Publishing FAQ




Should I self-publish my book?

Only if you are sure that you can fulfil all the roles of a publisher without sacrificing quality. Or if you can’t find a publisher interested in publishing your book.

Should I publish a printed book or an eBook?

Very often the answer is to publish both – but it does depend on the production specifications of your book and the market you are trying to reach.

Can I publish an eBook with one publisher and the print book with another publisher?

It depends on the terms of your contract, but not usually.

Should I publish an eBook instead of a print book?

Only if the market you are targeting wants an eBook and not a print book.

How do I know which is the right publisher to approach?

Find out whether they are active in the market your book is aimed at – look at their website and their other published titles in bookshops to find this information.

What is the best way to approach a publisher?

Use a written proposal submitted by email (check the publisher’s website for guidelines on submissions).

Do I need an agent?

Only if you want to get published in the UK and US.

Does a book need to be registered somewhere?

No. All you need is an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), which your publisher will get from the State Library.

Can you use the same ISBN for the print book and the eBook?

No, each format needs its own ISBN.

Does copyright protect ideas?


How does publishing contract work?

Like any contract: it imposes legal obligations on both parties. In this case, the author has to deliver a manuscript; the publisher has to publish and market the book at her cost.

How long should I wait once I have submitted my manuscript before I phone the publisher?

A month.

How long will it take from the time I deliver my manuscript to publication?

Nine months, on average. We do it in four and a half months.

How many copies does the average book in South Africa sell?

2000-3000 copies are seen as an average success.

If I use a publisher, who controls the copyright?

The publisher, but it normally reverts to you when the book goes out of print.

Should I bring my manuscript in personally and wait for an editor to see me so that I can explain the plot or contents face to face?

No – please send an email with all the necessary information. View our submissions process.

Should I share my ideas with a publisher - won't he steal it?

Generally, a publisher will not steal your ideas. None the less do not simply share an idea – write something first, and submit via the channels the publisher uses.

Should I use colour in my book?

It is much more expensive but of course, some books demand it by their very nature.

What discounts do booksellers get?

For trade (general) books, about 47%; for educational books discount is lower.

What is a backlist book?

A book that has been around for more than a year.

What is a frontlist book?

A new book.

What is a reasonable royalty percentage?

10 - 12% of net receipts (the amount the publisher sells to the bookseller for, i.e. retail price less VAT less discount), but it varies depending on the publisher, type of book, and the leverage you have. And in our case what you have contributed financial to the book.

Are eBook and print book royalties the same?

No, in many cases the eBook royalty is higher than the print book royalty to compensate for the absence of printing costs.

How often are royalties paid?

Once or twice a year, in arrears for sales of the previous period.

What is a trade book?

A book for the consumer market.

What other types of books are there?

Publishers define books by the main markets that they sell in – trade (children & adult), religious, schools/educational, tertiary education/academic, TVET college, scholarly, professional – not all publishers publish for all markets

What is an imprint?

It is a trade name or brand or logo, like Penguin or Juta.

What kind of style should I follow in the book?

Use a style guide in a consistent way, either a general one like the Oxford Style Manual or one provided by the publisher.

What software should I use for writing my book?

Microsoft Word

When and how can I get the rights to my book back from the publisher?

After the book goes out of print and there are no plans of reprinting.

When do I need copyright permission?

When quoting a substantial portion of another work.

Where does one get ISBN numbers?

The State Library.

Which people in a publishing house do I deal with?

Mainly the commissioning editor.

Who owns the copyright?

The author, unless he cedes the copyright.