AiW note: To celebrate the past thirty years of independent distributing and bookselling at African Books Collective (ABC), we are running a series highlighting the wonderful work of those who make up ABC. We will be talking to some of the publishers from the collective, gathering their Words on the Times, an AiW Q&A series that invites collective reflections on the way the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our work and our communities.
ABC is an African owned, worldwide marketing and distribution outlet selling books from Africa. ABC’s wide-ranging catalogues promote big and small academic presses, children’s books publishers, NGO and writers’ organisations, and literary presses. They also run the website readafricanbooks.com which profiles the work of African publishers and books. We started the series with a Q&A and Words on the Times with ABC CEO, Justin Cox, and last week we talked to Shiraz Durrani and Kimani Waweru from Vita Books for their Words on the Times.
Today, we caught up with Menzi Thango, the founder and director of Bhiyoza Publishers. Among his other duties at Bhiyoza Publishers, he reviews, edits, and proofreads all the manuscripts before they are published. Bhiyoza Publishers is a privately owned publisher based in Johannesburg, which focuses on publishing creative works written by African writers, in an African context, about African people, their societal issues, lifestyles, politics and education; it publishes literary books written mainly in the indigenous African Languages of South Africa. Bhiyoza was established in July 2018 and it has since then published 35 books, only two of which are written in English; the rest are in isiZulu, Sesotho, and isiXhosa. The books published are in all the literary genres i.e. poetry, novels, drama, essays, and short stories.
AiW: Could you tell us a bit about your work and the ways that the pandemic has affected your plans?
We sell our books through bookshops, private sales and to schools.
However, due to the pandemic we were unable to sell books because many people lost their jobs and as the result, they do not have money.
In what ways are you working now that you weren’t before?
We now focus on producing eBooks and selling them through online stores and digital platforms.
We are also planning to create an eCommerce website so that we can boost our sales.
What have you found most supportive and/or heart lifting in this time?
Since we started working with the African Books Collective, we have seen our books getting into many platforms. They market our books extensively and in multiple selling platforms such as Amazon, Takealot.com, eBay and many other online selling platforms.
How can our blog communities support you?
The blog communities can support us by marketing our books, do book reviews on our books and making our books known to the readers.
Menzi Thango is an academic, poet, essayist, editor, and author of eight books; Unqambothi Lobunkondlo and Impophoma, collections of isiZulu poems, were published by Pelmo Books while Imvelaphi Yobuntu and Igula Lolwazi, IsiZulu essays, and Imivimbo, an IsiZulu novella, were published by Bhiyoza Publishers.
He has a Master’s degree in African Languages, majoring in isiZulu sociolinguistics.
Make sure to check in each Friday for our Words on the Times with other ABC-distributed publishers!