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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

SHUTER (article first published : 2007-11-8)

SHUTER & Shooter publishers have been a Pietermaritzburg institution for a long, long time. But things are changing, and now, to add to the established educational books imprint, there is something new.

Books published by "Shuter" will appear on the shelves from March or April next year. And they will not be school books, but a range of titles, from children's picture books to fiction for young adults, non fiction and general fiction.

One of the first questions I ask publicist and assistant publisher Marie Rocher is why they chose Shuter with a u rather than Shooter, with a double o, for the name of the new imprint.

"Well, we have to have our own identity as we're striking out in a new direction," she says. "We considered different names, and Shooter (with the double o) sounds a bit like an alcoholic product. So we went with the first one." Research on names was done at this year's Cape Town Book Fair, and the company decided they would like to keep the historical base - the Shuter name - but give it a twist.

The publishing manager of the new imprint is Arabella Koopman who is based in Cape Town. The aim is to develop a strong South African identity, with authors from all over the country. Gcina Mhlope, whose The Singing Chameleon will be one of two children's books published in the first batch of Shuter books, is the only KZN-based author at this stage. Illustrated by Kalle Becker, The Singing Chameleon is being published in English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Sesotho. It is the only title on the list that is not coming out only in English, but, says Rocher, whenever possible, books in indigenous languages will be published. Although, sadly, in South Africa the market for them is still almost negligible.

"Our target market reflects the target market of major bookstores," says Rocher. "We're also trying to produce books that can cross over into the schools' market - where we already have a good 'in'. And we are looking for books that libraries might stock, from picture books to young adult fiction." This last category is something Rocher feels is neglected in this country, a gap the new imprint will be looking to fill.

One of the first books next year will be Africa's Nobel Laureates, which takes a look at the 17 Nobel prizewinners the continent has produced in the last half century. This is one of the titles Rocher sees as having a cross over appeal between the educational and library demand and the more general reader. Another to come out in the first batch will be Rozena Maart's The Writing Circle which will fall squarely into the general category, with a likely book club appeal. The author, who lives partly in Canada and partly in South Africa has taken a whodunnit framework to look at how a group of women get their lives back together after a rape and hijacking.

Shooter and Shuter have been looking to diversify for some time, giving the company a secondary income stream over and above educational publishing. And now, under the attractive new green and black Shuter logo, designed by Lighthouse Advertising in Pietermaritzburg, the new range of titles will provide that. "The logo has been a talking point already," says Rocher. "Have a look - it can be seen as an open book with a stylised head, or a bird. But it is certainly striking."

And meanwhile, the hunt for good, new South African writing continues. "Of course it would be wonderful to discover a new J.K. Rowling, or something like John van de Ruit's Spud. But while finding a bestseller is everyone's dream, it's not often a reality," says Rocher. And so the new publisher will get on with the job of building up a list with a wide appeal as fast as possible, contribute to a reading culture, and offering the kind of books people want to read. And if the great bestseller comes along, of course it will be gratefully received. Margaret von Klemperer




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