Will you please close your eyes for a few seconds, imagine yourself in a jungle somewhere in Africa. Don’t start sweating now, but .. okay, I don’t want to run away or amok with the picture. I am not crazy you know and this is not from some crank.
My name is Biola Olatunde, you have to know that first off because you might be too interested to remember it after you have finished reading. It is okay to laugh now but do go on reading. I write like this on my blog, you guessed right, I am a blogger, an author, a poet and producer. Before you get bored altogether with my crazy introductions let me get to the story.
What does it feel like being an author in my country?
Good question, authors in Nigeria get the shortest end of the stick. You cannot make it a calling, or a profession and definitely cannot live by your earnings from books you publish. One big drawback is the populace. Simply put, we don’t read. Hold it, we are educated, because we read a whole lot so we can pass exams, get a certificate, get a job or start a business. Read for pleasure? You get a blank stare and a change of subject. ..if you are under 40, people within my age bracket remember with nostalgia books they had read, the comics, novels and the poetry.
But those books were written by western authors and gave some of us dreams that we might be able to write. They were not specified literature, but we devoured them, romantic novels, detectives, thrillers, mysteries, even biographies
In the sixties and seventies, being an author might have fetched you the odd change enough to buy you new socks or a few shirts. You learn that even then remuneration from publishers was practically zilch, you wrote then because there was a chance, that some fellow from the education ministry might read your book, and show it to the curriculum fellows at the ministry and if you have been a very good boy, they recommend your book to secondary school or even primary school. You are made then, as your publisher will give you a smile and promptly offer you 10% of the sales. The author never gets the cream off his hard work. Your creativity is something most Nigerians hardly ever think you deserve good recompense. Publishers are generally not keen on your manuscript unless you can assure him that the book will get a government nod. Authors, therefore take the route of self-publishing these days.
Self- publishing for Nigerians who do not have the English language as their first language is fraught with a lot of confusion, more so when in these days, you are wondering if you should opt for American English or British. We can’t tell the difference most times.
What genre of writing should you write that will hold the interest of the public? These days of sci-fi films, noir, erotica and so forth, we do not know one genre from the other. I like to think, the best way forward in that particular territory is to write about what you know best, Those days of my youth when I read a lot of Somerset Maugham, I learned that he would research his story, get a feel of the kind of characters he wanted to portray so he got to know his protagonist pretty well. I used that method always in my writings either as radio plays, or novels. I visited the Niger Delta, stayed in one of the towns, and interviewed a lot of the average Niger Deltan to get a feel of the place before I wrote my first published novel, BLOOD CONTRACT. I was very gratified to receive comments from people in that area thinking I was a native of the place. You need to be able to put such feelings and empathy in your writing. For us, concentrate on writing well.
You should be believable and honest I remember my cousin one day read my television plays and raised puzzled eyes as she asked me if these things I have written were actual events. I replied that they were based on real events. She shook her head and wondered why I want to live by imagining things. She asked me why I did not want to start a trade and earn really good money. For an author in Nigeria like I mentioned earlier, it will take awhile before authors can earn real good money. They are constrained now to do other things and even our Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka had to earn his living through being a lecturer.
Young people are now writing, trends are evolving, and some publishers are also emerging but the essence of writing still remains the same. If you enjoyed writing it, the reader would probably agree with you and pay for that pleasure.
In the next couple of weeks, I hope to make available to anyone interested, the fine points about writing and we will share together.
Once in while I get a writing binge and I like to think might be experiencing a binge for the moment. Let’s share together while the itch is one shall we