Pauw’s book is fly­ing off the shelves na­tion­ally

The Sunday Independent - - NEWS -

NEVER be­fore has a book launch at­tracted a large, fren­zied crowd as Jac­ques Pauw’s book did on Wed­nes­day in Hyde Park, north of the city.

An un­usual power out­age, for which Eskom later took re­spon­si­bil­ity, could not dampen the spir­its of the throngs who wanted to hear the au­thor speak and buy the book. The Ex­clu­sive Books out­let did roar­ing trade on the day as the book flew off the shelves.

The Pres­i­dent’s Keep­ers: Those Keep­ing Zuma In Power And Out Of Prison will do a lot more for the book in­dus­try, es­pe­cially in ramp­ing up the sales fig­ures. South Africa is not really a read­ing na­tion. Sta­tis­tics have shown that only a neg­li­gi­ble num­ber of the na­tion’s 53 mil­lion cit­i­zens buy and own books. Only 14% read books.

Gen­er­ally, the book in­dus­try con­sid­ers 5 000 copies a fairly de­cent fig­ure in terms of sales.

Ziel Bergh, sales man­ager at Pen­guin Ran­dom House SA, says they “gen­er­ally con­sider a book a best-seller once it has sold over 10 000 copies”.

Ja­nine Daniel, mar­ket­ing and pub­lic­ity man­ager at Ja­cana Books, says: “My per­sonal feel­ing is the best-seller num­ber needs to be re-thought. Fic­tion in South Africa of­ten does not even get to a to­tal life­time sales fig­ure of 1 000 books.

“And these days it’s not un­usual for a non-fic­tion ti­tle, from peo­ple such as Trevor Noah, Jac­ques Pauw or Hen­nie van Vu­uren, to achieve life­time sales of 20 000 to 40 000. Some­how, cook­ery ti­tles pub­lished only in Afrikaans sell in stag­ger­ing amounts – and don’t for­get self-help books.

“The Se­cret has sold more than that 180 000 copies in South Africa, but was pub­lished in 2006. The Real Meal Rev­o­lu­tion is also over the 150 000 mark and The Monk who Sold his Fer­rari is now over the 100 000 mark.”

An­drea Nat­trass, pub­lisher at Pan Macmil­lan, agrees: “When pub­lish­ing a non-fic­tion ti­tle in the lo­cal mar­ket we would in past years have con­sid­ered a best-seller to be a book that sells over 5 000 copies.” NB Pub­lish­ers, which pub­lished Pauw’s book, says: “Since its re­lease on Oc­to­ber 29, more than 25 000 books have al­ready been sold in SA book stores, and more than 50 000 are on or­der.”

The Pres­i­dent’s Keep­ers is the fastest-sell­ing book in South Africa since of­fi­cial Nielsen data be­gan in 2004, the pub­lisher says.

So, de­spite the many feathers it has ruf­fled, Pauw’s book is likely to go down in lit­er­ary his­tory as the best thing that ever hap­pened to the book trade in the coun­try .The le­gal shadow-box­ing be­tween lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the State Se­cu­rity Agency (SSA) and NB Pub­lish­ers makes for fas­ci­nat­ing read­ing.

It’s noth­ing like the meek sur­ren­der dis­played in late July when Pen­guin Ran­dom House was forced to with­draw Man­dela’s Last Years af­ter his widow, Graca Machel, threat­ened le­gal ac­tion.

Machel had con­demned the book, say­ing it was a breach of “pa­tient-doc­tor con­fi­den­tial­ity”, IOL re­ported at the time. Punted as “the true story of Nel­son Man­dela’s fi­nal jour­ney by the head of his med­i­cal team”, the book, writ­ten by Dr Ve­jay Ram­lakan, died a pre­ma­ture death.

The Pres­i­dent’s Keep­ers is a whole new ket­tle of fish. Au­thor Pauw, his pub­lish­ers and lawyers – Willem de Klerk At­tor­neys – are fight­ing fire with fire.

The SSA re­port­edly laid charges at the Lyt­tel­ton po­lice sta­tion on Wed­nes­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the pub­lisher, “po­lice have not been able to con­firm the na­ture of the charges … they say there are two sep­a­rate com­plainants. In­stead of in­ves­ti­gat­ing what Pauw’s ex­plo­sive new book re­veals about the agency – in­clud­ing that mil­lions of rand of tax­pay­ers’ money was blown on a bo­gus par­al­lel in­tel­li­gence net­work – the SSA has cho­sen to ‘shoot the mes­sen­ger’. Never the­less, Pauw will co-op­er­ate with the au­thor­i­ties should they wish to en­gage with him.

“P a u w, who ex­posed the apartheid-era Vlak­plaas death squads, is one of South Africa’s most re­spected in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists and NB Pub­lish­ers stands by our courageous au­thor and our book,” it said. “We have re­fused to bow to the pres­sure – and will con­tinue to do so.”

The SSA lawyer’s de­mand that NB Pub­lish­ers “cease and de­sist from mak­ing your book avail­able to the pub­lic and/or pub­lish­ers” has met with de­fi­ance.

Willem de Klerk At­tor­neys threw the book at SSA: “There can be no ba­sis for an ur­gent court ap­pli­ca­tion to pre­vent the fur­ther dis­tri­bu­tion of the book. Your client waited the best part of a week be­fore mak­ing its de­mand, and then set a five-day dead­line for a re­sponse. In the words of Suther­land J, ‘the metaphor of the horse hav­ing bolted is in­ad­e­quate; a bet­ter im­age might be that a virus has in­fected the world’s lit­er­ate pop­u­la­tion’. Any at­tempt by the State Se­cu­rity Agency to pre­vent the fur­ther dis­sem­i­na­tion of the book would serve no ra­tio­nal pur­pose. As you will be aware courts do not, as a mat­ter of pol­icy, make or­ders which do not serve a pur­pose or to which ef­fect can­not be given.

“Your gen­er­alised state­ment that the book is ‘ re­plete with in­ac­cu­ra­cies’ is not backed up by a sin­gle ref­er­ence to any spe­cific state­ment in the book that is al­leged to be in­ac­cu­rate. Your de­mand for a re­trac­tion ‘ of all those parts which are in­ac­cu­rate’ is there­fore in­con­gru­ous.

“It is fur­ther­more un­clear how you rec­on­cile an al­le­ga­tion of fal­sity, on the one hand, with an al­leged vi­o­la­tion of statu­tory pro­vi­sions on the other.”

In the first few days since it hit the shelves, the book sold 16 507 print copies and 5 127 ebooks.

And the tills are still ring­ing.

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