Book publishing in 2017 what to look out for

Jacana staff

Hi from Klara and Andy! We’re (technically) the Staging Post team. Because Staging Post was created by Jacana Media, and we share an office space and professional resources with them, we are able to keep a finger on the pulse of the publishing world from both the traditional/commercial and self-publishing perspective. This is all of us in the picture, at our office Christmas party last year.

In the spirit of making sure that 2017 is the year that you get published, we asked our team of experts what they think will be trending in books over the coming months and about what you can do this year to avoid the most common mistakes authors made in 2016.

The common view is that publishing is becoming less about convention and more about innovation. We hope that what they had to say will inspire you to innovate and be ahead of the curve this year.

Jacana’s publishers:

·      With the current complexity of South Africa, stories by insiders are very attractive. This is what we think traditional publishers will be looking for.

·      The time of the Kindle is gone. E-books will still have a place and will continue to sell steadily, and our print books will all still be converted to e-books as a matter of course, but printed books will start to gain back the ground they’ve lost over the past
     few years. This is great news for bookshops, as they will be able to compete without the threat of e-books. In turn, it is great news for publishers too, as we need book sellers to showcase our titles so that they’re easy for readers to discover.

·      African recipe books and cookbooks by black chefs are on the rise (think Eat Ting By Mpho Tshukudu and Anna Trapido and Welcome to my Table by Siba Mtongana).

·      There’s a huge demand for South African self-help/inspirational titles. Just look at DJ Sbu’s book Leadership 2020, which has sold something like 20 000 copies since 2013.

·      Self-publishing will be – and we quote – “on steroids!”. If DJ Sibu isn’t example enough of self-published authors blowing up, there’s Msizi E Nkosi’s I’m a Different Mess than I was Yesterday, MofenyiMalepe’s283: The Bad Sex Bet and Dudu Busani-    
    Dube’s self-published love and marriage series, Hlomu the Wife.

Jacana’s sales team:

·      The African lit scene will be big.

·      All things 80s will be trending – fashion, music and TV/movie epics like Star Wars. We don’t know how this will translate into reading appetites, but it might mean great demand for some old-school sci-fi.

·      The new lay of the land is that the book trade is backing sure-fire titles and is less confident to back debuts. So, the trick is to find alternative markets and other marketing avenues.

·      It will be a year of big politics. And in years like this, what do people focus on? Ask yourself if what you plan to publish has relevance and whether you’re publishing for the zeitgeist. The uncertain global economy will have a big impact on us, so you           need to ensure that any publishing endeavour is worthwhile.

Jacana’s marketing team:

·      Paid content marketing is becoming more and more popular. It’s even being used as a tool for change by the Kenyan government – although it isn’t being used by publishers yet (wink, wink). [If, like us, you’re not too sure what paid content marketing      is, see more here:]

·      Last year, the word ‘girl’ in book titles was a huge trend ( There will be an equivalent trend in 2017, so that’s worth keeping an eye on.

·      Book cover design is leaning towards visuals that rely on the intelligence of the reader to fill the gaps. This trend could filter through into content as well.

·      Fiction still has to reach its full potential in Africa. Looking at the success of BlackBird’s fiction titles last year, we can see that the time is now for the rise of black voices that represent the most commonly lived experiences across our continent. Literary      awards like Etisalat speak to the importance of acknowledging this kind of writing from Africa.

·      Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the need for a solid marketing and distribution strategy. All self-published books need a professional, experienced marketer on their side!

·      With the decline of printed media, such as newspapers and magazines, there’s a good chance that online marketing will become even more crucial.

·      Themes sure to be popular: relationships, the economy, politics.

Jacana’s production department:

·      Seventy gram, creamy book paper for the interior of printed books is all the rage!

·      Print-on-demand (POD) and digital printing options will continue to allow us to print shorter runs – quickly and at reasonable prices. This is the way to go to keep unit costs low and allow for reprints, rather than taking a huge financial risk on printing a large number of books that may not sell.

Jacana’s editors:

·      Know the basics of grammar, punctuation and spelling.

·      Learn about copyright and plagiarism. Even the most seasoned authors fall down in this area.

·      Avoid clichés. And if you don’t know what a phrase means, don’t use it.

·      Get involved in the publishing process – read your manuscript thoroughly after editing and proofreading.

·      Read, reread and reread your manuscript before submission. And read it again!

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