The Nigerian system of “doing things” have permeated virtually every facet of endeavours so much so that it is practically impossible to do anything without doing it the Nigerian way, as against the standard way. For instance, the standard way of publishing is that when a writer is done writing a book (be it a novel, a collection of poems, a play or any other piece of writing worthy of public eye) he or her pitches the manuscript to an agent, who would then use the merits of the book to look for a publisher.When a publisher is found, the author is assigned an editor who beings work on the manuscript and who also works hand in hand with the writer to rewrite some parts, change some parts and explain certain places that may be confusing to the editor so it would be made simple. When the editor is done, the book goes up for formatting, graphic designers set to work and the publicity arm of the company takes over the internet by using excerpts from the book to draw readers’ attention to its advent and get them restless till the book is released. Now all these are done under a traditional contract where the publisher bears the full weight of the cost of publishing. The writer is placed on royalties from book sales, attends organized book readings and signings and is even helped to get on to prize competitions and fellowships.

Here is Nigeria, the very opposite is the case. You’d write a book and lose your head trying to get it published because Nigeria has no agents for writers who would pitch your work to a traditional publisher. The publishers here claim to be traditional publishers but they send most of the manuscripts they receive for consideration to their self publishing where you’re encouraged to do it yourself because “your work is not good enough” or you’re relatively unknown for them to bear the full cost of its publishing, yet when this writer goes abroad with the same manuscript, they get published.  If it is poetry or drama, you’re expected to do it all by yourself, but if you’re able to convince the publisher to do the editing and graphic designs for you, you must be ready to pay for your sins. Yet, you must be ready to create a buzz around your book yourself because there is no such thing as PR managers in their company to tell readers that a book is coming. So the chances of getting heard, bought and read largely depend on your ability to pull all the stunts a publishing house would have pulled for you instead. You must get PR by yourself, meet book reading organizers by yourself; sometimes you cater for the logistics, go around to the few bookshops in Nigeria by yourself to negotiate the sales of your book and struggle by yourself to get into prizes and fellowship programmes. 

When the few Nigerian traditional publishers in Nigeria “call for submissions,” the manuscripts they consider most are those written by Nigerian writers abroad or those at home with foreign affiliations, making one to wonder if our best writers are those coming from abroad. These publishers are so fixated on Nigerian Diaspora writers to the extent that they are falling over themselves to obtain Nigerian copyrights of good books published abroad for and by Nigerian Diaspora writers. They want to bank on such author’s international fame to do business, yet they are super scared of raising a good homegrown writer to international acclaim.

Suffice it to say that to be a published author in Nigeria, you must be a full grown publishing institution unto yourself. That is how it is done here, it is either you agree or agree.

This article was written by Ifesinachi Nwadike

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