In 2021, Staging Post helped Rachel Fischer and the team at the International Center for Information Ethics (ICIE) publish Nelson Mandela: A Reader on Information Ethics. We asked Rachel to answer a few questions about their publishing journey.

Q: What inspired you to write your book?

There are a number of aspects to the Nelson Mandela reader on information ethics that make it both a profound and worthy product inspired by greatness. Apart from the obvious inspirational entity – Nelson Mandela – this book was realised by the extensive collaboration of four editors and 17 authors contributing to 12 chapters. The book was conceptualised during a thought-provoking visit to Robben Island and Cape Town in July 2018. Seeing the book successfully compiled and delivered after three years certainly brought a dream to life.

Since it is unlikely that all 17 authors will engage in an interview, below is a contribution from one of the authors, Erin Klazar, who also led the interview with Ryland Fisher (see chapter 12).

The Nelson Mandela reader, coordinated and edited by Coetzee Bester, Johannes Britz, Rafael Capurro, and, notably, Rachel Fischer, was a profound and timely piece of work, in the crown year of South Africa’s Democracy, 27 years since the first democratic elections on 27 April 1994. 

The book gave the contributing authors an opportunity to reminisce and unpack their experiences of South Africa, both pre- and post-1994, from multiple disciplinary perspectives and different generations. The diverse contributions offered a snapshot of life in South Africa, in particular Nelson Mandela’s role not only facilitating a peaceful transition to democracy but also helping form the backbone of a free society that can foster information literacy, information preservation, information accessibility and multilingualism. Whilst we are made acutely aware of the challenges present in South African society that still need to be addressed in 2021, this book offers introspection, encouragement and a kind of roadmap towards how we can contribute towards a more ethical and just society. 

In the wise words of Mandela, “In judging our progress as individuals we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one’s social position, influence, and popularity, wealth and standard of education. ( . . . ). But internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being. Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others – qualities which are within easy reach of every soul – are the foundation of one’s spiritual life. Development in matters of this nature is inconceivable without serious introspection, without knowing yourself, your weaknesses and mistakes.” 

As a contributing author, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this reader, for the work of the editors, and particular thanks to Rachel Fischer for the coordination of all the contributions towards this masterpiece.

 Q: What Was Your Favourite Part Of Publishing Your Book?

One can certainly say that the engagement with the authors was the best part, and, indeed, it was extremely positive. None of the authors received payment and had no incentive to contribute other than writing for passion and belief in what Nelson Mandela stood for. In communicating with the authors, each explicitly stated they felt honoured to be part of the project. Their humbleness and collegiality added such a warm human tone to the book.

Another main consideration that translates into what I enjoyed the most was the specific moment I realised this is actually going to happen. For 31 months the editors mostly communicated with the authors, motivating and reminding them of deadlines. But in that period there was not a set plan as to what the book would look like, how would it come together, who would put it together and in what manner it would be distributed to give it the due recognition it deserves. Between January and July 2021 things kicked into gear when funding was made available and we were given the opportunity to contact a publisher who could assist with this. Luckily due to previous experience with Staging Post, there was much more clarity on how to proceed with such a project and hence led me to contact Ms Aimee Armstrong in March 2021 to explore options. I never knew how it would work, whom to contact, and what to do. And Staging Post just absolutely drove and motivated us as editors to meet deadlines, attend to editing and get chapters submitted and finalised. Knowing someone else is in control of the publishing allowed me to focus on the relationships with authors and interested parties, attending to the book launch preparation, and engaging in awareness campaigns. The favourite part of publishing the book was therefore the finality of the book. Having gone through the journey, and holding it in hand, was the most remarkable experience. Knowing that this was a team effort across continents, countries and cultures inspired by a mutual vision brought such utter satisfaction.

Q: What Advice Would You Give an Author Planning To Publish Their First Book?

Work on your concept note and set goals to realise your vision. Have a draft ready (if you are only one author), or at least have drafts ready when there are multiple authors. As soon as the concept note and basic structure are in place, reach out to your publisher (I highly recommend Staging Post). Publishers are ultimately there to realise your vision and they know – most likely better than you – how to successfully deliver a book. Not only do they prioritise and manage your deadlines, content and quality, but they also manage your stress. Working with publishers opens a space in your mind to focus on the relationships, communications and narrative you wish to convey.

Want to read this book?

You can find Nelson Mandela: A Reader on Information Ethics on the International Center for Information Ethics website.

Do you have a book you want to publish?

Staging Post is here to make that desire a reality. Contact us at info@stagingpost.co.za or call us on 011 628 3210/3200.

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