Here is a repost of the article I wrote for Kunle Kasumu of Channels Book Club for those who have not already seen it.
The Nigerian Book Industry has advanced from the silent force it used to be, to attaining the level of acceptance and embrace it enjoys today. Young writers and authors spring up every year with very creative works penned with literary skill. While we are proud of the change that we see in terms of growth in number of authors, as regards its effect on the pockets of our endearing writers, we have barely progressed since the first ever Nigerian book was published.
If I was asked this question a while back, off the top of my head, I would have assumed that our authors do not make money from writing books because of the known menace of piracy in the Nation. Strangely, even with the high rate of piracy in Nollywood, its growth has very well surpassed the progress of writing in Nigeria. Pirating a book still requires a publisher and a level of funding; however, the truth is that even the pirates would rather fabricate the works of bestselling authors across border that would almost guarantee sales than worry about our books here.
This goes to show that inasmuch as we attest to the truth that the reading culture in Nigeria is poor, we are faced with an even greater challenge- the average reading Nigerian would rather read or buy a book by a foreign author than that of a Nigerian author. Thus, leaving the market for books smaller than it ordinarily should be. In essence, the plethora of Nigerian authors have but a limited amount of people, who may not necessarily be interested, to sell to.
In an attempt to expand the market and of course boost sales, a few rich authors undergo resilient marketing strategies including book tours, aggressive promotions and the use of media. However, many writers cannot afford to fund these. They simply hold book launches, invite high net worth individuals, raise as much money as they can, and resign to fate to push the sales of the books. In a post on thisdaylive.com, Okechukwu Ofili explains that too many Nigerian creative writers are not business savvy. Hence, they blindly sign extremely non-profitable deals with publishers, distributors, and marketers and get themselves facing deeper issues.
While a number of writers believe that money is not the priority for them, others are faced with the challenge of selling past their first print; leaving them in search for other lucrative jobs to pursue that will at least guarantee a monthly income. This in itself poses a challenge for the Industry. Writing requires commitment and it is a well-known fact that most writers have writing as a side gig, while they grow their careers in other lucrative industries. One cannot blame them; passion does not overrule the need for money.
Another clear reason lies in the logistics surrounding marketing. In developed countries, bookstores and libraries are found on just about every street in every state; making it accessible to the reader or the average person to stumble on them and purchase them. The amount of legitimate bookstores in Nigeria juxtaposed with our constantly rising population would show the deficiency in the possibilities for effective sales.
What we have are few bookshops that are sparsely located across Nigeria, making it harder for people in underdeveloped states of the federation to reach. Out of the few bookshops that are available, we have even fewer good ones. For one, bookshops do not actually buy the books from you; rather they accept them on the basis of sale or return. At that, only a few would remit your money without hassle if at all they do.
The solution goes beyond changing our writing style to more contemporary formats that will almost clone that of the bestsellers abroad; it requires a high level of sensitization for a change in the mindset of the average Nigerian to accept and buy Nigerian. This, however, has been a major set-back not just in the trade of books but in the entire economy of Nigeria – as we have gotten used to the ‘import all’ attitude. Luckily, eBooks have started gaining acceptance lately; hopefully, this would help curb the challenge of accessibility, pending the time more bookstores are created.
At the end of the day, the central issues revolve around marketing. Those having great marketing strategies tend to progress considerably faster. Movie adaptations, literary prizes, and employing the services of great publishers to facilitate promotion, are some of the ways authors break out in the industry. The sad reality is that there are not up to a handful of movie adaptations that have be done in Nigeria, our internal literary prizes do not guarantee sales and many publishers lack funds.
The need for marketing, promotions and ultimately rebranding of the entire industry still needs to be done to ensure that Nigerian citizens support its growth as they did with Nollywood. If the authors of the Book industry can also bag endorsements and sponsorships like actors of the movie industry, embark on great book tours in higher institutions, and other forms of promotions; sales will almost definitely skyrocket. Selling prices may even be subsidized with the right amount of sponsorships available. For authors to succeed in writing, they need to regard it as not just an art, but also as a business that requires nurturing, commitment and strategy.
This article was first published on kunlekasumu.com and edited by Kunle Kasumu- host of Channels Book Club.