When I started to write at the age of nine, I never imagined publishing. Writing was a coping mechanism for me; my family and I had relocated to Nigeria and I could count the number of friends I had on one hand. When the loneliness crept in, I would turn to words. I would put them together and write on things I didn’t know diddly-squat on, things like love, because when I showed my teacher and mother my works, their approval fed me. I was no longer an awkward nine-year-old girl; I was a poet. A creator. Some would even say a god.
Secondary school was filled with incomplete stories and hackneyed characters. They reflected what I read; white or biracial characters who had simple yet overly complicated lives; lives I could not relate to yet fantasised about. I shared my stories with friends, received their approval, and then flushed the story down the drain. No idea appealed to me enough to commit; I would get halfway into one and then BOOM! A new idea would appear, and I would embrace it wholeheartedly, forsaking the old for the shinier, flashy thing. Until it became old too. It was a proper cycle.
Then in the comfort of my mother’s room, I decided to write a simple story about a girl talking about the ups and downs of her awkward, weird life- a life I could actually relate to a bit too well. I saved the document as ‘Diary of a Misfit- will nit abandon’.* And I would start and drop, pick it up and drop, drop drop drop. It was supposed to be another failed relationship.
Then on February 4th, 2012, my mother called me. She told me that she had a publisher (my Uncle Ted had published with them) and that I should write about our experience of moving back to Nigeria (my mother had been telling me this since I was ten lol). I agreed, but on one condition- I had to publish Diary of a Misfit first. And so I wrapped up the story that night. And the ball started rolling from there, and my life has never been the same. All because I was given the opportunity to share my work, my world, my kingdom, my creatures.
There are so many opportunities, so many ways you can get your work out there. The resources are out there. It’s just a matter of you taking that first step. And that first step is not easy- self-doubt, lack of finances, lack of support can be crippling.
That’s why I’m here, to ease your mind. I’m going to divulge a few tips. Now, this is not an academic article, so feel free to correct me or take that step forward and educate yourself properly.
There are various options when you decide to share your work with the world. Either you simply post it on a website (i.e. blog) and call it a day, you create an e-book version and sell it online, or you go about the strenuous but rewarding process of print publishing. Personally, I am a fan of print publishing because it is harder to pirate, you can sell it on your own without paying commission, you don’t have to rely on royalties that may take forever to accumulate, and you can have proper events centered around the book that will generate publicity; in other words, your coin is guaranteed. Online publishing is nice because it’s cheaper, and let’s face it, we’re in a technologically advanced state; when NEPA takes the light and your torch is dead, it’s nice to know you can read a book on your phone or kindle. It all depends on you. Also, nothing is stopping you from doing both. I did.
If you want Nigeria to be your main audience, I would advise you to use quality Nigerian publishers. Yes, they exist. Check out the popular ones like Cassava Republic, Farafina, Quramo, Parresia etc. They’re a bit pricey, but then again, whatever is worth doing, do it well.
However, foreign publishers have good deals e.g. the two for one deal I managed to snag. But then again I had a very encouraging and financially stable mother. It all depends on your resources.
Now for e-books…
If you get a good publisher, they will handle that for you. The problem though is royalties- up till now (4/5 years later) I’ve not received online royalties because I’ve not earned a certain amount of money, which is very hard to attain because the online platforms take most of the money. But then again, that could be more from the publishers.
Amazon has this amazing platform called ‘Create Space’. Pay a small fee and voila- you have a book. I would also recommend ‘Okada Books’- a really nice, accessible and affordable way to share your work with the Nigerian audience. Check them out- you won’t regret it.
My ultimate advice would be to go through your manuscript (make sure you’re comfortable- not fully comfortable but comfortable enough to share it with raised shoulders), make sure you like what you see, start emailing publishers directly to see if there are discounts and research. Remember that you’re the star, but be willing to negotiate- man must eat lol.
There’s a lot out there in publishing; lots of ups and downs. But it’s rewarding because you are adding to the world of literature, sharing your art with people. You have no idea how a few words strung together can spark a revolution. Don’t cheat yourself out of the opportunity to contribute to society, and make nice coin while you’re at it.