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Nigerian Writers Comment
We started the discussion two weeks ago with this observation of Jenny Diski: “Rich and famous and writing books are only linked when they’re in that order. Try it the other way round: book to rich and famous and the statistics take a nosedive. Most writers don’t get rich writing books. We asked the why most authors cant get rich and famous; and what they could do differently. Below are the comments of some Nigerian writers. Names appear in alphabetical order
Segun Adeleye, journalist and author
The reading culture is poor here, so what we see as creative should also enjoy acceptance from other parts of Africa and beyond. Moreover, writers should explore the movie industry to promote their works. If a creative work is produced as a movie, it will generate more interest, readership and money
Olusegun Adeniyi, journalist and author
I honestly don’t have any idea as to why. Like most writers, the motivation for writing a book has never been money and I remember I spent all my savings publishing my first book, “Fortress on Quicksand”. Same with the next book, ‘Abiola’s Travails’ for which I got the support of the then PUNCH Chairman, Chief Ajibola Ogunsola, at a time I was working for Concord. I recall it was a colleague at Concord who told me that the Chief would support anything Abiola and I was writing the book to coincide with the 60th birthday of Abiola who was then in detention.
Aside Chief Ogunsola’s support, I also expended my savings on the project and made no money as I gave most of the copies out free. But I felt fulfilled. The first book I made money from was “The Last 100 Days of Abacha” published in August 2005 and of course my last book, “Power, Politics and Death”. Now, I get proposals from publishers who are ready to offer me considerable amounts of money upfront for books I have not even written. I guess that is because I write political, and not creative, books and I have also been fortunate to have loyal readers.
Part of the problems though is that Nigerians, especially women, who read novels prefer foreign authors. But like it was before Nollywood came when all we were watching were foreign movies, the situation will not forever remain the same. So my suggestion would be that our creative writers should keep at it and one day, the lucky break will come!
Kabir Alabi, journalist (Arts Editor of The Guardian)
Accomplishment in any endeavour requires dedication and commitment, not least creative and literary enterprise. Most writers take writing as pass time while they’re preoccupied with something else. In such case, much couldn’t have been achieved. So, first step is to decide whether you desire to be a full time or pass time writer. Certainly, each choice has prize.
Mike Awoyinfa, journalist and author
Mike Awoyinfa, journalist, publisher and author
It’s not about riches. It is about having a good, original story, carrying it in your head like pregnancy, nurturing it and giving birth to it in the labour room of solitude, passion and persistence. Telling it in a compelling manner, carrying your reader along in your unique style. My advice: Read a lot. Write a lot. Imagine a lot. Open your eyes to the “news” around. The everyday happenings that many take for granted. The extraordinary in the ordinary!
Learn your craft first. And write and write. As for money, it will come when the world gets to read you and are inspired to want to read more of you. That’s my belief. Put some news in your fiction. Put something new and fresh, I mean. Be original. Be yourself.
Michael Chima, Ekenyerengozi, author andblogger
Writers like all artists often don’t become rich from writing and those who have become bestselling authors with books selling in thousands and millions have not been the best, but luckiest. From JK Rowling, author of the phenomenal Harry Potter novels to the unexpected success of E.L James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, no prophet saw them coming and they did not have any fantastic best selling formula. They were just lucky the unpredictable lovers of books fell in love with their magical and erotic thrillers.
And we cannot predict the next big thing in the literary world. There thousands of active writers writing books, but only few of them will become bestselling authors. The rest are still struggling and wishing for their big break that may never come. Among the few are writers who have used PR and marketing promotions to become bestselling authors, but these methods have cost them a lot of money.
Many writers cannot afford the high costs of independent PR and marketing promotions. They should do other jobs to make ends meet and stop day dreaming and waiting for the one in a million chance of becoming a bestselling author. It is easier for writers in countries with populations of millions of lovers of books like in America, Europe and Asia. But in countries where people don’t love reading books, except to study recommended text books, it is suicidal to dare to depend on writing for your survival and welfare.
Azubuike Ishiekwene: journalist, author
Riches and fame are, in a sense, relative. I think contentment and purpose are the key things.
Anything you think they should do differently? All truly creative writers know that they’re as good as their last work. They’re usually the urge to make the next one better.
Okechukwu Ofili, Engineer, author and publisher
Too many writers are punching the typewriter but forget to also punch the calculators as well.
In other words, too many creative writers are not business savvy. They feel their skills will make the money or make them famous, but that rarely happens. And because they fail to focus on the business/branding side of writing they end up signing extremely non-profitable deals with publishers, distributors and marketers.
Be impatient! And when I say impatient, they need to stop waiting for publishers to authenticate or validate them.
Writers should put their branding in their own hands, and if they are able to brand themselves, publishers will chase after them and the money too.
Okey Ndibe, author professor, Professor political columnist and essayist
The question of wealth and fame for creative writers is, I think, rather simple. First, fortune and fame are by no means reliable ways of measuring a writer’s stature or the enduring quality of her/his work. Think of any professional group—say, lawyers, doctors, dentists, consultants, accountants. A few of these always achieve fame and impressive wealth, while the majority merely eke out a living, if they are lucky. And it’s hardly ever the best lawyers who become famous or wealthy. Sometimes, a lawyer finds one high-profile client, and other such clients feel drawn to the same lawyer. It’s somewhat similar with writers. In many cases, that perplexing, indefinable thing we call luck helps shape a writer’s career. In fact, when it comes to writers, the issue of wealth and fame often hinges on a combination of factors. For example, it helps if a writer has a highly connected agent on her/his side. Writers who have powerful sponsors—for example, foundations, patrons of the arts, and fellow writers—often get bumped up. Other writers strike fame and fortune when their book is adapted into a movie, or when a major literary prize is bestowed on them. Then, there are other kinds of luck. If, say, the US President or a major entertainment figure is seen in public clutching your book, or Oprah Winfrey gives a nod to your work—these accidents could catapult a book or a literary career, at least in the short run. I’d say that, frequently, “non-literary” factors, including what some would regard as a writer’s sex appeal, determine a writer’s reach.
On the whole, I would hope that writers focus on the work they must do, not on fame and fortune. I write the stories that excite me, in a style that I find organic to my subject. When I write in that mode and spirit, I believe it’s possible to find a wide readership, but maybe not. That question is outside of my control. The only thing I can control is the integrity of my vision as a creative writer. I’d like my work, above all, to be enduring, to speak to my time as well as to readers of coming generations. If my literary output achieves staying power, I would have done my work well. If fame and fortune follow, so much the better!
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, journalist, poet,
Coming from a poetic background, I see the very idea of getting rich and famous via creative writing as being quite iniquitous. If you want to make money, you can jolly well go and sell cement. If one wants to get rich quick, there is the ready route of joining the bandwagon of some of the brainless pop singers.
Writing is a sacred duty that must not submit to the worldly compromise of cash. The so-called writer who wants instant money can write potboilers to get by, but that is a cardinal sin against the very jealous gods of true literary creation.
Once one detours into writing for cash, the gift of creativity disappears. It almost always happens when the writer joins the celebrity circus. My comfort zone is rural Lagos where wealth and fame are objects of derision. What trumps all is creating in abject loneliness behind the exclusive walls of prolific poverty.