Community Publishing Project launched in South Africa
Colleen Higgs is Project Manager at the Centre for the Book in Cape
P O Box 15254, Vlaeberg, 8018, South Africa. 21 423 2669 (tel), email:
The Community Publishing Project (CPP) was launched in
August 2001 by the Centre for the Book and NB Books in Cape Town. The
CPP aims to make it possible for individuals, community groups and community-based
organisations to publish books of interest to a particular community,
but not cost-effective for a commercial publisher.
The CPP also aims to empower individuals and community
groups to develop the necessary skills and capacities to enable them
to publish, which in turn means that interesting and worthwhile books
which would otherwise not be published will see the light of day.
NB Books has donated R150 000 (US$17,500) over
three years to pilot this exciting new publishing project. It will open
up entry points into publishing, making more openings for new and marginal
voices. The new publishers who will participate in this project will
need to learn marketing and how to be publishing and book-selling entrepreneurs.
Hannes van Zyl, Managing Director of Tafelberg
Publishers, has been incubating this idea for several years. He believes
that books have a beneficial and enriching influence in society, especially
books which reflect a diversity of voices and experiences. Commercial
publishers can't always justify the publication of books which would
probably only have limited market, especially in a country like South
Africa where the book-buying market is very small. A project such as
this makes possible the publishing of these more marginal works.
Writers who have not been published are often
critical of publishers' lack of interest in their writing. However,
working as small publishers could make it possible for writers to understand
the need for a collaborative relationship between publishers, writers,
booksellers and other actors in the book chain. The project will offer
mentoring of new publishers by established ones. Writers and community
publishers will learn about the crucial importance of marketing and
distribution of books. It is not enough to get a book printed; publishing
also means marketing and selling. A key aim of the project is to develop
new small publishers filled with enthusiasm and imagination in the marketing
of the books they produce.
The timeliness of this project is evidenced by
the theme of the recent Annual Conference of Women in Writing held in
Johannesburg in early September, which tackled the publishing stalemate
- whither African women writers, and promoting and enhancing current
relationships with publishers.
The CPP was launched with a celebratory exhibition
of books. Some were handmade; some were self-published; some had been
produced by writers' groups or small publishing companies. The exhibition
demonstrated in a lively way the great variety of forms that `the book'
can take, and showed that the process of publishing may be more accessible
than is usually assumed. There are many possible routes into publishing
for those who may be venturing into it for the first time, all of which
have their validity. Which method is eventually chosen will depend on
the aims and objectives of each particular project, what is being said,
who it is aimed at, and how it is intended to reach them. [end] [BPN,
no 28, 2001, p 6.]
to table of contents for BPN Newsletter 28, 2001>>