The Journey Man – Rainy Days in the Karoo

Stormy skies over Cradock – not great for leaking book store rooms.

By Chris Marais

The joys of Indie Publishing are legion, matched only by the potential for heartbreak.

Two years ago, we have our old garage in Cradock refitted into a store room for our published book stocks of Karoo Keepsakes I, II, Coast to Coast, Shorelines and, ironically, A Drink of Dry Land.

There is much excitement at the time and money flows out of our publishing account like maybe we’re building a shopping mall in the Karoo.

No matter. We are now going to have a dry, clean place to store our thousands of books before they are despatched out to the world at large.

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Keeping Safe the Keepsakes

We have been storing our books over the road at our dear friends Walter and Alida Schulze’s spot. They have a convenient little watertight outbuilding that they make available to us.

So, like worker ants, we relocate the stocks into our own space.

The first couple of years are fine, except for a few minor leaks in the roof which are promptly repaired.

A week ago, a new book arrives from Cadar Printers down in Port Elizabeth: The Journey Man – A South African Reporter’s Stories.

There is much merriment at home when CAT Couriers, the local fellows, bring The Journey Man home to us.

It’s a book I have wanted to write ever since my newspaper and magazine days which spanned about 20 years between 1975 and 1995. The Journey Man contains the kind of late-night war stories that reporters tell each other in the pub across the way from their newsrooms.

Believe you me, these stories are but the tip of an anecdotal iceberg you would have heard from my old familiars of those days. You really couldn’t make this stuff up.

So The Journey Man is parked in our store room in an orderly stash of 3 000 copies on pallets, waiting for us to finish the admin, launch it this weekend at the Schreiner Karoo Writers’ Fest here in Cradock and then send it out to an Early Bird List of about 300.

All is well in Indie Publishing Country.

karoo drought
What it looked like in the Karoo a month or so ago.

The Long Karoo Drought

However, the Karoo around us has been in the grip of a long drought and the winter land – when it doesn’t snow – has turned brown.

Then this week the heavens open up above us in the Eastern Cape Karoo and the rain comes in gentle, insistent waves. For days and days.

I pop in to the store room to fetch a book for someone and the nightmare begins. There are tell-tale streaks of water streaming down from half a dozen spots in the ceiling.

Heat, wind, cold and some dubious workmanship have all conspired to create a potential for disaster.

As you know, water and Karoo farmers are great mates. Not so much water and Karoo publishers.

What’s also a little scary is the fact that, as we speak, reprint copies of our best-selling Karoo Keepsakes I and II are being bound by Craft Printers in Singapore, owned by Charlie Chan and his family.

I love these guys. Craft is a bespoke Singapore print house that always delivers on its promise.

But what am I going to do with 6 000 brand-new coffee table books in a space which is starting to resemble the Water Gardens of Atlantis?

sunny karoo
Bring on the sun, so we can all dry out…

Dreaming of Sunny Karoo Days

Action is required.

While Jules is holding the business fort, I clear a space in the dining room of our house. I fetch pallets and, for an hour, I carry close to a ton of our remaining stocks of Karoo Keepsakes from the leaking store room to this (hopefully) drier spot.

Note to wannabe Indie Publishers: Heavy lifting is a major part of the process of bringing life to a book. There are no Big Publishing House handlangers popping out of the woodwork with porter’s trolleys and serious muscles.

You’ve arrived in the world of DIY publishing. Get used to it.

So the Keepsakes are safe. What about the other titles?

Well, they’re all printer-wrapped in plastic and standing clear of the leaking walls. But the rain still falls and, by Thursday, many local contractors have come to quote on the job. They shake their heads ominously.

Obviously, no one can do a damn thing until famous Karoo sunny days have returned and the store room can dry out.

Then Jules goes shopping and, angel person that she is, returns with a couple of tarpaulin covers she spotted in the local co-op. And they didn’t cost the earth.

Ha. So now all the books in the Water Gardens of Atlantis are on double pallets and shrouded and double-sealed against whatever the weekend weather brings us.

Wish us luck. They say it’s gonna rain all the way to Monday…

In the meantime, if you want to be on the Journey Man Early Bird Discount List, email me (Chris Marais) at and let me know. I’ll be in touch early in August, when the meerkats are out and the skies are blue.

JM cover - lo res

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