Information for Writers & Illustrators
Puku.co.za is a platform to connect the people who love to read childrenʼs books with those who write, translate, illustrate and publish them. We celebrate southern African childrenʼs books but unfortunately, cannot accept submissions or publish any work. We can, however, give advice on how to improve your skills and find an audience for your work.
How can I improve my skills?
Read everything you can get your hands on. Look out for book sales and second hand book stores, visit the local library, find ebooks online, search MXit for mobi novels – read, read, read.
Join or start a writing group
SA Writerʼs College has put together a list of local writing groups. They are free to join and offer participants an opportunity to share experiences and get feedback on some of their writing. If there isnʼt one already in your area, why not start one?
Join organisations that support and encourage writers and illustrators
Take a writing course
Taking a writing course can help you sharpen your skills, teach you how to sell your work or help you find others who are interested in the same field. Course fees and duration vary but there are a number of companies and organisations offering courses and classes for your development as a writer/illustrator.
How do I get my work published?
The Publishing Association of South Africa has a quick guide to getting published on their website and there are many helpful books available on the subject of getting published, including the highly recommened Get Your Book Published in 30 (Relatively Easy) Steps by Basil van Rooyen. SCBWI also has a great Top 10 FAQ list for aspiring children’s book writers.
The submission guidelines for each publisher differ but typically, you are not encouraged to send your entire manuscript for consideration. Instead, consider sending:
- a synopsis of your manuscript,
- at least 3 sample chapters,
- a description of the target market and,
- a brief biography or profile
As a general rule, do not send original illustrations or the only copy of your manuscript, as you may not get your work back. An unsolicited manuscript is a manuscript that a publisher has not asked for, requested or commissioned, so pay attention to whether that publisher is accepting unsolicited manuscripts or not. Read the guidelines of each publisher very carefully to make sure that your work is similar to the kind of work that publisher usually produces. Also make sure that your submissionʼs format, form and length matches their submission requirements.
Rejection is a normal part of being a writer or illustrator: donʼt give up. Get criticism and feedback from individuals and organisations in the industry. Try again.
Thinking about self-publishing your book or ebook? CNET’s David Carnoy has written an excellent article on Self-publishing a book: 25 things you need to know. Itʼs not written from a specifically South Africa or childrenʼs literature perspective but it is comprehensive and has many useful insights for aspiring self-publishers.
There are also a number of literary events that take place around the country where you can meet and interact with published as well as aspiring writers and illustrators.
- Abantu Book Festival is an annual literary event held in Soweto, South African’s artistic heartland, featuring authors from South Africa, Africa, and the diaspora. Abantu is the Nguni word for people, which makes this the people’s festival. “Our mission is to set up a literature event that provides black writers and readers the platform and visibility they deserve. The first edition of Abantu Book Festival was held on 06 -10 December 2016, a five day experience of readings, discussions, music and other forms of storytelling folded in the mix.
- Time of the Writer: During this activity-rich week, audiences can expect to hear the opinions of award-winning writers, from a variety of political and social contexts, on the creative and artistic processes and perspectives which inform their writing.
- Open Book Festival: Open Book Cape Town is an annual literary festival, the first of which happened in 2011. The hubs are always the Fugard Theatre and much-loved indie bookshop, The Book Lounge.
- Franschhoek Literary Festival: The annual Franschhoek Literary Festival takes place in May, featuring an array of topics from hot politics to cool poetry, love stories to the horrors of war.
- South African Book Fair: The re-imagined South African Book Fair is now owned by the South African Book Development Council and will be incorporated into the exiting National Book Week which runs in the first week of September. The SABDC has drawn inspiration from current South African narratives and the new Fair will look at the meaning of being South African and having an African perspective.
- Jozi Book Fair: The overall objective of Jozi Book Fair is to provide a public and visible platform where three key social partners in the promotion of a culture of reading and writing can come together.
- Knysna Literary Festival: The Knysna Literary Festival is now in its 8th year. It is the Garden Route’s only annual festival that hosts an exclusive group of hand-picked authors from South Africa and is fast becoming a must-attend with bookworms and lovers of all things literary.
- M&G Literary Festival The M&G Literary Festival, affectionately known as Litfest, explores literary questions in sessions ranging from fiction, nonfiction, editing and publishing to reporting and academic theorising.
- Richmond Book Fair: The small dorpie of Richmond in the Northern Cape has become well-known as the “Booktown” of South Africa. This annual book fair takes place in October.
How can I find out whatʼs going on with local childrenʼs book news and events?
The obvious answer is right here at puku.co.za but our focus is very strongly on indigenous language childrenʼs literature. For more general news and events, try the following sites:
- Nal’ibali (isiXhosa for “here’s the story”) is a national reading-for-enjoyment initiative to get people in South Africa – children and adults – passionate about telling and reading stories
- FunDza Literary Trust‘s mission is to boost literacy among teen and young adult South Africans by popularising reading, growing a community of readers and developing young writing talent
- Books LIVE is a daily online literary newspaper with all you need to know about South African publishing news, reviews, events and opinions.