannesburg and Cape Town, respectively, and both books are available on Kindle. Perhaps most boldly, both women self-published their novels.

In Plain Sight is a tale of marital frustration, and the resultant infidelity. Collins’ heroine is a middle-aged wife and mother, Maggie whose head is turned by a lover from her past, with disastrous consequences for her present.

In One Night Only, Chisholm’s a 33-year-old wild-child singleton, Sarah who, after her latest romance fails, decides she’s finally done with relationships. She’ll be having one-night-stands only. Both heroines in both novels meet a man or five, with far-reaching consequences for each.

Why read?

My own nod to the post-Covid call to “buy local” and support local industry is to read local authors. I always enjoy novels with recognisable scenery and that may have other touches of home: recognisable accents, local issues, geography, flora or weather.

I was one of those lucky people whose psychological response to lockdown included being able to read, even if I wasn’t able to write much myself. But I needed books I could access on a screen, so I bought both these on recommendation from the Facebook group The Good Book Appreciation Society, and read them at night on the tiny screen of my phone. It worked surprisingly well for these novels, which are quick, fun reads that are filled with plot twists and a touch of wisdom too.

Self-publishing?

I tracked down the authors, who kindly agreed to talk to me about the process of self-publishing a book. Mandy Collins says, “I took the plunge because I have fiction writing impostor syndrome. In Plain Sight has been lying around for about a decade. It was so old it still had references to Blackberries and BBM!” So she opted to do it herself.

“Getting the book self-published on Kindle is fairly straightforward, but you do need separate ISBN numbers for your Kindle and PDF copies,” she says. “I just kinda did it – the Kindle site KDP Publishing takes you through it step by step. I set my own price, and  – feel free to pry – I think I’ve made about $50 so far.”

We all know publishing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. So which is better – traditional or self-publishing? “I think I would prefer to be published traditionally, as everything now falls on my shoulders, and I just don’t have the time – or the womanpower – to do any real marketing. But I also haven’t marketed very hard. It’s difficult to keep blowing your own trumpet and extending your social media begging bowl. It doesn’t sit well with me.”

Briony Chisholm says she also published through Amazon KDP, “and while it wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be, it is not by any means hard. Fortunately, I have a lovely designer friend who helped me with it (and I’m happy to chat to anyone who wants to pick my brains about it).”

In terms of marketing, Chisholm did book launches in Makhanda and Nieu-Bethesda, which she organised herself. “The Amazwi South African Museum of Literature asked people who wanted to launch, to come, and I went to varsity there [at Rhodes], so thought why not? It was great. I’m good friends with Victoria, who owns Dustcovers in Nieu-Bethesda, so did one there, which was really fun. I was going to do one here in CT but never got around to it (tsk). I sold around 200 copies doing all that.”

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