The truth is, for most writers, there is nothing like the feeling of holding your book in your hand, flipping the pages and reading your own words — I imagine it is something akin to giving birth.
Many people have tried to convince me that print is dead. I always give the same response to that – you can’t cuddle next to a fire with hot chocolate in one hand and an iPad/kindle in the other! However, seeing as I am in the very hot Nigeria, the fire and hot cocoa are the odd objects in that scene.
Which brings me to why I believe that in Nigeria, e-publishing is a far better option than traditional publishing for the author as well as for the readers.
Publishing Houses: From my research, majority of the publishing houses in Nigeria focus on educational textbooks. There are very few publishers that are known for publishing fiction – Farafina, Parresia and Cassava Republic. These are just three publishing houses and they each publish approximately three fictional titles a year. Meanwhile there are thousands of anxious and talented individuals sending in manuscripts, and thousands of voracious readers hungry for books. The demand is far greater than the supply, which is why E-publishing gives writers a better chance at getting their work to the reader.
Access to Books: Have you heard the phrase if you want to hide something from a black man hide it in a book? I find this to be a terribly misguided notion because Nigerians are some of the most studious people I know. But it is nigh impossible to find books in this country. I used to work for a traditional publishing house and many readers would complain that there was no bookstore near them and if there were, they were not properly stocked.
When I travel, I find myself buying books the way other people buy clothes because for me the range is limited here. However, the ebook world eradicates this issue. Searching for a book? You can just download it.
Financial Limitations: Print is expensive, especially in this country where it is hard to find good printers, so you have to print abroad and also factor in the other ‘costs’ that may be demanded of you at customs when you ship in your newly printed books.
The expense is why publishers can sometimes be overly cautious, unwilling to take a risk on an unknown author, the expense is why sometimes the quality of the book is poor, the expense is why editors are poorly paid (trust me I’ve been there). However, e-publishing slices the cost, allowing you to spend just a tiny fraction of that cost on paying the editor who will fine tune your work, the artist who will illustrate your book, the graphic designer who will create your e-book and so on.
Promotion: Here is a question for the individual who is still reading this article – when was the last time you heard of a book launch, aside from Chimamanda’s and a handful of other already established authors, in Nigeria? It’s ok, I’ll wait…I’m very patient…It’s one of my many marvelous qualities…I’m still here…nothing?
When a new book comes out, when a new author joins the club, people need to hear about it or how else would they know to buy the book? Social media has made marketing books, especially electronic books, a whole lot easier; there are existing platforms like Amazon, WorldReader and OkadaBooks and all you need to do to get a reader to purchase your book is convince them to take that extra step and click on ‘BUY’.
Broaden Your Reach: Why limit your readership to Nigeria when the whole world is out there? Even with the advent of Amazon it is a lot harder to push your novel to say Australia if it is in print, than it would be if it was an e-book.
Also, the success of your e-book gives you more sway with traditional publishing houses when you are ready to move to print. You no longer need to convince them that your book will be a success, they can see it for themselves.
I would love to know what your views are on e-publishing.