Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (6)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

An Underworld Exposed

By Mandy Wiener

Published by: Pan Macmillan South Africa
Publishing Date: April 2011
ISBN: 9781770101326

In September 2005 one of South Africa’s most prominent mining magnates and businessmen Brett Kebble was killed on a quiet suburban street in Johannesburg. The top-level investigation into the case that followed was a tipping point for democratic South Africa, exposing the corrupt relationship between the country’s Chief of Police and Interpol President Jackie Selebi and suave Mafioso Glenn Agliotti. A lawless Johannesburg underbelly was revealed – dominated by drug lords, steroid-filled bouncers, an international smuggling syndicate, a shady security unit moonlighting for the police and sinister self-serving sleuths abusing state agencies.

Indemnified by an agreement struck with the state, Kebble’s killers Mikey Schultz, Nigel McGurk and Faizel ‘Kappie’ Smith come clean to Mandy Wiener in exclusive interviews about the events of the night Kebble was shot dead. As Wiener unpacks the chilling events we are given insight into the accounts of the life paths leading the ‘bungling assassins’ to Kebble’s killing. The man accused of orchestrating Kebble’s murder Glenn Agliotti has provided Wiener with exclusive access to his story, as have a cast of other characters whose versions of the events are as yet untold.

About the Author:
Mandy Wiener is an award-winning Eyewitness News journalist. She has been covering this story for five years and has unrivalled access to the main role players.

Follow Mandy on Twitter

Why we are waiting for this:

Tarryn is waiting for it because: There are some scary facts that people have not heard about yet, as well as some intriguing photographs. This book exposes the underbelly of Johannesburg gangs, as well as highlight how easy it is to feel sympathy for the bad guy. We think we have our city sussed out, but every page of this book is sure to raise the hairs and chill the spine.
For years I have listened to Mandy report the case on 702, finding myself leaning in closer to the radio with mouth agape as the story unfolded. To have it-and more-in a book is a gift and I cannot wait to get my hands on this book and-probably-look at every person I meet with a more sceptical eye.

Kelly is waiting for this because: Killing Kebble is a one and only of its kind!  Mandy manages to cut open the belly of the beast of Johannesburg's criminal underworld.  Told in the original voices (grammatical errors and all) of Mikey Shultz, Glen Aggliotti and others, is what sets this book apart from all the other “Kebble” stories.  A Mining Magnet gets tangled in some shady business and then he is found dead?  Who killed him?  Was it murder?....
Mandy, a hard-core award-winning journalist and even nicer Gal, exposes the gangster world with intrigue and hard hitting facts.  I have to give my props to a woman who can sit down and have a beer with a group of gangsters!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mice by Gordon Reece

We picked this title as a Waiting on Wednesday, and we finally got our grubby book loving hands on it!

A gripping, unique suspense thriller with a chilling twist . . .

I found this sample on my desk and rather intrigued by Stuart Dwyer's, International Sales Manager for Pan Macmillan UK, Trade Presentation of this book months ago; I jumped at the idea to read it. I am an avid reader and prefer to read and enjoy rather than to read to finish. I am rarely found to read a book in one sitting. This is the exception. In one fowl swoop this book was devoured, gasped at and stared at wide-eyed at the scene unfolding before me.

16 year-old Shelley is a victim of horrendous bullying at school and one particular heinous act nearly claims her life. Sheltered and shy, Shelley is a bystander to her parents’ divorce and particularly her own life, constantly hiding she is placed into home schooling. Mice are what she calls her and her mother – shy, trodden on people of this world. They have a club, or so Shelley likes to think. Shelley and her mother move to a secluded cottage in the country where no “cats” can harm these two mice, until one night Shelley hears the fourth stair on the staircase creak. Someone is in the house...

This is where the novel begins to take shape. One terrifying act turn Shelley & her mother's life upside down (Now don’t think I am going to tell you what happened – for those who haven’t read it). I haven’t read a book like this ever. I was harrowed to the core that I even took to shutting the windows in the house, shutting my bedroom door, setting a trap that would wake me if crossed and clutched to a pair of sewing scissors under my pillow – you never know!

Gordon Reece sets the scene so well you literally watch it unfold in gruesome images and flowing words! I sat on the edge of my bed, couch and deck chair gnawing at my already chewed nails! I paced from one end of the room to the other gasping and shaking my head in disbelief.

This is truly a wonderful and rollercoaster of a read.... I suggest you demand copies; throw a tantrum for a copy to read or if you have to (ironically) kill for one, it is that good!!!

Watch the Book Trailer here

- Review by Kelly Ansara
Follow Kelly Ansara on Twitter

Buy this Book: click here click here

Friday, February 18, 2011

LIMITED TIME ONLY: Bad Blood by Amanda Coetzee FREE eBook Download

Bad Blood Cover
This giveaway will run until the 8th of March 2011

About the Book:

Bad Blood is one of the best crime thrillers that I have ever read. Considering how most of my teenage years were filled with thrillers of every kind, this is saying a lot.

Amanda Coetzee was first discovered in 2009 through the Citizen Book Prize. Though she did not win, she was recognised for her greatness and asked to write her book.

Bad Blood takes the reader on an exciting journey through Bedford England, introducing you to Gypsy Travellers and the characters inside. It is full of suspense but also has value on several contemporary levels, and thus will have broad appeal across a substantial cross-section of avid readers. There is the all-too frequently noted abandonment and neglect of children in society, as well as the reference to baggage that humans carry with them into adulthood and the subsequent need to deal with said demons. In addition, we have realism, combined with incisive and adroit tension sustained throughout, styled to keep our eyes glued to the text and our adrenalin levels sky-high – a literary cocktail to titillate. Another book I urge all to read. But a word of advice-don’t pick up the book just before you are due to go out. Guaranteed you will be more than a little fashionably late for the event, the book having pulled you into its world until the last word.

- Review by Tarryn Talbot

About the Author:
When she isn’t writing crime thrillers, AMANDA COETZEE works as a deputy headmistress. She grew up in Bedford, England, and now lives in Rustenburg with her husband and son.

Get your free download here

Please note:

This eBook is in what is known as 'ePub' format, an eBook format different to PDF. If you do not have an ePub eBook reader installed on your computer, you will need to download one. You can download Adobe Digital Editions, a free ePub eBook reader. To start the download, click here.

To read more about Pan Macmillan's eBooks, click here.

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eBook Promotion Press Release

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Manuscript Review Process

(Article originally written for The Readers Society of South Africa, to see the article click here)

So, after many months of sending off your manuscript proposal (a 500-word synopsis and/or contents list, three sample chapters and your abbreviated author CV) to different publishing houses and receiving rejections aplenty, you find yourself in the fortunate position of finally getting a “call back” from a publisher to submit your full manuscript for review. But what does this actually mean? How close does this call back bring you to your first royalty cheque?

Unfortunately, having a publishing house ask to see your full manuscript only means you have managed to negotiate the first hurdle in a long process of assessment. There are always exceptions, but before you break out the champagne, you need to know that a reputable publishing house will submit your manuscript to rigorous review (which is frequently time-consuming) as part of the process of making a decision to publish (or not). If you have waited this long, now is not the time to become impatient.
At Pan Macmillan we have a review process that involves sending out promising manuscript submissions for external review. Our reviewers are drawn from different fields and backgrounds and are often specifically selected because of their expertise and interest in a particular subject area. They are asked to provide a written review on various aspects of the manuscript in front of them.

If it’s a novel we might ask a reviewer to assess the following qualities:
  •  the novel’s overall structure and ‘plot’ development;
  • the strength (or lack thereof) of characters and characterisation;
  • the quality of the writing;
  • the novel’s clarity and accessibility;
  • the novel’s strengths and weaknesses, with particular focus on how to address these weaknesses
  • how broad the novel’s appeal is likely to be.

And if it is a non-fiction project then these are some of the questions the reviewer will be asked to consider:
  • Does this manuscript have authority and integrity?
  • Will it be an important contribution to its field and to broader enquiry?
  • What is your impression of its clarity and accessibility, its overall coherence and organisation?
  • Does this manuscript fill a gap in the existing literature? How might it fare in comparison with similar books?
  • If the manuscript is presently flawed or falls short of such expectations, would it be potentially redeemable and worth redeeming? And if so, how?
  • What sort of audience would you anticipate this manuscript reaching?
  • What is your assessment of its chances of being recommended or prescribed for students, course participants, etc.?
 As far as possible it is our policy to keep the identity of our reviewers and the contents of their reports confidential. This is not intended as some kind of conspiracy against authors; rather it offers the reviewer necessary anonymity in the context of the relatively small South African literary and academic environment.

The reviews we receive on a manuscript are often influential in the decision to publish or not, but they are not the only considerations that are weighed up in the final analysis. And if your manuscript is rejected at this stage we won’t send you a standard rejection letter as we think you are entitled to some feedback on your manuscript and on our decision. Unfortunately, it might not necessarily be what you are wanting or expecting to hear …

- Article by Andrea Nattrass, Publisher at Pan Macmillan South Africa
Follow Andrea on Twitter here


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Unsolicited Manuscripts

(Article originally written for The Readers Society of South Africa, to see the article click here)

Picador Africa Logo

In the USA and UK it is not possible for would-be authors to submit unsolicited manuscripts directly to publishing houses. Instead, they must work via literary agents and scouts who act as a filtering system to find talent and present it to publishing houses.
In South Africa there are only one or two literary agents currently operating, and as a result many local publishers still do accept unsolicited manuscript submissions.
In September 2010, Pan Macmillan received 62 unsolicited manuscript submissions via email: 20% of these were non-fiction and 80% were fiction. This is about average for the number of manuscripts that we receive a month – multiply by twelve and you have a sense of what we are dealing with each year.
Piles of Manuscripts
The reality is that very few of these unsolicited manuscripts will ultimately be published, but in a keenly competitive and developing market we are always on the lookout for exciting new literary talent.

Pan Macmillan has a panel of internal readers that makes the initial call on whether or not we would like to see more of a particular submission. Some submissions it is possible to reject immediately. For example, poetry, fantasy and science fiction are not areas that we publish in, and so we do not spend time on these submissions.

Piles of Books

When I am doing an initial assessment of a fiction submission I start with three questions:
Is this well written? (never mind if it is or isn’t something that I would normally read)
Does this have extraordinary potential in terms of plot or characters or style? (then I can make allowances for it not being that well written but it has the potential to be crafted into something)
Do I want to keep reading? (which essentially taps into the first two questions, but is an important one to ask in its own right as it gives me an overall sense of my level of interest; and often I might simply have an instinctive feeling about something that says a manuscript has potential)
If a submission gets a two-out-of-three positive response from me, then I will pass on a recommendation to see more of it to my fellow reviewers.

Those who receive a “call back” will be asked for their full manuscript, and the review process moves to the next level, which involves external reviewers.

Tips for would-be authors
  • Do your research regarding publishers. Don’t submit a novel if the company only publishes coffee table books; or a fantasy novel if they don’t publish this genre.
  • Don’t send your full manuscript when you first approach a publisher. The ideal submission consists of: a synopsis (including a list of Contents in the case of non-fiction), three chapters, and some brief biographical background on the author. 
  • Do be open about how many publishers you have submitted your manuscript to.
  • Do be patient as the review process can be a time-consuming one – to wait six to eight weeks for initial feedback is the norm.
  • Don’t be discouraged if a publisher rejects your manuscript; there may well be another publishing house that will share your vision of the potential of your manuscript.

Helpful Resources:
- Article written by Andrea Nattrass for The Readers Society of South Africa

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Digital Publishing in South Africa

(Article originally written for The Readers Society of South Africa, to see the article click here)


Imagine meeting a long-lost cousin for the first time in ten years. The bratty, spotty teen you remember has transmogrified into a mature, well-spoken and successful individual. Thinking about digital publishing in South Africa is in some ways a bit like this. The surprise you feel at the change that the teen has embraced is overwhelming. At the same time, and at the opposite end, you could never have predicted how the cousin would have turned out.

At present, South Africa is lagging way behind international trends in digital publishing. Widely cited estimates put eBook sales in the US at 9% of the total consumer book market. Some predict that this will comprise as much as 20% to 25% by 2015.

Book publishing in international markets has been changed in profound ways. In an environment where ‘everything’s free’, publishing models have had to be rethought. Changes in book-production processes have also had acute effects on how content is created. Various opportunities in social marketing have emerged along with the new demands of changing consumers who need to be engaged rather than barked at. And consumers have been treated to an ever-increasing array of e-readers that are cheaper and cheaper, and which continually improve the reading and buying experience.

Yet, South Africa seems strangely dormant when it comes to eBooks – will digital publishing take flight and impact the local publishing scene? To say that it won’t is a bit like expecting that long-lost pimply cousin to look and act exactly the same in ten years time.


Where are we on the retail side?

A lot depends on the uptake of e-readers in South Africa. A few brands have made their way here. Most notable is perhaps the Amazon Kindle, which became available in South Africa in October 2009. The Kindle’s unmatched easy access to a wide range of cheap books puts it ahead of most other devices.

But other brands, such as e-ink e-reader devices by manufacturers iRiver and Bookeen, among others, have opened the market up. These devices are available through a range of retailers – both online and brick-and-mortar stores – and their continued and cheap availability will encourage the uptake of local eBooks.

Tablets such as the iPad are set to increase the eBook-buying market marginally, while we should brace ourselves in the coming months for a wave of other tablets that take advantage of Google’s Android operating system, such as the Samsung Galaxy, which is widely acclaimed as the fastest-growing mobile operating system worldwide.

But e-ink e-readers – readers such as the iRiver Story, that are not backlit by eye-straining screens – won’t be outdone. The irony is that e-ink e-readers – digital devices – are strangely exactly valued for their ability to mimic the master format everyone is so concerned e-readers will make obsolete – the ‘killer app’ of the last few centuries, the print book.

So devices are becoming more and more readily available, and cheaper to local buyers. But what about local content?

Kalahari launched its eBook offering earlier this year, and so far has been very proactive in promoting eBooks and e-readers. We have registered some sales through Kalahari already since launching our eBooks in October. Exclusive Books has also launched its eBooks store, and will begin introducing more local product into the market. A local eBook store,, is an engaging local portal with access to content.

Digital Magazines

What kinds of books?

eBooks and e-readers offer a range of advantages, but the key factors can be summarised as accessibility, anonymity and price. People want content they can buy with two clicks (or touches); they want eBooks that they can consume anonymously (such as Mills & Boon-type titles and anything readers don’t necessarily want to keep on their shelves); and they want this content to be cheap.
Many South African publishers seem to be behind the curve in exploring ways to make money out of digitising their content. At Pan Macmillan South Africa we are doing our utmost to keep up with the curve. We have converted a few of our books into ePubs and Web PDFs which are available on

Next time I will explore some of the opportunities and major shifts that currently characterise the e-publishing industry. While Pan Macmillan has made baby steps in the digital realm, it is our sincere hope that publishers and authors in South Africa will be involved as much as possible at this exciting juncture – and not label that obscure young cousin ‘Digital Publishing’ as nothing more than a misfit incapable of change!

Our office eReader
- Article written by Wesley Thompson for The Readers Society of South Africa

To see the Apple iPad's iBook trailer click here
To see the Kindle advert click here

Digital Publishing Resources:
Interesting Publishing Articles

Friday, February 4, 2011

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

I can see why they are comparing it to Lovely Bones, though I fear the writing is not of the same calibre.

The story is narrated by Lizzie, a thirteen year-old girl, who is the missing girl’s best friend.

A thirteen year-old girl, Evie, goes missing and all leads point to a male teacher , Mr Shaw, who lives in the same neighbourhood and who has also disappeared. As more evidence is found and witnesses tell their stories, so it becomes more apparent that Mr Shaw is the kidnapper. Or is he?

As Lizzie becomes more enveloped in Evie’s family (most importantly, Evie’s father), there is a line that is crossed between sympathy and finally receiving the attention from Evie’s father that Lizzie has so desperately craved. Feeling that the police are not doing an adequate search, Lizzie (13 year-old Lizzie) decides to take matters into her own hands and does some investigating of her own. Of course, she finds things that the police- with up-to-date technology and sniffer dogs- did not pick up. This makes the story turn into a bit of an American movie, where everything falls conveniently into place for the main character.

While the plot of the missing girl carries on, we are also introduced to Evie’s older sister, beautiful and athletic Dusty who Evie and Lizzy have always wanted to be, having the boy queue that Evie so easily has following after her. But Dusty is not as beautiful as a sister and a mentor and something happened the day of Evie’s disappearance that Dusty knows about, but will only barely hint at to Lizzie, through snide comments. Dusty has always been very close-almost unnaturally so-to her father and as he shows more grateful attention to Lizzie, so Dusty becomes more sinister towards Lizzie.

This books is disturbing; I found the way Abbott describes thirteen year-old girls’ thoughts to be far too complex and erotic for their age. Paedophilia is a very serious topic that, written in the wrong way, can take away from its depravity and look more like the thirteen year-old girl knew exactly what she was doing and she is but a woman stuck in a little girl’s body. This is the impression that I received at times from The End of Everything. This is not to say that Abbott is an intentionally acrimonious writer, or a poor one at that. Writing as a child, using their words, thinking their thoughts is no easy task and I I think the topic is too raw for Megan Abbott’s style.

Expressing my opinion however, I still think this book will do well because of the intensity of the theme and Abbott does do a good job of subtly bringing Histrionic Personality disorder into the book that can be picked up throughout the story. There is a certain vulnerability that hooks the reader and I had to finish it to know where Evie is/what has happened to her.

If you are going to push this as a cross-over book, I would say the earliest age should be sixteen. The adolescent yearnings and complexities of the character are too advanced for anything younger.

In a sentence; This is Lovely Bones meets Harriet the Spy (for adults)

- Review by Tarryn Talbot
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