It’s been an insane year, most of it spent under strict lockdown conditions. Local businesses took a huge knock with many small enterprises only managing to hold on.
The local book industry was one of the many sectors hit. If you look past the bigger publishing houses and chain bookstores you’ll see a wide network of independent bookshops, small publishers, authors, freelance designers, editors and proofreaders, and bright young people just starting out their career.
It’s a sector characterised by passionate, creative, and visionary people who devote their lives to promoting local literature and artists.
So now that restrictions have been lifted and everyone is readying for a safe and sunny festive season, please consider spending your spare Rands and cents (if you can) on helping the small businesses who keep the industry alive.
Here are a couple of ways you can help.
Support a Small Publisher
South Africa is pulsing with small presses doing exciting things. What makes these businesses even more special is that they are run by some truly amazing people who really care about growing South African talent.
Here are a few, off the top of my head. Let me know if I missed anyone.
Visit an Indie Bookstore
In every city across the country you’ll find an independent bookstore that not only puts local titles in pride of place, but are great places to just hang out and browse.
Pop me a message if you’d like to see your favourite bookshop listed.
Donate to a Great Initiative
The local book industry has its fair share of heroes doing amazing work.
Book Dash pulls together some of the country’s brightest creative talent to produce stunning illustrated children’s books. You can download every single book for free, but you can also purchase them at selected outlets. Donate to this incredible project here.
Short Story Day Africa is an organisation dedicated to promoting African fiction. Every year the project runs a short story competition that results in an award-winning anthology of stories by writers from across the continent. Many have gone on to achieve great acclaim. You can help SSDA continue their great work by donating here.
Buy a Book by a Local Author
For South African writers, it was a terrible year to release a book. For safety reasons all events, launches and tours were cancelled, and all promotion had to take place online. Getting the word out is crucial for sales, and providing a much-needed income to everyone involved.
Here is a small selection of some local titles published this year that I’m looking forward to reading (including a sneaky plug of my own book. Shhh.)
Again, this is not an exhaustive list. You can also visit your local bookstore for their favourite recommendations.
A Family Affair – Sue Nyathi
An engrossing look at a family with their fair share of secrets.
Paradise in Gaza – Niq Mhlongo
A city man returns to his village for what he hopes is a short visit… until his son disappears.
Critical but Stable – Angela Makholwa
An elite club full of rich, glitzy couples – all with their own secrets and motives.
The Fall – Jen Thorpe
A diverse cast of characters, high stakes, an alternative Cape Town and the very future at stake.
The Gospel According to Wanda B. Lazarus – Lynn Joffe
What if … the Wandering Jew … was a woman? This book comes recommended by Stephen Fry!
Mermaid Fillet – Mia Arderne
Magical realism meets crime noir in this colorfully re-imagined Cape Town. I can’t wait to read this one.
Charlotte – Helen Moffett (I LOVED this one. Read my review here.)
A look at what happened to Charlotte Lucas after she married Mr. Collins.
Death and the After Parties – Joanne Hichens
A memoir about grief and friendship, by one of South Africa’s most loved crime writers.
Brandejaer – Joha van Dyke
A young surfer with secrets, a girl who wants to unravel them.
Wêreld van wolwe 1 – Fanie Viljoen
Book one in a new fantasy series set in a small town where werewolves are real.
Sea Star Summer – Sally Partridge
A holiday love story set in one of South Africa’s most beautiful beach destinations.
If you’re still reading, thanks for your time. I hope you’ll consider a local gift this year. You’re sure to end up on Santa’s Nice List if you do, and even if you’ve outgrown the jolly old man, you’re definitely putting a smile on someone’s face.