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SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

CTBF Day 1 Highlights

The Cape Town Book Fair opened with a bang and a clang when the Deputy Mayor of Cape Town and novelist Ngugi Wa Thingo’o cut the ribbon to reveal a brass band waiting behind the doors. Slipping past the throng of trade visitors, tubas and waitresses carrying trays of champagne, I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer amount of books on display.

My first stop was Reader’s Den to check out the comic books and graphic novels, followed by the IBBY stand to ogle all the new kids books by South African and African authors.

It was so nice to run into familiar faces like Colleen Higgs at the Modjaji stand, SAFM’s Karabo Kgoleng, illustrator Marjorie van Heerden and Junkets publisher Robin Malan.

A highlight for me was the presentation by publicist Paula Wayne on using social media and web to sell more books. Paula says all authors should have a website, but that’s only the beginning. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is key – basically making your website more search engine friendly. This is done through content management, where keywords are inserted into all content – including the alt tags of pictures and videos – so that search engines like Google can index the information and create a bigger picture. If done correctly, SEO can result in your website topping the search results when users type in specific keywords or keyword chains into Google. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can also drive traffic back to the website and increase an author’s visibility online.

Paula advises that authors should have a Content Management System (CMS) website, like WordPress, which will allow them to manage and update their own content. This content should be updated regularly to ensure better visibility.

I had the great privilege of talking to Professor Ngugi Wa Thingo’o, who was a guest of the Book Fair. He shared his insights on the power of stories.

“Literature feeds the imagination, and imagination is central to everything we do. It plays an invisible role in society but it is absolutely crucial. African literature teaches us about African people, what they have done, and what they can do. Progress doesn’t come without a conflict of ideas, and stories have a role to play there as well.”

Professor Wa Thingo’o likens the writing process to Sisyphus and the boulder. “When I finish a novel I look back and realise that I haven’t quite said what I wanted to say. Then I’m compelled to write another one.”

The Book Fair opened to the public at two o clock. Afternoon highlights included Modjaji poets reading at Poetry Corner and Cover 2 Cover’s talk on Getting South Africa Reading.

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If you’re Tweeting don’t forget to use the official hashtag #CTBF


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