I asked a lovely lady named Deborah du Plooy, that works at Skoobs bookshop in Monte Casino if I could interview her for my blog and she very kindly agreed. I will not be putting the questions in the traditional way because we had such a wonderful and informative discussion, that I thought I would put it in the format with headings for points of discussion.
Deborah is the mind, mood and events co-ordinator at Skoobs and she also buys the books. It’s not often that you meet someone so on fire and so inspirational and I thoroughly enjoyed this interview. I hope that it helps any new authors out there that are not sure how certain things work in the bookshop industry and also just to get to know this wonderful warrior woman.
What are your views on book cover designs and editing
- Authors are too attached to their covers and I tell them to back off. I am known as the book cover dragon, even if you printed 100 copies, I will send you away if your cover is not right because I know what sells.
- People will take advantage of you if you can do book covers and editing. Don’t do it for free, your time is not free. You need to stand your ground.
- I like to refer work to people so that we can all help each other.
- It takes 3 seconds for a book cover to have an effect. If I don’t like it in 3 seconds, I won’t even turn it over.
Can you tell me a little about Skoobs Event Costs and give a little info?
- An events base fee is about R300 for an event at night (this amount could change). You need to do your own marketing for an event as well, you can’t just depend on the bookshop to market because then nobody will show up.
- Skoobs has an event called the Business Entrepreneur’s Connect which is held once a month. They look at were you went wrong. If you doing something that’s not jellying, somebody else can see it. It’s also free of charge. For example, say your labelling is wrong, someone in the group may say, “Well I have a labelling company, let me help you.” Skoobs advertises these events on their Facebook page, as well as many other events.
Self-Published Authors and Traditionally published Authors
- I find that the self-published edited books are 20 times better than the traditional published editing because the traditional publishers slice and dice that story that was originally from the manuscript into something they want it to be and half the story gets lost and the authors original voice gets lost. Self-published books are the real story and the original authors voice is in it at all times.
- If Skoobs sell’s your book for you, or any other bookshop, they take 45% of the retail price. So, if you get your printing price per book, add the 45% immediately for ‘bookshop’ and then you decide on the price from there. They also negotiate on volume, so the more that’s sold, the less that percentage gets.
- Traditionally published authors make about 2% per book, but Indie authors make between 55% and 100% per book. I have authors earning a passive income on Amazon sales where their books are about $2 a book, for Kindle.
- There’s not a lot of fiction writers in South Africa. There’s mostly self-help, politics, body mind and spirit, not a lot of business books, but they are coming through, so we try and encourage fiction all the time.
A little insider info on who Deborah is and what makes her tick
- I’m a reader and I get to know the authors. When I was a little girl, 6 or 7 years of age, I used to write to the publishing houses, “Thank you Mrs Author, loved your book…” and I get a thank you letter back, which was very exciting, but at the bottom is that signature and it’s a printed signature and not an original signature. I felt so bereft because I identified that, that was not the author. Authors have been hidden away for hundreds of years and now with technology, you can actually speak to the author and have interaction with them. I often hear from them, “It’s a very lonely life.” The readers are shaping the books now.
- I can’t stand institutionalized behaviour, like corporates that want to make you do what they want you to do. It leaves me blinded. Corporate choked the living daylights out of me, that I almost had a nervous breakdown. You are institutionalized to work within a certain parameter. And when you come with new ideas, you get shut down.
- Small and medium businesses are keeping this country afloat, it’s not the corporate companies. And why? Because they working their passion and they doing their passion. They not working because they have to. When I left corporate, I couldn’t find a job, I lived on R10 a day for 3 years and it’s the happiest I’ve ever been.
- I love meeting the author. It has been this way since I was very young.
How do book sales work?
- Any book has only got a 3-month shelf life. So, if the book does not sell in those 3 months, we send it back to the author or publishing house. That’s why we say that you need to go on social media and be campaigning at all times to get your books sold at the shops that sell them. You need to drive the force to the book store.
- Book stores mostly, don’t buy books, they are on a consignment basis. If we did happen to buy books from a publisher and it’s not selling, we first put them on a 50% sale for a while and then if it still doesn’t sell, we write them off and then we donate them to people that can’t afford to buy books. We can’t afford to have dead stock.
- What is great news, is that 27% of the independent bookshops worldwide have had a huge growth spurt, as opposed to Barnes & Noble and Exclusive Books because of the community projects that they are involved with, they are very involved with the authors around and about in that area and the authors are involved with them. Book sales for us are steady and rising all the time, were as opposed to your Exclusive Books which has your top 100 New York Times Bestseller in the box.
- There are a lot of independent bookstores in South Africa, unbeknownst to a lot of people. Go to the bookshop with your book and they will buy it right there, but you have to have the book with you.
What is the cost of the book fares organised by Indie Authors Networking?
- The book fare stand is free of charge up front, but if you sell something, then you pay 10% of what you sold, to the organiser but if you don’t sell anything, you don’t pay anything. This is to help authors get exposure and not pay for something they didn’t sell.
How does an author organize a book signing?
- I am not a lover of book signings. If you don’t do a lot of marketing before and you’re an unknown author, it will be a waste of time and money. I would not recommend them. We had a lady that was quite famous and she did a book signing for her traditionally published book and only 2 people pitched. So, unless you’re 5 to 6 books down and you’ve got quite a following, then don’t even think of doing it. I would rather advise to do an ‘In conversation with’ and put together 2 authors in conversation and do a book event during the day and each author advertises and I advertise and you cross pollinate your followers. And then you will extend and this is how you build your network. If it’s a day event that I organise, then it costs nothing. You need to do your own marketing as well. I don’t see a point to a book signing, you only see the author for 2 seconds and you move on, it’s like a sausage factory.
What do you ask authors or advise them when you meet them?
- My first question to an author, is where’s your book? You should have at least one in your bag or with you at all times if you’re an Indie author.
- Your friends and family are not your market, they’re your support group. Use them as your support group. Ask them to share whatever you’re posting.
- My greatest question is “What is your passion?” I always want to know if you doing your passion?
- Concentrate in your pond and then go globally. Work together with other authors and help each other. Doing it alone doesn’t always work.
- See yourself as a business.
- Goodreads is where readers trawl for authors. It is engagement from reader to author and you can put giveaways there and all your links to where they can get your books and see more about you. It’s like a marketing strategy. This is also where they would review or rate your books.
What percentage of profit can you look at when selling your books
- On the fairs, you get 90% on the book. One on one sales are 100%, never waiver, only for one reason and that is if someone really loves your book, I mean, really loves it, but they don’t have the amount you’re charging, you will be able to judge if the person is being honest. You can then ask them how much they have on them and sell it to them for that. Don’t give it to them for free or let them pay it off. You pen a beautiful autograph in there and then you ask them if you can take a picture and if they can post it on their social media and if they can rate the book on Goodreads. Your kindness and their word-of-mouth is reaching out to all the people on their social media. That random act of kindness will make them want to help you, so don’t think about what you’ve lost, think about what you gained. Women’s Events, and other events, attend all of them because you are networking.
How did you get into working at Skoobs?
- I walked in here 3 years ago and I told them, “I can make magic happen here,” and they said, “You can be a book seller” and I said, “Thank you”. They had no one to do their events and Dr Eve had an event and they didn’t have an MC that night, so the store manager asked me to please MC it and I said, “Oh no! That’s not my space,” and it’s still not my space, I hate it. I stand there and I want to be sick. I’ve done 300 and I still want to be sick, it’s not my natural space. So, I did it and the owner said, “Well, you said you can make magic happen, what can you do?” Why are these people not able to put their books on the shelf? I was a reader, I started three and a half years ago, chucked myself right in and learnt all about self-publishing and learnt everything about traditional publishing and learnt about social media. I started with 3 friends on Facebook, I even share all the Skoobs posts onto my own page as well, and my friends, family and network, share it on their pages as well. It has all been word of mouth. I have never advertised this in normal advertising spaces. I tweaked and learnt and tweaked and learnt. Last year, we did 174 events. This year, we have surpassed that already.
Thank you for all the wonderful information shared Deborah and for the awesome chat.
That’s it from me for now…
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