"How many copies sold make a bestseller in South Africa?"

"How many copies sold make a bestseller in South Africa?" from New Readers Publishers

By: New Readers Publishers  07-04-2012
Keywords: Adult Education, reading, african languages

HOW MANY COPIES SOLD MAKE A BESTSELLER IN SOUTH AFRICA? This is one of the “Frequently asked questions” in the Guide to publishing in South Africa (2012 edition) published by the Publishers’ Association of South Africa (PASA). And the answer given is: “10 000. There are some notable exceptions that grab the headlines such as Harry Potter but they grab the headlines precisely because they are so exceptional.” Of course, there is also the phenomenal local example of the Spud books written by John van der Ruit and published by Penguin. The point is that bestsellers are rare, particularly in South Africa where the South African Book Development Council recent survey has revealed that 1% of the population are book buyers, 14% of are regular readers and about 5% read to their children. New Readers Publishers (NRP) is a non-profit publishing project of the Centre for Adult Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). The aim of the project (which has been in operation since 1991) is to make a contribution to an increase in adult literacy and the promotion of a reading culture . NRP has 4 bestsellers and they were all written, edited, published, marketed, promoted and distributed by UKZN staff. It was UKZN staff that made it happen – from the first idea and rough draft of a story in a writers’ workshop to beautiful books finally ending up in the hands of hundreds of thousands of people all over South Africa and beyond. What makes their bestseller status even more incredible is that these popular stories were written using only between 40 and 80 sentences. Yet they have the fundamental elements of all good full-length stories. Readership surveys have indicated that each of the books is read by about 10 people – if you do the maths you will realise how many people have read these stories! And the cherry on top is that one of the stories was written and published in isiZulu! It is unlikely that there has ever been any other isiZulu book ever published that has reached bestseller status. NEW READERS PUBLISHERS’ BESTSELLERS Bestsellers do not just happen. They are created through a series of good judgement calls - starting with the correct choice of story and informed judgement that when it is published it will be bought. New Readers Publishers’ bestsellers have been made by the creativity of the author, the experience and judgement of the publisher and the content editor, the eagle eye of the copy editor and myriad decisions made in conjunction with language advisor/s, the careful construction of the illustrator’s brief, the skill of the South African illustrators, the careful supervision of the execution of the illustrations and the sensitive inclusion of feedback from the target audience prior to publication. Their success is also to do with many other technical and production decisions correctly made, inter alia the design and layout, the choice of the cover, the use of quality paper and the vigilant supervision of the printing process. Even after all the above decisions have been correctly made, a bestseller is only a bestseller if more than 10 000 copies actually leave the shelves. The marketing and promotion, distribution, invoicing, packing and posting of every single one of the 307 032 books that have been sent out has been the work of members of the staff of New Readers Publishers. And on top of all this, in solidarity with other non-profit organisations, New Readers Publishers offers and administers a tiered pricing system to ensure that the cost of the books is not prohibitive for non-profit organisations. New Readers Publishers is therefore justifiably proud of the following bestsellers: The Nkosi Family by Elda Lyster. Elda Lyster was a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Adult Education, until the end of 2010. This book has sold 14 615 copies in English. It is a simple, yet clever, story written for Adult Basic Education Level 1/Grades 1 - 3 learners. It is a story about the seven members of the Nkosi family and their likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams. It has been translated into isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sesotho, Afrikaans and Sepedi. Going home with chickens by Pauline Stanford. Pauline Stanford was a staff member in the Centre for Adult Education when she wrote this book. It has sold 13 970 copies in English. It is an easy to read story written for Adult Basic Education Level 1/Grades 1 – 3 learners. It tells the story of Thobela, a migrant worker, who sets off on a long bus journey home with a surprise for his family. The story has a twist in the tale! It has been translated into isiXhosa, Sesotho and Afrikaans. UMahlase uvakashela edolobheni by Cedric Xulu. Cedric was a postgraduate student in the Centre for Adult Education and an intern at the Natal Adult Basic Education Support Agency (a non-governmental organisation that was set up in a partnership between the Centre for Adult Education and the Joint Education Trust that was in operation for ten years, 1994 – 2004). It has sold 12 803 copies. This beautifully written, easy to read story is aimed at Adult Basic Education Level 1/Grade 1 – 3 learners. It is a touching, but funny story about the adventures of Mahlase, who went to the city after the 1987 floods to look for work to support his family. This is the only isiZulu book on the bestseller list. It has been translated into English and Sepedi. Woza Friday by Wendy Annecke. Wendy Annecke was a New Readers Publishers staff member when she wrote this book. It has sold 11 831 copies. It is the most simple book ever published by the project - it contains only two sentences! It is about how a person feels on a Monday morning compared with how he feels on a Friday morning. The clever illustrations and the catchy rhythm of the text make this book popular with learners of all ages. It is also used to teach names for parts of the body in a fun way.

Keywords: Adult Education, african languages, Books for second language learners, Easy readers for newly literate adults, I want to learn Zulu, Mother tongue language reading, Readers in all official languages, reading, reading culture, reading for pleasure, reading promotion, teacher in-service training,

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