Is Independent Book Publishing in Nigeria A Matter of Ambition? – Henry Okelue

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I am currently on a project where I provide marketing and publicity for works of literature. So once in a while I search through social media and the internet to see what people are saying about these works.

During one of those “intelligence gathering” sessions, I came across the following tweets from a Muyiwa Saka who simply “got a feeling”.

saka.jpgI think there is a need to address the issues he raised as it affects present day Nigerian literature. So that him and the rest of the world who are in the dark about the problems with publishing in Nigeria know what the true dimensions of this issue are.

Nigerian literature is one of the most respected in Africa. It even produced Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature, Chinua Achebe wrote “Things Fall Apart”, a book that has been read all over the world and forms part of many literature curricula. We can’t forget the likes of Cyprian Ekwensi, Ben Okri, Mabel Segun, just to mention a few.What this icons have in common is the fact that they had publishers. These publishers not only printed their books, they also managed distribution, marketing, and publicity.

In present day Nigeria, that is no more the case. Viable publishers are simply not plenty enough. We can actually count them on one hand — Cassava Republic, Farafina, Parresia. Even these ones would rather take on writers who are already established here or abroad, or writers who already have a following, or celebrity that can be used to push their work when it gets published. They probably took this stance because it is better to be efficient. So they either reject your manuscript, or grudgingly accept it but never give it a look in.

This state of affairs is bound to kill present day Nigerian literature. Book adherents will be left at the mercy of books that tell the old stories and books from the few lucky ones who got publishing contracts. It will mean the dreams of many young Nigerian authors will not be fulfilled, and that conveyor belt of great stories which the rest of Africa has come to love will come to an abrupt end. It will also mean defeat in the battle to stem the steady decline of the reading culture in the land and the continent.

This is why we do what we do today, going independent. Using all platforms available to make the world aware of new works of art. This is why we push and sell the work of new, independent writers as hard as you see. It is not because it is not a good work.

With Independent publishing, an author writes his/her manuscript, edits it, prints it, distributes it, markets it, gives it publicity, all by him or herself. This comes at a heavy financial burden to the author. But it has to be done, because there is no way the world will know of your masterpiece( or piece of crap) if you or someone does not tell them it exists and where they can get it. The processes involved in the book value chain will be carried out using any available platform, mostly those that are affordable. This includes social media. This is why you see us on your Timelines.

Othuke Ominiabohs is a very recent successful example of all I have highlighted above. As of today, he has sold close to 4,000 copies of his 2 books “Odufa: A Lover’s Tale” and “A Conspiracy of Ravens”. He is an independently published author. With three literary prize shortlisting for his book “Odufa: A Lover’s Tale”, and a very well received book tour of East Africa which featured his two works, it is definitely not empty hype.

Gladly, more authors, with dreams of attaining what Abubakar Ibrahim, author of Seasons of Crimson Blossoms, has attained, have embraced independent publishing. The aim is to deemphasize the need to wait for big publishing houses before attaining the dream of literary fame and fortune. We are making very good progress and the fountain of stories from Nigeria will be kept wet.

Henry Okelue is a citizen of Nigeria. Erratic writer. Photographer. Geek. Etcetera. Loved and hated by same people. Speaks in a fufu flavored accent.

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