Columns, Cut&Run, Incognito – The Memoirs of Ben Trovato, Interviews, Letters, Rants, Uncategorized

Pulp non-fiction – A murder story

In the perilous world of publishing, there is something called ‘sales or return’. It works like this. Bookshops will order so many copies of a new title. If those get sold, they might order more.

Unsold copies are eventually returned to the publisher who, in turn, gives the author the opportunity to buy the stock at a discount. The author declines the offer because he believes there is still life in his book and also because he is broke and he vows to never write again. The result is that hundreds, sometimes thousands, of copies get destroyed. Pulped is the term they use.

My new book, Durban Poison, was released in November. Normally, bookshops will return unsold stock over a period of months. However, a non-normal situation has arisen. My publisher, MFBooksJHB, is dissolving her imprint and ending her contract with Jacana Media on 31st January.

Today, Jacana issued a trade announcement directed at booksellers.

“In order to manage the inventory, we will need to have all the below-listed titles returned to (the distributors) Booksite by no later than 25 February 2020. No returns will be accepted thereafter.”

At the end of the list of forty books, the killer. “No orders for these titles will be processed after 31 January 2020.”

So. Quite a few anxious authors out there. Melinda has indicated that she will consider buying some – but not all – of the remaining stock of Durban Poison in the hope of selling it on.

After 25 February, hundreds of copies of Durban Poison will be loaded into a van and taken off to the knacker’s yard. This doesn’t have to happen. It’s in your hands.

Books that make people laugh shouldn’t have to die.

24 thoughts on “Pulp non-fiction – A murder story

  1. Dawn says:

    I shared it on FB, hoping to encourage people to buy a copy – it is excellent! I tried tagging you on FB, but you’ve reached your 5K friend limit. Am trying for the cause…..pulping sux!

  2. Leslie Stelfox says:

    Hi Ben Trovato! I want a book but I live in France! Do you use a courier service, like DHL?

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      Hi Leslie. I’m not currently shipping overseas but will let you know if this changes. Thanks.

  3. Jane says:

    What about selling at all the fantastic markets held around the country and near Durban? If you make an appearance and do a signing even better? Or do you prefer to remain incognito? Maybe a slow method but better than pulping?

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      It’s not easy getting to all the markets.

  4. Jane says:

    I generally buy from and online site – does it make any difference if one buys this versus buying through a bookshop with this issue in mind?

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      I think it comes down to the same thing. If you’re buying a hard copy, that’s one less facing pulping.

  5. Reinier says:

    I bought my copy and am reading it a 2nd time. Gets funnier or maybe it’s just my warped sense of humor. I’ll also do my best and see if we can sell your “returned” stock, although I imagine it might not be much. Milnerton “flee” market might also be last resort 🤣.

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      That’s cheating. If you want to read it a second time, you should buy a second copy.

  6. Graeme says:

    Ben, I have my copy that was delivered yesterday.
    My 12-year old asked me what ‘vitriol and wit’ meant and after I explained, he shrugged and said “so I guess there’s lots of swearing in here then.”
    What do I say, because he always sees me giggling like a buffoon at your weekly blogs? I need the kid to be raised on the classic humour that elicits laughs from the belly and you’re the tonic we all need.

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      Glad it finally arrived, Graeme. The book is child-friendly so let him read it.

  7. Jem steere says:

    Ben I see an opportunity here.
    So tired of being confronted by the downtrodden, mangled, squeaking white- washed whoonga people at intersections here in durban city. They offer nothing to my day, but my conscience doesn’t allow for a guilt- free time at the ocean edge. Echoes of ” how many times must a man turn his head, pretending he just hast seen ” from my friend Dylan recycles over and over again.
    Instead of squeeking minstrels, plastic hangers, selfie- sticks, licence discs and photoshopped hand- gashes give the people a tray with piles of Durban Poison. Like the coke & popcorn trays the ushers in 20 th Fox cinemas used in my youth.

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      Interesting idea, but the informal selling of stuff at robots is technically illegal and one never knows when the Durban municipality will decide to start enforcing its bylaws.

  8. Deborah says:

    I will go out and buy one ASAP

  9. Frank says:

    Can i get a copy from a book shop in Hermanus

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      I guess you could try Hemingways Bookshop. See if they’ll order you a copy if they don’t have stock.

  10. John Holloway says:

    Hmm, what a waste! Applying my nose, but not my mind (I have stopped that as the results are unreliable), I get a nasty whiff of some kind of breach of contract. However, I’m sure you’ve covered that option – thus your article. (I know 0 about the book business.)

    However, applying many decades of experience in abusing the media in order to sell people things they didn’t need, I think you will sell more books before your cut-off date if you include a specific call to action. (People will either do nothing – or what you want them to do. Simply telling them exactly what you want them to do will make more people do what you want. Especially if there’s a deadline.) For example, ‘Go to the bookstore and buy DP before (date).’

    Don’t know if you have an opportunity to do this. Just trying to help : )

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      Thanks John. I was under the impression that this call to action was implicit in my post.

  11. Nkululeko Mvulana says:

    Callous! Ben, quite a number of readers whom the publisher/distributor/booksellers might have failed to reach could use a laugh…get your books back and we will find a way…

    Bundled sale
    Corporate gifts
    Buy-1 and get 1 Free
    Limited signed edition
    Fund raiser
    Promotion – Buy a copy and WIN…

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      I like the way you think, Nkululeko. Let’s see how things play out over the next few weeks.

  12. Jo says:

    Where can I buy a book

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      At a bookshop. Shocking, I know. But there it is.

    2. TREVOR BUTLER says:

      I bought my copy at FOGARTY’S BOOKSHOP in Walmer Park shopping centre.

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