23 Jul
2019
Melissa Delport

Hillcrest author, mother and savvy businesswoman Melissa Delport has turned her bucket list inside out, writes Debbie Reynolds

 

It’s testimony to Melissa’s nature that the first thing she raves about is someone else – a quadriplegic man desperate to have his life story published.

“Gregory Zondi had written his story called Turning Point and wanted it to be published,” she says. “I was asked to help out and the culmination of months of hard work was the recent book launch. Working with Gregory was a beautiful journey and the most humbling experience of my life.”

It’s passion and tenacity that steered vivacious Melissa from being a co-owner in a busy transport logistics company to indulging her love for writing and self-publishing her first book, The Legacy, in 2013.

“I wrote books when I was in my teens and early 20s, which I’m very glad never saw the light of day,” she laughs. “But publishing a book was on my bucket list, so I decided why wait? I was still working full days and had three small children, which meant writing at night after they had gone to bed.”

The then 32-year-old Melissa never dreamt that six years later she would have a remarkable 16 books in her repertoire and a publishing contract.

“Through the online I love Books platform I sent a review copy of The Legacy to Tracey McDonald, not realising she was a publisher,” laughs Melissa. “I was stunned when she offered me a contract for The Legacy Trilogy and my first contemporary fiction book, Rainfall.”

Her next chapter was selling her shares in the transport company with the full support of her husband, Murray. “We both understood that writing is a passion and probably wouldn’t be financially viable, but I could also spend more time with the kids.”

She has no regrets, spending her mornings doing admin and marketing work, while afternoons are dedicated to daughters, Mackenzie, 12, Presley, seven, and son Cullen, nine. She still writes at night, or whenever she can fit it in.

“If you want to be a successful writer you have to be savvy. You can’t just write a book and think someone is going to fund you. You’ve got to push and have your foot on the gas all the time, or you’ll fade into obscurity.”

As a “hybrid” author, which means she publishes some books traditionally through her publisher and the rest independently, Melissa knows all too well what goes into being an award-winning author.

“Any indie worth their salt has to be active on social media and digital is the way to go, because it means people from all over the world are going to see your book.

“You’ve got to have great editing, cover design and marketing, but the most crucial is to write a good story. Don’t be arrogant – if your friends say it’s bad, throw it in the bin and start again.

“Do everything properly – there’s no coming back from a bunch of bad reviews.

If you’re not prepared to spend money on your book, then no one else should.”

Melissa also learnt to split her brand, writing her speculative – science fiction, dystopian, fantasy – novels under her name, while she writes her contemporary fiction titles under pseudonym Lissa Del.

Because Rainfall is her best seller, it still falls under the Melissa Delport umbrella.

With a degree in English Literature, Melissa calls herself a “compulsive learner”, having studied everything from health and safety to financial accounting and Photoshop.

She’s also launched The Secret Book Club on Facebook around three years ago, notching up over 5 000 followers. This spawned The Secret Book Box, a monthly book box aimed at women and children.

“Being an avid reader, I am crazy about getting people to read,” says Melissa. “It’s super, super sad that children are growing up not reading.”

She says sharing platforms with great local authors like Lauren Beukes, Fred Strydom and Louis Greenberg is “humbling and inspiring”, but best of all is knowing she can write for the rest of her life.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be the next J.K. Rowling, but I’m certainly going to give it a go.” *

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