Strategic Book Publishing Agency SBPRA USA/Diamond Pen International
Lagos 19/01/2015. Time: 1:00pm. Location: MurtalaMuhammed Airport Lagos
By Annie Goldberg.
Question: Tell us in brief about yourself and why you are very much interested in African literature?
Answer: I was born in Lagos, traveled across the horn of Africa at one point, and later Europe. i got global attention through my craft from the United States (SBPRA). Apart from the great African writers whose works we read in the past. I first came across African authors at the London book fair and Frankfurt book fair years back. I was amazed by the style, strong story-line and the depth of their commitments towards their efforts, despite the challenges facing our continent. Nigeria is one country in Africa with amazing potentials, same for Ghana, Egypt and South-Africa. Our major objective is to assist exportable writers to realize their dreams of global attention. As an African, the least i can do is to go with my people, rather than celebrating American or European literatures, which are wonderful by all standards.
Question: Do you think the present generation of African writers can produce another Nobel laureate?
Answer: Of course, there are more talented writers today than before, the competition is tougher.
Question: Soyinka, Achebe and others have led the pack in making their works into motion pictures, attracting global audience. Not every work can earn such artistic appeal. What does it take to create a work with such appeal?
Answer: I wish I could give you an accurate answer. Seriously, of course a commercial success will likely spawn a movie, and that is the primary driver. We encourage writers to put depth in their works and package it in such a way that movie producers will take special interest.
Question: We heard movie adaptation of your novel, Graveyard of an Anarchy is coming up, why at this moment.
Answer: That’s absolutely correct, it’s in the pipeline. There is no better time than now when the film industry in Africa is booming, Nigeria to be precise. Book writing and movie production goes hand-in-hand. You can’t really separate the two, if you understand what I mean. We want to be one of the pioneers of great epic African movies; we are bringing something new to the table. Most importantly, we want to collaborate with African writers with excellent stories that will make a great film. We will look for excellent story-lines that we can all be proud of as African, and adapt them into movies.
Question: What are some of the challenges that are commonplace when assessing works of writers into film?
Answer: Believe it or not, but we can tell quality story within 3 pages. So, we always encourage writers to display their best writing in those first 3 pages. Adapting a novel into film in Africa is very challenging, because the mechanisms are not in place. We need more private and government support to explore this huge avenue. For instance, to fully execute Graveyard of an Anarchy, into a masterpiece, there is no way we can succeed without the support of major corporate bodies, locally and international. Great films come with huge budget. We call on everyone to come aboard, let do this for motherland.
Question: In view of the shift from physical books to electronic versions, what plans have you included in your marketing strategies to accommodate this new trend?
Answer: The number one new trend in marketing for e-books is called “discoverability”, which ultimately points to well thought out metadata, tags, and keywords. Being found in a search is the new way to succeed at marketing. After the book is found, or “discovered”, we believe that creating interest in the buyer’s mind is still the same. Cover pages must still be attractive. Copy should be well thought out. We will suggest that the time is NOW, to get into more and more distribution channels, and that “discoverability” and proper metadata is more important than ever.
Question: Many have expressed fears that e-download of books will spell doom for the stakeholders in the book industry such as the booksellers, the printers and publishers. Do you have the same fears?
Answer: Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency- our partner, do not have the same fears as booksellers and printers. The ability to present great content and to market it is still the way “publishing” works. We face increased competition, but not the game changing and gut-wrenching changes that are coming to physical booksellers and book printers.
Question: Your organization seeks to economically empower contemporary writers. Why did you deem it fit to come up with such initiative?
Answer: There is such incredible new talent coming to the market that we are very, very excited to be a part of helping new writers have their chance. We believe every writer deserves a chance and that is why we try to help as many authors as possible via Diamond Pen International. Again, we want to explore the avenue of helping authors with good stories adapt their writing into films through Eko Arts Academy. It’s simply an effort to make sure that authors whose book lack commercial success in print, goes home with something through movie. But then, such book must be good to attract the interest of producers.
Question: What are some of the achievements you have made in reaching a larger number of young writers and how have you sustained the network you established?
Answer: Our most notable achievements have been in helping writers from every country bring their work to the global population. We love knowing that an author from Nigeria, or Uganda, can now be found and discovered in China, Australia or India.
Question: Notable critics of African literature like NgugiWaThiong'o will insist that the indigenous language must be used in African literature. Others will argue that the works will only be accessible if the language of the colonizer (English) is used. What is your take on this?
Answer: The wisdom of a great African writer, NgugiWaThiong'o cannot be easily faulted. Perhaps, Africa will get to that stage at the fullest of time. Right now, we believe that the marketplace will decide who wins and who loses, and we don’t want to spend a lot of time debating issues such as this. We think that the author should write in the language of their soul for literature anyway. For STEM, then proper English is always called for.
Question: What are your projections for the literary world at Diamond Pen and Eko Arts Academy?
Answer: Through our partners, we believe at Diamond Pen that we will help African authors join the world and maybe, just maybe, we will find the next global star through Eko Arts Academy. I so much believe if we come together, join forces in the quest to promote thousands of African writers, not just one of us priviledged to win a national or international award. We need to do more to make the industry vibrant and attractive to all. I commend Etisalat and other international literary organizers for their initiatives, but in truth we need much more comprehensive master-plan for African writers to succeed in their thousands like their colleagues around the world. Conclusively, plans and strategies are easier stated than done. The industry crave for support from major corporate bodies are government for most of these multi-billion Naira projects to succeed. We need everyone to encourage those in the industry to the glory of our existence as one people with one destiny.