From an intern to being an independent publisher – Thabiso Mahlape

Written by Staff Writer

Aug 10, 2020

“People don’t realise how literacy affects everything” – Thabiso Mahlape

In 2010 Thabiso Mahlape started as an intern at Jacana Media and in just five years she changed the DNA of South African publishing.

She launched her own book imprint and named it Blackbird Books. The imprint is nurtured by Jacana Media, it is home and pride to a new generation of black writers.

Thabiso refined her skills as a publisher with a lot of acclaimed bestsellers like Endings and Beginnings by Redi Tlhabi, My Father My Monster by Mcintosh Polela, and Malaika wa Azania’s Memoirs of a Born Free to name a few.

Being the first black woman to ever own an imprint came with a lot of challenges, but that does not take away the recognition, she has been getting in the industry. And she has been learning the skills of entrepreneurship as she goes.

Pro female writers

Thabiso understands the challenges female writers are facing and it is one of her passions to give women the opportunity to shine.

In 2017 Thabiso hosted a masterclass to give aspiring authors an opportunity to get the first-hand experience on what it takes to makes a book successful.  The genesis of the masterclass was her first-hand experience of how broad the publishing industry is and how wide its audience is. And because of this a lot of black writers with a specific set of stories did not know where to go to have their work published.

The masterclass was the perfect platform for her to explain what publishing is and the routes available to a writer that aspires to be published. She was able to unpack the pros and cons of going mainstream, the challenges of self-publishing, and the things to look out for when marketing one’s own work.  She also explored different writing techniques and the validity of some of the ideas looking at writing as a business and not just a hobby.

Thabiso Mahlape has pioneered a new direction for publishing in the country which has seen the inclusion of voices and narratives that up until now have not been given a chance to be heard.


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