SA Catholic Online Books & Write-On Publishing Founder Frank Nunan Talks about 10 Years of Producing more than 140 Books!
Some time in 2013, having “retired” to Jeffreys Bay in the Eastern Cape after nearly 30 years in the hustle and bustle of Gauteng, and having taught myself to develop websites, I decided to launch a Catholic information website, which I called SA Catholic Online.
At about the same time, I refreshed and updated my desktop publishing skills, first learned when I was an editor and publisher of magazines in the 1980s.
As an additional service to the many others I offered on SA Catholic Online, I offered to assist Catholic authors in publishing their books. This rather bold offer was made on the strength of having helped a neighbour in publishing her booklet – my first attempt – called Via Dolorosa.
Much to my surprise, someone responded to the publishing offer: Johannesburg Catholic lay theologian Michael Mahony contracted me to produce his One of Us collection – a seven-volume, 2 400-page (in 11 pt type) Magnum Opus of interlinear Greek and English text, Hebrew text, complicated tables and graphics, endnotes, and much more! A steep and highly challenging learning curve for someone who had last practised his editing and desktop publishing skills in the 1980s!
We managed this feat – the result of a very close collaboration between publishing facilitator and author – within just two years! Mike Mahony recently inscribed one of the more difficult volumes to me with the words: “I know of no other publisher who would have taken on this seven-volume project! Thanksgiving and Blessings.” In retrospect, perhaps it was naivete and ignorance!
Concurrently with and following that project, a string of other Catholic books was produced – books by priests, a deacon and lay Catholics, crowned by the production of a book for Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI, Pastoral Letters on Mary and Matters Ancestral. An article in the Catholic weekly newspaper The Southern Cross, called me “The Priest’s Publisher”.
Gradually, the publishing enterprise eclipsed the other services being offered by SA Catholic Online, and became the focus of the business, and SA Catholic Online Books became a reality!
The Picture shows me when my very own book Do You Speak Catholic? was published.
Expanding to include Secular Books
Variations on a Theme
Over the years, I have branched out into new and exciting initiatives in the field of self-publishing facilitation.
First, there was New Books from Old – the faithful reconstruction of out-of-print books, designed to be almost identical, down to the page count, illustrations and typefaces – no easy feat!
These books included: two recipe books, a technical book on Seashells with high-quality full-colour plates, the Afrikaans history of Humansdorp and the exploits of a 1940s Okavango Game Ranger, and a previously banned Black consciousness annual from the 1970s.
Then there was Private Publishing – the ability to offer very short-run printing and Write-On’s competitive fee structure enabled me to produce a number of books for people who wished to write books for a select, very small target audience – just family and close friends, for example. Successes here included private recipe books and very personal memoirs, one by the former chairman of one of South Africa’s leading communications companies.
First, it was multi-lingual – a prayer book in three languages, and a small poetry book, also in three languages. Then it was Afrikaans, the production of the history of Humansdorp, followed by French – books by Belgian and Congolese authors. Suffice it to say that my editing and proofreading skills were not called upon for these French projects!
Then in 2019, I was introduced to Xhosa poet, storyteller and award-winning author Madoda Ndlakuse. There followed the production of a spate of books in Xhosa by Madoda himself and a number of other authors and poets.
Madoda won the 2021 Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award for his first book with Write-On Publishing: Mhla Latsh’ Ibhayi.
However, my multi-lingual tour de force was when I recently translated an Afrikaans children’s book into English, and published the two versions simultaneously. Renkie Die Merkwaardige Meermin, by former teacher Margaretha Morgan, became Renkie The Remarkable Mermaid!
For the past three years, I have also been involved in the conversion of print books to eBooks. This has primarily been done for a single customer, Cape Town-based printer, Print On Demand (POD), and in addition to creating eBooks for my own authors, I have converted more than 80 books for POD.