I’ve been to every Cape Town Book Fair and now SA Book Fair since they first started. I have to say there was something very fabulous about the first one in Joburg. I loved the venue, the Turbine Hall in Newtown. If the Fair grows in popularity – it may not be big enough, but if has a fantastic vibe. Thanks to PASA and the FPM Seta Modjaji Books was able to afford to go up to Joburg for the Fair. We had most of our expenses paid, including the stand. There were 41 small, independent publishers who were funded to participate, including us.
Emily Buchanan, my business partner paid for herself to be at the Fair – Modjaji is so fortunate to have Emily on board as an investor, a partner, and a passionately involved publisher, editor and financial manager. One of our interns, Silvia Foligno, also paid for herself to be at the Fair (she’s from Italy, she’s doing an MA in Publishing in Paris and the internship is part of her course). Silvia wanted to get a sense of the bigger publishing and book world in South Africa than what she has gotten from working at Modjaji Books (i.e. the dining room table in my house).
We sold lots of books, met journalists, librarians, readers, other small publishers, friends in the book trade, publishers from elsewhere in Africa – in particular Weaver Press and amaBooks from Zimbabwe. And we got to say hi to quite a few Modjaji authors, some of whom we haven’t published yet. Zaheera Jina (editor of Riding the Samoosa Express), Fiona Snyckers (Team Trinity and forthcoming, Now Following You), Futhi Ntshingila (Do Not Go Gentle), Maren Bodenstein (Shooting Snakes), Ameera Patel (Outside the Lines, forthcoming), CA Davids (The Blacks of Cape Town) and Arja Salafranca (The Thin Line and Beyond Touch). And we got to see Bontle Senne, who long ago was an intern for Modjaji – she may even have been our first intern. She has gone onto greater things, and was the chair of a couple of very high-powered sessions at the Fair.
I always love book fairs because we get to display our covers front out, and we get to interact with readers and buyers of books. We always get such cool feedback on our covers. Actually selling books and seeing readers go off with smiling faces is one of the best rewards for a publisher who spends a lot of time sitting in front of a screen, trying to balance budgets.
Somehow I was on three panels, only two were planned in advance. The first one was on Friday evening, and was called Publishing in the Global South: Challenges and opportunities and was organised as a collaboration between PASA and the small publishers who were funded by the SETA and the Goethe Institute funded African Publishers. The second was unexpected, Darryl Accone asked me on Friday to be on this panel on Sunday morning, from 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.
South African fiction publishing at 21: Gatekeeping or rainmaking? – Fourie Botha (Umuzi), Bridget Impey (Jacana), Thabiso Mahlape (The Black Bird), Debra Primo (UKZN Press) &David Robbins (Porcupine Press), chaired by Bronwyn Law-Viljoen.
And finally I was on a panel with Benoit Knox invited by PEG to talk about Self Publishing, the possibilities and pitfalls. Benoit is such an inspiring person to know and to listen to. He started publishing at age 20! And ten years later he is still going strong and remains passionate.
I loved being in Joburg, the bright eye-hurting sun, the clear blue winters’ days, the crazy taxi drivers especially on Friday night – payday, the Reef Hotel and my fellow small publishers were great. Wine O’clock at the Reef Hotel after the Fair was something to look forward to. We had a small Modjaji drinks party to catch up with our writers who were at the Book Fest or could make it. We were joined by Angela Makholwa and Cynthia Jele too and a crew of cool journos.
To see a few more pictures – go to our Facebook page