The Singularity Of The African Writer
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People have asked me time and again to describe the Nigerian publishing industry and the one word that comes to my mind is Singularity.
There is a singularity to the Nigerian publishing industry, a singularity/sameness to the type of books and authors that are carried by publishers. Step out of this band of singularity and you will find yourself like me in the murky waters of the self published world. It is nothing new, I have written about this in several articles most notably here.
I mean you could pick up several Nigerian published (by big publishers) books and you would swear they were the same, almost all the books have to have had a certain type of award, my friend Tunde Leye talks about it here. The book is likely set against a village back drop and the cover … well if this collage by Simon Stevens is anything to go by, they are like everything else the same …
Set against an orange sunset or sunrise depending on the mood of the publisher’s graphic designer. Everyone from Chimamanda Adichie to Ernest Hemingway is caught up in this sun background love cast against a tree type cover … as long as you are writing what is defined as an African book … chances are that you might get that same cover treatment. I mean it might not be exactly this cover, but it could be a slight variant.
So when publishers/agents say stuff like read our books to see the type of books we like to publish and adapt your manuscript to fit that style, I cringe. Because we know what that means, its another way to say “fit the mould or get out.”
At the end of the day, everyone is looking for the next award winning Chinua Achebe or Wole Soyinka or Chimamanda Adichie that could pass as African enough to receive international awards and be likely entered into the school curriculum for massive sales. That’s why we are stuck in a singularity mind set until we find publishers (and there have been a few) bold enough to break out of that mindset we would be stuck with one type of book.
Written By Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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