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Author Guide

THE WRITERS CLINIC: BECOMING A MONGREL OF ‘ENGLISHES’

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IN mid-December last year, 2019, we launched Simba Nyamadzawo’s book, EMERGE. I shared with him an observation I had made while typesetting the book — that he was mixing up American and British English.

Well, it’s not an unpardonable sin, but it’s important because in certain circles, especially on the international market, it can lead to the rejection of a book or demean its value. 

In fact, I have noticed that a lot of authors don’t know the differences between these two most dominant ‘Englishes’. 

The differences often manifest in orthographies, or the spelling system of a language. You can take a look at the following random examples:

British                American

1. Realise               Realize

2. Colour                Color

3. Centre                Center

4. Saviour               Savior 

These differences emerged between the 1750s and early 1800s when Samuel Johnson published A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755 while an American standardised orthography was birthed following Noah Webster’s release of An American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828.

The publications extensively helped in defining and distinguishing the two English varieties. 

Traditionally, the English generally spoken in Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth (a club of former British colonies) is British English. 

It’s not a crime to use either of these ‘Englishes’. It only becomes a ‘crime’ when you are not consistent in your use of that particular English. Stick to the English of your choice throughout your book. It is a matter of consistency. 

Now, I want us to go a little deeper with this. I took the title of this presentation from a conversation between academics at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, Professor Elisabeth Dutton and Professor Alexandre Duchene and Adichie Chimamanda Ngozie titled Literature, Power & the Academy: A Conversation with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie held on November 15, 2019. 

Adichie is the internationally acclaimed Nigerian author of Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, The Thing Around Your Neck, Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists

She is also popularly known for her TEDTalk presentation, The Danger of a Single Story

In her November 15, 2019 talk, Adichie said:  “But I do feel that I’ve become a kind of mongrel of Englishes. I’d like to think that my work reflects the kind of English I’m familiar with, which is a certain kind of Nigerian English. An English deeply flavoured with Igbo, the other language I speak.”

Adichie then explained about Pidgin English, another bastardised version of English, which we frequently encounter in movies from Nigeria. This is a rather informal version of English spoken among the lower social classes in the West African country.

She described that as “the multipleness of English in my world.”

When you hear Americans speak or write, you will notice that their English is not exactly like that spoken by the British, or maybe even Australians, South Africans and Zimbabweans. 

There was a time in my life when I thought my English had to be faultlessly British every time I write.

I remember that this drive for perfection was born out of rejection. This was after an Evaluator at Mambo Press had rejected my first ever manuscript around 2001/2002 on the basis that there was too much use of what she called Colloquial English in my writing. 

Colloquialism, according to the dictionary, is a word or phrase that is not formal or literary, and is used in ordinary or familiar conversation. 

But over the years, I have been increasingly fascinated by the disruptive innovations that have crept into almost every facet of life, including the study of language itself and literature as a whole.

And this is why I was excited by Roderick Mazoyo’s debut novel, Hupenyu Hauna Formula and our recent publication at Royalty Books titled Life Will Humble You, a debut novel by Audrey Chirenje. 

Audrey, in particular, uses the largely informal English that you may call slang, spoken among a younger generation of Zimbabweans, in telling her. 

This is how the book opens…WOW! Wow! Gosh! OMG! So, this is what it feels like driving one of them big cars, I thought. I could feel the wind in my face. Wait a minute! I had to play some loud music to complete the picture. I reached for the radio and pressed “play” and, of course, my girl Brandy started doing her thang on her song, Wow.

This is largely informal writing which, however, young Zimbabweans can identify with because this is a bastardised version of Zimbabwean English that they speak every day. 

Linguists however argue that colloquialism is not necessarily slang (words used by specific social groups such as teenagers or soldiers), but may include slang while consisting mainly of contractions or other informal words and phrases known to most native speakers of the language.

When you read my books, you will often come across the word kombi rather than commuter omnibus. Any Zimbabwean, anywhere, will know what it means, although people who are foreign to Zimbabwe may require a footnote to grasp it. 

To say fat cooks, for instance, is English, but an American or British may not understand what you mean. This is derived from the Afrikaans word, vetkoek, which means “fried bread” 

If you are going to use fried bread instead of fat cook in your narrative, it may fly over your readers’ heads. 

Just for interest’s sake, you can consider the Shona insult word pfutseke. It is derived from an informal Afrikaans term, voetsek (meaning ‘go away’ or ‘get away’) but has almost been formalised in the Shona language. 

The same applies with robot, which we use in Zimbabwe to refer to traffic lights. Elsewhere, a robot is not a traffic light! You also have terms like durawall (precast wall) and small house (mistress).

Here is a line from a novel script that I am currently finalising, titled, Sword in the Wilderness: Harry nodded. He reached over to brush loose strands of Fadzai’s long weave out of her eyes._ (pp51).

To a non-Zimbabwean, a long weave would be improper English because “weave” is a verb rather than a noun, meaning;– interlace, lace, intertwine, plait, kit, entwine, merge or unite…

However, in Zimbabwe, we know that it means hair extensions or something like that… (Am I right, ladies? 

Those of you who watch Black American movies will also appreciate that the English they speak is different from that spoken by White Americans from the mainstream society, but it can be perfectly understood across the board. 

Just this afternoon, I was chatting with my good friend Dr. Tanaka Chidora about this very subject. 

Interestingly, he sent me an abstract of a thesis he is currently working on titled When Ancestors Speak in English: Chenjerai Hove’s Ground breaking Shonalised English Novel.

Some of you would be familiar with Hove’s Bones (1988), a Noma Award for Publishing in Africa winner, as well as Ancestors (1994), which Dr. Chidora describes as  “a ground-breaking project with an Achebean tinge to it because it was the first full throttle attempt by a Zimbabwean author to, so to speak, make ancestors converse in English”. 

He further argues that by so doing, Hove joined “the side of Chinua Achebe who argued that English can be made to carry the weight of his African experience”.

But what I find catchy is Dr. Chidora’s proposition that Ancestors “is also an archive of what I can call Zimbabwean English, in terms of the use of Shona idioms and speech rhythms.” This is powerful, and so very liberating, especially the acknowledgment that Hove’s “process of ‘Shonalising’ manifests in the new generation of globetrotting Zimbabwean writers who seem to be creating a ‘home’ away from home by importing various idiomatic forms of Zimbabwean languages into their writings”.

Among these globetrotters are Petina Gappah, Brian Chikwava and Panashe Chigumadze. If you are a serious author, you must familiarise yourself with these guys’ works.

What I am sharing with you might never make sense to you, or will present difficulties, unless you develop a strong relationship with words. 

Henceforth, I want to encourage you to start paying closer attention to your language. 

A few weeks ago, I attended a work meeting where we mingled with Shingi Mutasa (Joina City owner and one of the richest men in Zimbabwe), who described English as “a very specific language”. 

You can use it to pigeonhole any idea or express any emotion. The trick is to use the version that does it aptly for you.

Phillip Kundeni Chidavaenzi

Author | Editor | Literary Consultant

Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Royalty Books (Pvt.) Ltd

Founder & Administrator Writers Clinic

Writers Clinic is a writer training and author empowerment arm of leading book publishers, Royalty Books.

Author Guide

Sales Or No Sales, Every Writer Should Be On Amazon

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Amazon is one of the world’s biggest and most diverse online supermarkets where the widest range of products including different genres of books by seasoned and first time writers are sold across all the continents on our beautiful Planet Earth.

As an online commerce platform, Amazon gives writers a global internet presence which enables them to transact with clients worldwide beyond the physical geographical boundaries since e-commerce has made the world become an easily accessible global village.

The internet has to a certain extent also considerably and positively taken over many aspects of human life, and thus many activities including the production and sale of books which were predominantly done in brick and mortar structures can now be done online.

It is therefore imperative for writers to quickly adopt technology through platforms like Amazon in the production, distribution and sale of their books since there are many benefits to be realised.

I must however be quick to highlight that when it comes to the impact of Amazon on your book sales, you must bear in mind that it is you who actually sell your books through Amazon, and thus, you must strive to personally direct your clients to this platform if they have no access to physical bookshops.

As an enterprising author, you must understand that you cannot just upload your books on Amazon and then fold your hands and wait for miracle sales.

You must always bear in mind that you are your own marketing officer, sales representative and public relations personality who must take advantage of the tools and resources available on Amazon in order for you to sell your books to people that are even Oceans away.

If you have been to a supermarket in your community, for example, Woolworths, PicknPay etc, you will discover that there are merchandisers and sales representatives from supply companies such as Coca Cola who will be there to ensure that their products in that supermarket are sold.

Technically, Amazon operates in the same way in the sense that it only gives you an online commercial platform for people to discover your business footprint in this digital era but it is still your duty to let people know that they can access your books there.

One of the first steps for you to get published on Amazon is to register on a platform called Kindle Direct Publishing.

Publishing your books on Amazon through their Kindle Direct Publishing facility (KDP) is an important development especially considering the costs and other technicalities associated with setting up and managing your own author website from scratch.

For example, creating your own website as author and incorporating an e-commerce functionality plus the regular maintenance that is needed may prove to be technically challenging and also expensive to many writers and thus the need to create your own account on Amazon.

If you are not able to do it on your own, you may ask someone to do it for you and honestly speaking, the Amazon route is always comparatively the cheaper option.

There is a great advantage of associating with a big name like Amazon especially when it comes to the visibility that you can get through them since they can afford to pay for search engine optimisation and other technical touch-ups that makes their shop more appealing and your book more accessible.

According to Wikipedia, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines

Among the other benefits of being on Amazon is that it gives you an opportunity to create what is called an Author Page which I regard as your mini personal website within the Amazon website itself.

For example: https://www.amazon.com/author/briankazungu

For example, if you go on Google right now and type Brian Kazungu, you will discover that among the first search results where you find the name is on Amazon and this on its own is a good marketing and public relations facility that writers can take advantage of.

This on its own gives you considerable global and online visibility plus an equal footing with even the greatest of writers that you can even think of as long as their books are also published on the same platform.

Being on Amazon is not only and always about book sales since there are many other opportunities that are associated with having your author profile on such a big platform.

For example, depending on your genre, you can be approached to be a speaker on the subject you write about or some individuals and companies can even consult you on the same matter if they see that on your profile, you seem to have what it takes to solve their problems.

I have written a handbook titled, The Universal Customer Service Manual and I have seen that there are businesses that invite me to talk to or train their staff members on this issue and quite often, this may be a little more rewarding than selling this 12 page handbook.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform allows you to publish your book at your own pace and gives you an option to edit an already published book if you believe that there is something you must add or if you discover that that there is an error which you made in your manuscript.

It also allows you to use its book cover templates if you do not have enough funds to pay a graphics designer to do you a book cover at that time and yet you are convinced that your content must be out there for people to read.

So basically speaking, in summary, Amazon gives you an online shop to sell your books but you must be prepared to drive your own traffic there rather than to just wait for people who are randomly browsing on the shelves of this online book store.

More-so, besides the possibility and probability of sales, Amazon gives you a priceless online presence that you can utilise as a marketing and public relations tool to promote your books and your brand as an author.

And finally it gives you a cheaper option to quickly get published especially when you consider the bureaucracy and expenses associated with engaging traditional publishers.

You also have an added advantage of being able to make the necessary changes on the manuscript in-line with the feedback that you get from your readers.

As such, in this world of technology where much of the information about people and organisations is on the internet, it is in the best interests of every writer to put their books on Amazon in order to reach a wide market.

Do not forget to create your Amazon Author Page for marketing and public relations purposes since this will act as your Billboard on the Internet Highways.

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Author Guide

Amazon Publishing and the Art of Marketing Your Books Online | THE WRITERS CLINIC

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Publishing your books online especially on Amazon is one of the simplest and quickest ways to get your life changing ideas, insights and experiences into the public domain for the benefit of your target audience as well as for your possible financial gain and self-actualisation.

As such, it is important to understand that, publishing is just one stage of the process that writers go through, since, once the book is published; people must get to know about it through marketing and after that, a mechanism for transactions must be put in place in order to guarantee smooth selling.

This therefore brings us to the subject of Marketing Your Books Online. We are talking about marketing because writing or being an author is actually a business that must be considered seriously apart from being your passionate hobby only.

As a writer, you are a business person like any other, and that is if you do it right, just like Paulo Coelho and John Maxwell. If you are still starting in the world of writing, you are actually an SME like any other in any field; the only difference is that you are in the literature industry.

As such, while you embark on your writing career, you may be interested in getting some SME tips from reading The SME Handbook: https://amzn.to/2SOWYAa

Marketing, in many of its forms is simply done through Communication, of which I describe communication as the intentional and purposeful exchange of mutually beneficial data using common or easily agreeable symbols.

In a book that I wrote about Marketing called The Sales and Marketing Pocket Book: https://amzn.to/2vADnf3, I described Marketing, Advertising and Selling as follows:

Marketing – engaging in activities that make your products and services appealing to your targeted clients.

Selling – offering or presenting products and services to clients so that they can buy at their convenience.

Advertising – An appealing generic public display or customized private presentation of data about a product or service to a targeted audience in a way that arouses interest in order to create, maintain and promote a mutually beneficial transactional engagement.

Some of the most effective approaches that we as writers can adopt in marketing our books besides word of mouth is to utilise the internet by making use of mechanisms that include: blogging, social media and even being a guest content/news contributor to a media house such as: zwnews24.com.

With the word of mouth approach, through the live interactions that you do with people, you simply need to tell them that you are a writer and that you have books that they can buy from specific platforms and then encourage them to spread the word in their respective circles as well.

More so, whether you choose blogging, social media, content contribution to news platforms or even to WhatsApp groups such as the Writers Clinic, there is always a chance and an opportunity for you to market your books.

Quite often, starting a blog is simple, whether it’s your writers/author blog where you specifically talk about your books or it’s a blog on any other subject, at the end, you must have the privilege to mention that you are a writer and to possibly list or display your book links as a way or marketing your work.

Those who are familiar with LinkedIn may agree with me that it offers so much benefits in the corporate world including a blogging facility as you can see on this link: https://bit.ly/2OZIJHC

Way before I published my books, I was already dropping some teasers about my books on LinkedIn. I can as well continue to talk about the same books on this very same LinkedIn platform especially now that the books are published.

On social media, you can make use of platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram to share links, images, and interviews as well as write ups concerning your literary work in order to generate leads towards sales.

You can share vivid images of your book covers as profile photos on Social Media and more so you can also post teasers of the contents of your book like what Simbarashe Nyamadzawo does with his books on Facebook

More so, you can as well start to discuss some chapters, subjects or characters in your books to generate interest among your social media followers and any possible audience for that matter.

The idea is to gain people’s attention on your literary work and then to arouse their interest towards your books in a way that can possibly create sales and generate revenue. 

As a content/news contributor on zwnews24.com or any other platform, you may be given a column where you can write on a subject that you are knowledgeable about. In the article that you write or on your author profile can be included information about your books just like we see in various advertorials in the newspapers.

If you really and consciously look at this presentation, you can realise that in its depth and width, it is actually an example of a business flyer that I have sent out about the books that I have written, the zwnews24.com platform that we are running as well as my social and professional personality for possible mutually beneficial engagement.

When we breakdown this presentation, you can notice that I have provided some links to the following books: The Sales and Marketing Pocket Book and The SME Handbook.

If you click on any of the links that I have provided, you will be taken straight to Amazon, the book shop and more so, if you click on https://live.zwnews24.com/news/, you automatically get to see our news site and the work that we are doing to promote SMEs and authors like you and me with publicity through the interviews that you can also participate in.

Authors and SMEs stand a chance to be featured on zwnews24.com if they respond to the interview template that can be provided to anyone interested and your published interview will appear as follows: https://bit.ly/38CjZNw

As an author, you can share the published interview with people in your circles through social media and other means or you can even put it on your website or blog if you have one. 

This published interview approach helps you with online publicity and even with marketing as your audience get to see what you do and they also have a chance to understand you better.

If you so wish, you can even convert the interview article into the pdf or jpeg formats for easy and convenient sharing on social media especially when the prices of data bundles can be an issue of concern.

Conclusion: Do not forget to market your published work and if you can’t do it on your own, find somebody who can help you, because being a writer is a business and as such, it must be done with a business mind-set.

Brian Kazungu is a Christian, Media Practitioner, Author, Poet, Technology Enthusiast, Entrepreneur and an Opinion Leader.

For more of his writings and motivation, follow him on:

https://www.amazon.com/author/briankazungu
https://muckrack.com/brian-kazungu

@BKazungu -Twitter

Writers Clinic is a writer training and author empowerment arm of leading book publishers, Royalty Books founded by Phillip Chidavaenzi.

Phillip Kundeni Chidavaenzi

Author | Editor | Literary Consultant

Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Royalty Books (Pvt.) Ltd

Founder & Administrator Writers Clinic

Email: royaltybookspl@gmail.com

Phone: +263 77 552 1665

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