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Jacana Literary Foundation

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As writers in this country are aware, if your work doesn’t fall within the guidelines of the school curriculum, you’ll likely not find a publisher in Botswana.

But we’re lucky, because just south of us is a place where trade publishers are able to make a living.

To submit your work to publishers in South Africa, like everywhere, you need to do your research to find out if your manuscript is something that the publisher might be interested in.

I thought I’d do a series of columns during the next few months on some of the publishers in South Africa so as to give readers a brief overview of who they are and what kind of books they publish.

Jacana Media is known for being a fiercely independent publisher. As their tagline says- “They publish what they like”.

They are located in Johannesburg and began operating in 1991. Since then, they’ve been known for quality publishing across a wide selection of books, both nonfiction and fiction.

Most literary prize lists in South Africa will have Jacana books among the shortlist or winners.

They loosely categorise the books they publish into three groups: Life, Earth, and Fiction. Life includes: political science, biography, autobiography, history, health and educational materials.

Earth includes: environmental books, natural history, maps, and environmental guides.

Under fiction are novels, poetry, short stories, and anthologies.

They also publish humour books and are the publishers for South African’s famous political cartoonist, Zapiro and well known columnist, Ben Trovato.

Some recent titles published by Jacana include the novel Unimportance by Thando Mgqolozana, Memoir of a Born Free by Malaika Wa Azania, Oscar: An Accident Waiting to Happen by Melinda Fergusson, and Concentration Camps of the Anglo-Boer War: A Social History by Elizabeth van Heyningen, which was shortlisted for the Alan Paton Prize for Nonfiction.

Jacana also published Kenneth Good’s book, Diamonds, Dispossession and Democracy in Botswana.

Jacana is the South African publisher of the annual Caine Prize anthology and the annual Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology.

Their Jacana Literary Foundation runs the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award (formerly called the European Union Literary Award) for debut South African citizen and resident authors.

Jacana is also one of the handful of publishers publishing quality children’s picture books across all of the South African languages, including Setswana.
Jacana has an imprint called Fanele which does customised publishing for NGOs, corporations and authors who have stories to tell and want the general public to have the books available to them.

They are books that would not be published if a traditional publishing model was used.

This looks like a cost sharing imprint. On the website it says, “The model provides for up-front funding of the production and printing costs of a book.

Jacana then undertakes sales, distribution and marketing.”

I think this means that the person with the book pays for the upfront costs (editing, proofreading, design, and printing) and Jacana takes care of the book after that.

Currently Jacana is looking for books in the following categories: current affairs, history, politics, biography, and natural history.

They are not accepting unsolicited submission for: poetry, short stories, teen and YA fiction, science fiction and fantasy, or any sort of scripts (TV, play, etc) or religion.

Jacana allows authors to submit directly to them, no agent is required.

Potential authors should be sure to check out their website and have a good look through the books that they have published to see if their book might fit in with Jacana’s catalogue.

Jacana has a strong bent toward books about Southern Africa and the continent and seems to publish more nonfiction than fiction.

Submissions are done at the website with their online submissions manager. (found here: http://jacana.co.za/submit-your-manuscript-29335). For fiction projects, the entire manuscript should be submitted.

For nonfiction projects, the author should submit a proposal with the first four chapters. It will take up to three to four months to get a response so authors should be patient.