Thursday, 16 November 2017

How Oke won $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature

The Prof Ernest Emenyonu-led four-man panel of judges – Dr Razinatu Mohammed, Tade Ipadeola and Prof Abena Busia – has disclosed why it recommended Ikeogu Oke’s The Heresaid, as winner of this year’s The Nigeria Prize for Literature. Last Monday, Oke was announced winner of the $100,000 prize, Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports. 

This year’s Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Literary Prize attracted 184 poetry collections. Of these, 101 entries were disqualified at the initial weeding carried out by the board of assessors.
But, at the final phase, the panel examined the strengths of each of the three books: Ogaga Ifowodo’s
Good Mourning, Tanure Ojaide’s Songs of Myself: Quartet and Ikeogu Oke’s The Heresaid.
To choose the winner was not come easy for the panel. According to the panel, the decision was made after diligent considerations and objective application of the guidelines and criteria. The decision, the panel said, is based on “its apt topicality, relevance, artistic heft and the pursuit of artistic provenance. In a world increasingly threatened by encroaching totalitarianism and even bare-faced tyranny and intolerance, the wit, wisdom and message of the The Heresaid are infinitely crucial.
“It is our hope and goal that the kind of vibrancy which we have found in the collections of poetry submitted is a vital evidence that NLNG is making unprecedented difference in the intellectual development of Nigeria and Nigerian today,” it added.

International consultant Abena P. A. Busia, in his report, said: “This has been a surprisingly difficult decision as each collection has very strong merits to recommend it for this prestigious prize. The three volumes, though very different, are the work of three extremely accomplished poets who, in fact, have significant aspects in common. I single out as the most salient of these traits a firm belief in the place of poetry in the service of social justice, and the desire, shared by each of them, to forge a poetic form that can contain the often difficult subject matter of the worlds they interrogate, within their structures. I discuss them here in alphabetical order by author.”

On Oke, he said: “This is a bold and wonderful experiment whose great strength also could have been its great weakness. That Oke manages to create a poem that keeps quite strictly over 100 pages to the lyric pentameter and still holds the attention of the reader is a singular achievement. The experiment in lesser hands could have led to a deadening of the senses. The volume itself is structured on a great conceit; a bold venture in defence of the art of poetry itself. The narrator is a griot narrating a great battle between supporters and detractors in defence of the humanities, and has succeeded in creating a modern epic. The mastery of form is a tour de force exemplary of the dedication to the craft the poem is inscribed to defend. It would have been wonderful if this work had not only been published in print, but had been released with an audio version because, indeed, its singular achievement is its sustaining of narrative that displays the arguments of the contending parties, and yet at the same time keeps so clear the voice of the griot. And we can indeed hear the musicality in the rigor of the lines, and the absoluteness of the rhyming scheme of heroic couplets sustained throughout the work.  In the end, if there must be a choice, my selection goes with this collection for the technical feat it performs. The deciding factor was the inclusion of the music, which I attempted playing and in doing that it brought home to me how very carefully the performativity of this work has been thought through; Oke has made ancient forms new again.”

The other finalists are Ifowodo and  Ojaide.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has since 2004 rewarded eminent writers, such as Gabriel Okara (co-winner, 2005, poetry), Prof Ezenwa Ohaeto (co-winner, 2005, poetry); Ahmed Yerima (2006, drama) for his classic, Hard Ground;  Mabel Segun (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) for her collection of short plays Reader’s Theatre; Prof. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) with her book, My Cousin Sammy; Kaine Agary (2008, prose); Esiaba Irobi (2010, drama) who clinched the prize posthumously with his book Cemetery Road; Adeleke Adeyemi (2011, children’s literature) with his book The Missing Clock; Chika Unigwe (2012 – prose), with her novel, On Black Sister’s Street; Tade Ipadeola (2013; Poetry) with his collection of poems, Sahara Testaments; Sam Ukala (2014; drama) with Iredi War; and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (2016, Prose) with Season of Crimson Blossoms.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly among four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature.

Chinua Achebe: Why the Nigerian author is one of the world's most important modern writers

The late Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has been honoured in a Google Doodle, underscoring his status as a towering figure of 20th century literature.

By creating a doodle marking what would have been Achebe’s 87th birthday, the tech giant is celebrating a writer many consider to be father of modern African literature.

Writing amid a post-colonial movement that saw African nations cast off decades of foreign rule and seek political sovereignty, Mr Achebe lent a voice to a generation of Africans who refused to be defined solely through the lenses of European thought.

Part of that work involved telling distinctly African stories from the perspective of African characters, helping to forge a literature that — like newly created countries — was independent from Europe.

Mr Achebe did so across dozens of novels and books of poetry and essays, leading many to refer to him as “the father of modern African literature”. He died in March of 2013 at the age of 82, having collected accolades that included the Man Booker International Prize.

His oeuvre stood in deliberate opposition to works of European literature that cast Africa as a setting and its people as bit players in the central affairs of Western characters. He denounced novelist Joseph Conrad as a “bloody racist” and called Mr Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness”, in which a European explorer plunges into a threatening and unfathomable Africa, as “a totally deplorable book”.

In contrast to European works that allowed Africans only minor or one-dimensional roles, Mr Achebe wrote novels that showed Nigerians as complex characters endowed with agency.

His best-known work, “Things Fall Apart,” remains a staple of school curricula. It tells the story of Okonkwo, the proud leader of his village.

The novel depicts the complex customs of the Igbo people, one of multiple ethnic groups in Nigeria with a distinct culture and language. The book portrays how Okonkwo’s world is upended by the appearance of Christian missionaries, and its closing paragraph — written from the perspective of a recently arrived colonial leader — functions as a haunting allusion to how European observers reduce and dismiss complex African cultures:

“He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.”

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Importance of Editing and Reviewing a Manuscript

One of the most common questions I receive is, “Why isn’t my book selling?”  The answer is usually painful to hear.  Avoiding that question altogether lies in tackling another question early in the publishing process, “What will prevent my book from selling?”

Editing is one of the absolute factors that will influence your book sales. The degree to which you personally edit your thoughts and writing, combined with the degree to which you invest in professional editing will ultimately play a large role in developing reader comfort.  A great edit will not ensure your book sells, but it will definitely eliminate one of the largest potential detractors that might prevent book sales.

Some authors decide against getting their books edited.  It takes time, can be expensive, and can be emotionally invasive.  After putting your heart and soul into something, it can be very difficult to hear what needs to be fixed.  By definition, editing is critical, so it’s not at all uncommon to see authors avoid it like the plague.  When I wrote my first book I did not initially have it professionally edited, and it was one of the larger mistakes I made in my first foray into publishing.  I thought that I was saving money and time, but in the end I was mistaken on both counts.  It did not save me time and ended up costing me more in the long run.

The truth of the matter is that even extremely experienced writers have their works professionally edited.   Traditional publishing houses put every book through a minimum of two edits.

Professional editors, like the ones we work with at Black Tower Publishers , are trained to put their own personal feelings aside and focus on enhancing your work.  There is a significant difference between having a professional do the job and letting a friend edit your book.  Friends have a tendency to be less critical than is helpful.  Although they may have the best intentions, their ability to ensure the essence of your book is conveyed properly generally falls short.

The two questions that are probably on your mind at this point are, “How much editing do I need”, and  “How much is it going to cost?”   Every manuscript is different.  Fortunately there is an inexpensive way to address both questions: a Manuscript Review Analysis.  Black Tower Publishers offers this professional service; designed to help authors know the type of manuscript editing they would need for their manuscript, and they will also review the manuscript and give tips on how to better the manuscript. The last time I checked, they charge about N4,500 for that service. Manuscript Review will help you know what you are doing. They will let you know if your manuscript is ready to be edited and published, or if you have to revisit the manuscript and do some more work on it.

So whether you’re just starting your work or wondering why it isn’t selling the way you would like, it’s always a good time to think about editing.

Happy Publishing!

See Why Every Writer Should Publish Online In Nigeria

Most Nigerian authors have been searching for publishing companies to help them publish their books. They expect the publishing houses to review their manuscripts and then offer them publishing contracts where the publishing house handles the cost of publishing the book. Well, as long as it’s in Nigeria, that might never happen because most publishing houses in Nigeria don’t operate that way. They can only offer contracts to well established writers like Chimamanda, Wole Soyinka or promising up and coming writers like Charles Umerie. These are people they think they can make profit off their books even if it didn’t sell well. Nobody wants to invest their money into an unknown author; and not just that, Nigerian literary business isn’t as hot as that for unknown authors to break the market just like unknown music artists do all the time. That’s the simple truth.
A lot of young authors have figured that too, and they don’t depend on publishing houses to give them contracts. Rather they resort to printing their own books. That’s a totally brave move, but very unwise. Unless you have people requesting your book before you print it, and also have a perfect channel to distribute it after publication, you shouldn’t think of wasting money by printing it.
Well don’t be discouraged by this post because I have an amazing solution on how you can achieve your literary dreams. Have you heard of online publishing? Most people have, but if you haven’t, I think you should really pay attention.
Online publishing can be the answer to the problem young Nigerian authors face today. With online publishing, your book would be available for purchase worldwide! That’s one thing printing your book can’t give you. You can’t distribute it worldwide.
We live in an advanced age, and if you look around, you will notice that printed books are starting to lose value. Everything is read digitally these days. If you go to church, pastors are using iPad as bible. Even newspapers don’t sell that much again! Why purchase bulky papers when you can read them online- for FREE?!
That’s the world we live in, and young writers should adapt too. My advice to them should be they should publish online first. When you publish online, and maybe you are lucky enough to break the internet with your online published work, you will notice how publishing houses would be calling day and night to publish your work because you have proved that your work worth the risk.
Now let’s talk about how you can publish online.
Publishing online is just like printing the book. Both of them are still read. That’s what most online publishers forget. They think since it’s mostly free to publish online, they can treat their work anyhow and put it out for people to see; and still at the same time expecting to sell thousands of it. If you don’t prepare your online work professionally, it will never get anywhere. It would be available to the world, but only to be rejected by the world too.
With my research, it costs about N200,000 to print about 500 copies of your book, and still, most people won’t sell about 50 copies of that book. But do you realize that with just.. let’s say N50,000, you can have your book professionally published online? If you can handle the processes of publishing it yourself, starting from editing the manuscript, formatting it to kindle format or epub, designing the book cover and uploading it online, then you do it yourself. But if you can’t, I suggest you meet a professional to help you do it. There are a few publishing houses that help people publish online at a very cheap rate. Check BLACK TOWER PUBLISHERS NIG and contact them.
After your work is available to the world, all you have to do then is promote. As a person, you have friends and families. Share the link to your book to them through Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, and also ask them to share with their friends and relatives too. Then connect with them and build yourself some fanbase.
There are many platforms to publish your book online. They include Createspace, Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Lulu, etc. Createspace offers you a chance to publish your work, but it cannot be downloaded and read digitally. What they do is print-on-demand. That is when people order a copy or copies of your book, they print the book and ship to the person. Amazon Kindle can be downloaded digitally, but that is mostly for international sellers. Most African countries (including Nigeria) can’t purchase kindle books on Amazon. But you can still publish there if you still wish sell to international audience that reads mostly kindle books. Then the best one for Nigerians is Okadabooks and Lulu. Okadabooks is easier, and it has over 100,000 readers on their site. Readers can easily purchase your eBook just by recharging their Okadabooks account with airtime. The minimum withdrawal limit on Okadabooks is N10,000, and you can withdraw straight to your local bank account. Lulu offers two options. You can publish it as Print-on-demand or just as ebook.. or even both for the same book! People can easily buy your book with their ATM cards, download the book and then read it on the phone with an ePub reader!
You can visit these sites and find which is best for you! Or contact Black Tower Publishers and request how they can help you publish online.  Good luck!