Against All Odds: Johanna Moloko’s journey to becoming a self-published author


When you’ve been an author for over 28 years you would think that you got it all under
control when it comes to getting published and getting your book out there, wouldn’t you? Well, that’s until your books get stacked in the garage and starts collecting dust. The
questions that hit you may bring so much self-doubt and frustration; why is my book not
selling? Is it boring? Why is anyone not interested? All this could lead you to a very
unpleasant and dark place that inhibits you from taking on a new project.

We’ve came across a brilliant author who was under the exact predicament. Mrs Johanna
Moloko’s passion for writing Setswana literature sparked in 1981 and she knew right then
and there that this is what she wanted to spend her life doing.

I’ve been writing for a very long time and through all these years I’ve learnt a lot. The process of writing, especially when you’re young, helps you improve your vocabulary and morphs you into a great researcher. When you take on a certain topic you need to do your research and that’s where the learning comes from and research skills develop”, stated the renowned author.
As much as this sounds easy and exciting, Mrs Moloko tells us that there are downsides to this career.

When you’re starting out it can be very difficult. I mean, here you are with a completed manuscript, then what? Where do you go? Who do you talk to? You need to find a trusted publishing company and you need funds, but you don’t know where to begin. It was even
more difficult in the past without all these technological advances we have today

Johanna Moloko

The Tswana author began working on her book, “Bakaa ba ga Sue wa ga Lebelwana” in 2009 until March of 2010. An interesting narrative on the origins, kingships and history of the Bakaa clan. It also touches on poetry, idioms and relationships between the Bakaa and other clans. She hoped that this book would help the young and the old learn about their origin and Tswana history.

With this book she decided take a new route of self-publishing, do keep in mind that this was an entirely new concept to her, but she decided to give a shot anyway. The book was
quickly printed and given nice covers, however some crucial elements were skipped.
Publishing processes such as, marketing prior printing, sales management and others were skipped. She thought self-publishing was just writing and printing but was so much more to that, processes that had to be executed to have the bookselling.

Marketing and getting the book sold was hard, because of the title “Bakaa ba ga Sue wa ga Lebelwana”, everyone assumed that the book was about the Bakaa clan. No, the book is not just about the Bakaa,, but it’s about the Tswana history and it teaches people about that”, she explained.

From all the copies she had printed out she managed to sell only 27. There was poor marketing and her intended target market wasn’t grabbed by the book. So, she threw the books into the garage and kept them there for years. I mean, who was going to read them? She also explains that if she had taken them to a store, she was going to be required to pay for their shelf space every month without really getting anything in return. All this left her with so much disappointment and she lost all hope of trying to get the books sold. All her efforts had gone to waste.

On one fateful day, Mrs Moloko made contact with a newly established black-owned publishing company called Our Voice Publishers & Booksellers, which decided to take on the task of selling her dust-collecting books. Through tactful and rigorous action this company managed to increase sales of a book that everyone had forgotten about.

Today the market for Setswana books is very small and not everyone is willing to spend
their money on that. So, with Mrs Moloko’s books we had to tread carefully and develop
effective marketing and approach
”, explains the founder of Our Voice Publishers.

The company identified a suitable target for the book, parents and told them exactly how this book could benefit them and their children. As soon as the parents were sold into the idea, Our Voice Publishers unleashed its team of trained personnel to have the books distributed in no time. This was proof that anything, no matter how long it’s been laying there, can be sold.

OVPB was born out of the need to help struggling authors tell their stories and be rewarded for it. It is run by very passionate and talented people who do everything in their power to not only see it succeed but to also help as many writers as possible. South Africa is full of amazing storytellers who lack the platform to share their stories with the world, we want to be that platform; a home for writers to share stories without fear.”, the founder explained.

The year has just begun and we are getting ready to publish and sell a ton of incredible books and we have an event coming up soon, called, OUR VOICE LIVE. This event is meant to bring together authors and readers for an amazing session of learning and inspiration. All dates and venues are still to be confirmed”, he added.

To know more about OVPB and its upcoming events follow them on their social profiles;
@ourvoicebook on Instagram Our Voice Book Club ( on Facebook.

I will always be grateful for what Our Voice Publishers has done for me. I had already lost hope and they proved me wrong. I would like to advise everyone who wants to get into self-publishing to firstly do research and ask around to get all the help you can”, Mrs Moloko said proudly.

By: Tebogo