Moving smoothly into print

If you’re an aspiring author struggling to get your work published, help is at hand. The recently established Porcupine Press will edit, publish and promote your book for you and get it into bookstores across the country.

“It’s difficult for many authors to get published by the big companies,” says Gail Robbins, print production manager and part-owner. “Unless they [the publishing houses] reckon they can make a considerable amount of money off a book, they’re not interested.”

Porcupine Press prides itself on providing a complete package of services to the author: writing advice, editing, book design, proofreading, printing, marketing and distribution.
It will also republish books that have been published elsewhere, after editing them to meet the company’s high quality standards, or handle the marketing and promotion for books printed by other publishing houses.

But it won’t simply print anything that anyone brings it, says Clare-Rose Julius, book promotion and marketing manager.

“We are very choosy about what we put our name on. If we feel the quality isn’t good, we will publish it but we won’t put our logo on it or do the marketing and promotion,” she says. Porcupine Press will also publish books that aren’t meant for the public market, such as collections of memoirs for family and friends, but it won’t put the Porcupine logo on them.

The books go through a strict quality-control check. “Authors tend to think their work is perfect but it never is,” says Julius. “The text goes through an editor and a proofreader and, although this doesn’t preclude mistakes, we try to eliminate them as far as possible.”

Says Robbins: “The criticism is often made of self-published books that they don’t have the same quality as books from a large publisher; they’re not edited well and so on. What Porcupine Press wants to establish in the industry is that we publish quality self-published books.”

The cost of self-publishing your book depends on a variety of factors: size, number of pages and whether there are photos to be included or not.

“We suggest that they print only 50 copies at first and we use those copies to test on the market,” says Robbins. The books are distributed to major bookshops around the country “and we also try to get them into libraries”, she says.

Porcupine Press was originally established in the late 1990s by photographer Paul Weinberg and others, but lay dormant for several years until it was revived in November 2009 by Robbins and her husband, David, a writer, who own the publishing house through their company DGT Writing & Research CC. Since last year Porcupine Press has printed about 10 books, ranging from volumes of poetry to short stories and travel books.

Porcupine Press’s most high-profile item to date, Beyond the billboards—the loveLife story by David Robbins, will be launched at Exclusive Books Hyde Park in August. Robbins takes a behind-the-scenes look at “the most innovative and controversial initiative ever established in South Africa”, presenting a chapter for every year up to 2009.

Porcupine Press’s plans for marketing itself include an active online presence, a regular newsletter distributed to bookshops and word of mouth. “We are offering a service to authors we feel should be published, who we feel are good enough to be out in the marketplace to be read,” says Robbins.

For more information see www.porcupinepress.co.za

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