Operation Oysterhood: 9 November

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Returns. In a recent Twitter post, Nadia Goetham explained: “#Bookworms, as publishers we cannot compel bookstores to stock our authors’ works. So if you don’t find a title at your local bookshop, ask the staff to order it for you.” I thought a lot about her important message today, because there is also another side to this particular coin. Most publishers allow bookshops to return unsold stock and get their money back. There are only a few bookshops that do not return stock, no matter what. To survive the low sales during lockdown, many bookshops, especially Exclusive Books, reduced their stock and returned lots and lots of books to the publishers’ distributors. As one of these publishers, I have known what was happening for a while, of course, so as an author I was not surprised to get a royalty statement today morning that reflected negative sales of the paper version of my latest book, and only minimal sales of the ebook. The only thing I have to figure out now is what to do with the princely sum of R111 (the balance of these sales/returns – my royalties for half a year!). If I remember correctly, one can get a bottle of Miss Molly for R109 at Checkers …

My greater worry is what these returns have been doing to Karavan Press during lockdown. After receiving the latest sales/returns reports as a publisher this evening, I lighted a candle and poured myself a glass of red.

Luckily, I suppose, I opened these depressing reports after a day of publishing joy: editing, a visit to the printer and an independent bookshop (that does not do returns!), a meeting with a debut novelist to discuss her manuscript which I hope will find a home at Karavan Press, and a meeting with an existing Karavan Press author just to talk, have tea, plan ahead and sign a few books for another bookshop.

But I do not look forward to sending out royalty statements to my authors for the period of the lockdown. They are not going to make anyone happy. I might have to get a bottle of Miss Molly for everyone, so that we can drown our sorrows in bubbly.

Despite all the recent wonderful developments at Karavan Press, it is nearly impossible to keep on hoping that it will all somehow turn out well in the end. The returns over lockdown are killing us. How does one continue dreaming? I don’t know. “It’s a mystery!” (My favourite line from the stage version of Shakespeare in Love.)

In other survival news: Pfizer seems to have a working Covid-19 vaccine. A flicker of hope on the horizon.

In yet other survival news: my right arm hurt so much at four a.m. on Sunday morning that I thought I would have to wake up my love and ask him to take me to the nearest emergency room. I had never experienced anything like it before. Painkillers and a self-massage allowed me to get back to sleep eventually, but I was seriously worried. I have been massaging my poor arm regularly since then and it seems to be getting back to normal again, but I still have no clue what had caused the pain.

Being monstrual does not help anything either.

But having great books to read is a solace, and I am reading one now that I am supposed to review and I am loving it more and more with every new chapter.

Words, language, story. Understanding and compassion. Sharing.

Don’t lose hope, Karina. A mystery might be a possibility, too.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”


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