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Diary of a Zulu Girl author on how to self-publish

by: Kgorula Bitterhout - 22 June 2015

Zulu Girl ii Cover_Final-2 (3)

Diary of a Zulu Girl Part 2 will now be available as a book.

Diary of a Zulu Girl started as a prank on a friend,” says Mike Maphoto, who started writing a fictional story of a traditional Zulu girl who moves from KwaZulu Natal and gets a taste of the high life in Jo’burg. The story has now earned itself 200 000 followers on the blog. Imagine if you could turn your “Dear Diary” entries into a fictional novel. With all the online platforms available, it’s possible to become an author. Traditional ways of publishing have changed since the rise of the internet, which has also caused a decline of sales in actual hard copies and a rise in e-books and blog-reading. As of 2012, only 14% of South Africans are regular book readers and only 1% regularly buy books, according to the South African Book Development Council. Mike Maphoto tells us how he went from a blogger to a published author. Mike Maphoto says:

How to begin and making it accessible…

I started posting on Tumblr, which  I found more accessible and user-friendly. But then I moved my story to WordPress so I could link it to Google Analytics to keep track of how many people were interacting with the blog and viewing it. At the time, Google Analytics was not available on Tumblr but now it is. I also post the different chapters for the five different books on Facebook which is also a good tool for marketing and interacting with readers. With just over 100 000 “likes” on Facebook, it makes it easier to send a message.

Make it relatable…

The story line of Diary of a Zulu Girl is so universal. People either know someone who has been through that lifestyle of the Zulu girl or are experiencing it themselves. I chose the Zulu girl because Zulus are the most dominant population in the country. The migration to Johannesburg is significant especially for people coming from small towns, falling into the fast pace lifestyle associated with Johannesburg. The story is not far-fetched because of this. Comments from my readers keep the story line alive and a new one always arises from stories that they share with me from letters.

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Mike Maphoto, author of Diary of a Zulu Girl

No big words or complex riddles…

I write as simply as possible. One needs to make their story simplistic for the audience to understand and follow. Writing for an online audience or platforms means I can make mistakes, be it grammar or spelling therefore there is room for error. The style of writing can differ from writing for a physical book. It’s also dependent on your target audience.  You don’t want to chase your audience away with something that’s difficult to read.

Keep your audience, control your content…

Keeping the audience is tricky because there are so many distractions online. That’s why as a writer you need to be consistent. If the audience knows that the next chapter is coming tomorrow, they will come back. Posting once a week kills momentum therefore I posts a chapter on a different book every two days. I have realised that most people are lazy to read therefore it’s best to also keep your posts short and straight to the point. Using cliffhangers on every single chapter I write makes people curious and want to know what happens next. As an aspiring young writer, write things that are relevant to your target audience. Therefore research is key as not everyone will be interested in things that are only closest to you. Funny enough I’m particularly inspired by the South African nightlife where every other person, half drunk or naked, has a story as to how they ended up where they are.

Diary of a Zulu Girl Part 2 is now a book and will be published June 26. You can buy the book online and have it delivered to you.


Twitter: @Diaryofazulugal