Sunday, December 12, 2010

Writing and publishing in the age of social networking - My experience

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It was August 2009, and I had decided to start writing full time a few months earlier. I had joined a writing group and somebody suggested blogging too. Since then, my blog has proved indispensable. I had started first by sharing my work-in-progress and as feedback poured in, I was encouraged and inspired to continue. Honestly I love being read and that is the opportunity I appreciate most of all from blogging. I also want to get better and blogging is the perfect way to sample a wide variety of opinion. Not all criticism is constructive of course and it helps that I can discuss these comments with my writing group. I have also taken part in several writers’ blogfests, which are useful not only because of the writing involved but the critique from fellow writer-bloggers. This way I’ve received professional feedback on my writing exercises, scenes from my WIP, and short story drafts.

In addition to my writing group and blogging, I polished my writing craft and style through freely available online writing courses. The critique from my writing group showed that they were taking effect on my work. Soon, I wrote ‘The End’ to my WIP, which had grown from a novella to a complete manuscript, and I began to shop for publishers. I queried traditional publishers in the United States but their replies showed that they preferred a story set in the US which was their major market or if it had to be African, then literary fiction. I really wanted to tell a contemporary Nigerian story which Nigerians would love to read something simple and easy to read. So I looked to Nigeria but there were not that many publishers and the few I discovered appeared resource constrained.

So I began to study alternative means of publishing. I researched Lulu – whom I actually used for an initial eBook – Authorhouse, and other so-called Vanity Presses. I kept an open mind as I read the testimonials of those who had used them in the recent past. I found that most of the successful ones were full-time writers and they’d had a prior audience before self publishing. As both of these factors described me too, I saw that this avenue was worth a try. Others factors I considered included the fact that the publishing world has begun to come to terms with the internet age and Print-on-Demand (POD) was becoming a valid choice of getting a book to an audience. The new technology and the advent of eBooks and e-readers like kindles, Nooks , etc. meant that the cost of producing books were no longer too exorbitant for an individual.

My decision was made when I considered who I wanted to be my audience. Most of my blog followers had been reading A Heart to Mend as excerpts on my blog and I wanted to give them a chance to read the whole story. I also found out that most publishers would not accept a manuscript that had been published online and so my traditional publishing choices were limited. Also, I knew that this story was just a first outing and there were several more stories to come. So I said to myself; “traditional publishers could come later if necessary, self-publishing it is!” My earlier research had shown that I needed a way to take some of the burden off and I chose AuthorHouse because they assign an author a production team. I also liked that they had access to the major retailers in America, Europe and the UK and a lot of author resources to guide one through the stages of marketing and publicity.

Delivering my paper on the interactive session I facilitated at the Garden City Literary Festival on the "Rise of social Media and the Nigerian book publishing industry".

The main advantage of self-publishing for me is that as the author, I have full control over the content, design, and marketing of my book. I also decide when it goes to press and I retain all the publication and subsidiary rights. I was thus free to penetrate a niche market like Nigeria, which a commercial publisher outside of Nigeria would have ignored. (I know of several books by Nigerians, set and written in Nigeria but published in the UK or USA, which are yet to be distributed in Nigeria). I also believe that my book had a greater chance of success because I was very committed to promoting it, more than say, a publisher who has hundreds of other titles. In terms of sales, A Heart to Mend has been doing relatively well and I get most of the net revenue. I want to point out that apart from the commercial success, there’s also that deep satisfaction of knowing your creative work is out there making and contributing to conversation. A Heart to Mend was published in December 2009 and I am always amazed by the number of people who have read the book from all around the world.

On the flip side, self-publishing is expensive and requires a capital outlay to begin with rather than an advance you may receive from a traditional publisher. Even when my book came out, I had to invest further time and money in the publicity and marketing. If I had been published traditionally, I could’ve left all that to the agents and publishers and gone back to my next project. Not so with self-publishing, I had to put in a lot of effort and energy to get A Heart to Mend buzzing. A hurdle to be aware of is that a lot of media organizations still do not review, distribute or feature self-published books.

You can understand why I will always be grateful for the vehicle the internet provides to a writer and published author like me to get my book out there. Setting up an active blog and publishing my book has served a double purpose for me; finding out the target audience for my kind of writing and building a platform too. If not for the social networking channels, A Heart to Mend would never have gone viral the way it did. It was through the support of bloggers that I did my first blog tour for A Heart to Mend with the attendant publicity. By the end of that blog tour, I was getting requests for interviews and features almost daily. I put up chapter one of the book on a free reading website and it became a massive hit. It remained in the top 10 for three consecutive months!

The beauty of the internet was that I could remain in my work room with just my laptop and a connection, and meet up with these dozens of interviews. As time went on, I continued networking with other writers and self-published authors and I as I shared what I had learnt, I picked up some good nuggets from them too. I set up a twitter page and opened up my facebook profile for use with my pen name. As I became more adept at using the word-of-mouth tools on those two sites, the visibility of A Heart to Mend quadrupled. I learnt how to interconnect these media, how to set up scheduled tweets or how to update Facebook via RSS feeds, etc.

The challenge of using social networking is that of distraction. For me personally, Facebook has proved the most addictive. I find that sometimes while updating my pages, I may stray into something else entirely and so on, thereby wasting precious amounts of time that could have been put to better use. There was a day I took a break from writing and as usual, the first point of call was Facebook. The site was down, and I kept refreshing it for almost five minutes before it dawned what I was doing. I laughed at myself, left a message on Twitter about my addiction and went to check some other things. I had to really think that day but it is what it is. Apart from work, Facebook is also the only place I can keep in contact with all my family and most of my friends.

Finally, I think the reason social networking worked so well for me as a writer and publisher is because I am a social person. During the times I am not writing, I enjoy the company of other like-minded people and being able to use the internet and social networking to connect to more and more people in my writing life is a thing of learning and also of pleasure. At the end of the day, I have to find a way to balance the two by making sure that my internet use is mostly purposeful and in a way that is linked to my writing and also setting out a specific time for my writing itself without any distractions. That way, I still get a lot of writing done while remaining in the social circles.


An edition of this article was published in the Saraba Magazine, Issue 7 - Technology 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Meeting some bloggers - Offline to Online

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Hey everyone. Hope the week has been going well so far? I am presently at the Garden City Literary Festival and it has been a pleasure and privilege to meet such authors as Helon Habila (I took his writing workshop), Adaobi Nwaubani, Zainab Jallo, Adaobi Ezeigbo, and a few publishers too. The interactive session on Social Media and Publishing which I facilitated went very well and the attendance at all the events has been very impressive. I have learnt a lot and have a very good grasp of what's happening. We meet the great Wole Soyinka tomorrow. Can you feel my excitement? LOL...

In the meantime, enjoy these pictures I took at some of the events I had in Lagos. In them, you'll see me with people I'd only previously known online. It's always interesting making these transitions, especially for those whom you had not seen their pictures before meeting them. For most of then, due to facebook, I had seen their pictures previously. For two or three though, they broke the anonymity screen and for that I'm grateful. Enjoy...

Mandy Ojugbana - Facebook

Seye Kuyinu - Blogger

Wise Sage - Blogger

Femi Segun - Nigeria Village Square

Basola Afolake - Facebook (contributed on Cupid's Risk)

Augustine Ogwo - Naija Stories

Oyindamola Affinih - Facebook (Guest author)

Uche Uwadinachi - Blogger and Facebook (upcoming guest author)

Robert Ekat - Naija Stories

Harry Itie - Blogger

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday Talk - Naija

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I want to apologize first for the inconsistent updates in the past week. Unfortunately it may continue up to next year when I'll return from my Naija trip. The fact is that I have slower internet and less time to browse because I'm spending more time with family and friends. And so, it's really been awesome in Nigeria so far. Seeing the changes, mostly for the better, speaking with people, known and unknown, feeling their optimism, their fears, their anger and their hopes; about the future of the country, reading, politics, etc. Infrastructure still remains a challenge especially in the power sector, road and transport systems and Healthcare.

The forthcoming elections has got people talking, at both state and federal level, I'll see if I can register though I won't be here to vote  since the dates have been postponed from January to April. Still there are passionate debates and more people seem aware of their options and their rights as well as their civic responsibilities. Fashola seems to get the consensus as the best governor in the country and will likely get re-elected. It is possible Goodluck will carry the presidentials but Atiku should not be underestimated too. Uduagha in Delta seems a more contested choice, his major opponent is Ogboru, who is well known, Also, many of his detractors do not like his government's support for Ibori. Again, we shall see.

Reading seems to be on the upswing, but it seems there is a niche and that needs to be expanded by more people being involved in literacy campaigns. The education sector is in shambles, results are abysmal. But how can you pass an exam when you cannot read? The president, I hear is about to launch a nation-wide reading campaign. Some think it is to score political points ahead of the elections, but I'd rather give him the benefit of the doubt for the effort and time he's putting in. Being a leader is not an easy task.

As for the House of rep and Senate, they should be ashamed of themselves, they're not worthy of being leaders. Greeders more like, imagine earning close to 10 million each month while the masses strike while begging for 18,000? And then they call the CBN Governor to apologize for speaking their supposed secret?For shame! I hope Nigerians vote with their legs at the next poll. My only fear is that those who seek to replace these ones are not better. But I ask, what will they do with the money? I heard that TY Danjuma complained recently of not knowing what to do with his amassed wealth. I hope he's not wanting my pity? Pschewww..

On a final note, I love Naija, or as Dora Akunyili will have me say, I love Nigeria.

ps, check back for pictures with some bloggers...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Picture Weekend - Celebrity Reads, World AIDS day Edition

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Hello everyone, hope your weekend has been going great? Mine has been an absolute blast, I am so thankful! Last week, I was a guest at the Celebrity Reads Africa, a programme to encourage reading amongst young Nigerians using celebrities as readers and role models. It was a great event, the venue was packed and I met a couple of bloggers too. Read some more reports of the event HERE, HERE and HERE

Essence and Modele - Celebrity Singers/Performers

Chichi Offor - one of the directors of Celebrity Read Africa

Deji Badmus - Presenter and MC of the show

Opening Act

About to Read

Reading from a steamy part of the book - to advice against irresponsible sex. It was the World AIDS day edition of the Celebrity Reads event.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Random Meme and Tags

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I'm still enjoying Lagos, while thinking of the events this weekend, pheww! BTW, let me get this off my chest, the traffic is just terrible in this city. I wasted at least 5 hours today, well not really, I made a decent headway into my latest book purchase, but still... And who else was stuck in a queue at the filling station? On to other things jare....

Remember I won the Group B blog awards and Madam Meme? Here I am again. This is a very random meme I saw on one of the blogs I follow and I decided to do it here and also tag some people. So it's very straightforward, all you get to do is fill in the blanks and then tag 5 people to continue and spread the love.

5 Famous people you want to meet: My number one used to be Micheal Jackson but he's gone now. There are several of them sha, but these are a few that I feel we'll have things to talk about, you know have things in common, like passion for affecting society, etc. Toni B is there because I just love her music. You will notice that I did not put in the actors and musicians I do googly eyes for, I'd just be too tongue-tied, lol...
- Toni Braxton
- Nelson Mandela
- Bill Gates
- Oprah
- Fela Durotoye

5 Books that affected you: This is not an easy one, I have read like hundreds and thousands of them, but let's see. These have to be books I read when I was much younger and which shaped who I am today.
- The Bible
- Roots - Alex Haley
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
- The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

5 favorite movies: Another hard one.
- Titanic
- Avatar
- Watchmen
- Toy Story Franchise
- Violated

5 things you can't do without: Easy peasy. Atala wants me to list internet for all five. Yeah I know I'm addicted, rub it in, lol..
- Internet
- Food
- Music
- Books
- Movies

5 turn ons
- Intelligent conversations
- A nice smelling man
- Chocolate and ice cream
- Honesty
- Independence

5 turn offs
- Narrow minds
- Dulling conversations
- Societal restrictions
- Lies
- Disorderliness

So now I tag the following people
- Omotee
- Naijamum
- Shorty
- Gretel
- NaijaLines

If you want to do this and I did not tag you, please just go ahead. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

For those in Lagos, Nigeria...

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Abuja, Enugu and other dates coming up soon.

Join Author Myne Whitman as she unveils the Lagos winners of her book raffle. She will also read from A Heart to Mend and her WIP and answer questions from the audience. If you have bought the book, please come with your raffle tickets, prizes include - Starcomms Modem, Camera Battery, SD Cards, Flash Drives and Picture Frames. There will be signed pictures of the author, bookmarks and stickers for every guest. Entrance is FREE!

Date : Sunday 5th December 2010
Time : 2pm - 4pm
Venue : The Hub Media Store, Palms Shopping Mall, Lekki Lagos

Monday, November 29, 2010

Edith Ezeji - Bleeding Heart ... Guest Author

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My name is Edith Ezeji, I am a Nigerian from Imo state, though I grew up in Ogun state Nigeria. I am the second of four children. I was born in 1983, went to Sango Otta High school in Ogun state after which I came to England and did a secretarial course at Newham College.

1. First off—when did you start writing?
I started writing 4 years ago but I never got the courage to publish a book.

2. What type of book is this, is it an autobiography?
It is a romantic novel, a very emotional novel.

3. Do you intend to write more books?
Yes, of course. If this one is successful, I will.

4. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
It all started when I gave birth to my daughter, I tried to write something emotional, just because of the way I was feeling at that particular time. It helped me to put more emotion to it.

5. How long did it take you to write?
Well, it took just two to three weeks to write the book.

6. What project or projects are you working on now?
I am really trying hard to get it out there for people to read, I know that a lot of people will learn from this book, especially women.

7. Tell us a bit about the book?
This book is about a young lady whose life was full of pains and frustration. It tells how Angela managed to survive in Greece, being forced to do prostitution and how she refused to do what they expected her to do. She was betrayed and humiliated by everyone she trusted; all she ever thought about was to commit suicide. However, she managed to pull through the agony of a bleeding heart.

8 Which of your characters do you most relate with?
The character that is most attached to me is Angela, who is the main character. In the book, she met Nick and got pregnant. It was almost completely true to my life.

9. What’s in a name? How did you decide on the title of yours?
You know when you are in pains and you find it difficult to breath, it will be like you have been stabbed in your heart. I put myself in Angela’s shoes. I felt the way she was feeling at that moment, and that was when the title Bleeding Heart came to my mind.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Picture weekend - Send-off Winter Style

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I was complaining that I would miss snow since I was spending Christmas in Nigeria. Well what do you know? I got a winter-style send off from our weather over here. From Monday through to Tuesday morning, it kept on snowing. Even when it stopped, the weather was in the low 20s for most of Wednesday and the inches of snow lay thick on the ground. A lot of places were closed, including schools, libraries, etc. Well I am in Nigeria now and enjoying the heat, so take that winter, lol...

Monday, November 22, 2010

What are you Thankful for this Thanksgiving?

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING in advance to everyone, especially those in America.

I love the spirit of the thanksgiving day here in the states because apart from its history and the turkey and all, it is good to have a thankful heart and give thanks always. As it is, this is also the period when most churches in Nigeria do their various major thanksgivings, you know the ones that have the bazaar at the end. I remember as a child, looking forward to that day because of the variety of food that would be on offer. There were games too though I rarely won at those try-your-luck. Still it was the closest thing to a town fair and we got to meet most of our friends and family friends.

This year, God has been especially good to me and my heart is glad as I prepare to travel back to Nigeria. I am so thankful for life, love, health, but especially for my family. We had some crisis with my Dad and my sister, both around the same time in the middle of the year. But God proved faithful and answered our prayers. God is good and I thank him for EVERYTHING.

I also thank my SO, he's the most wonderful, supportive and loving man to me. Someone said to me, "What has got into you in the past two years? I didn't know you had so much in you." And I replied, it's all in the person who has become my husband and more importantly, my partner within this time. It couldn't have been the same without him. Thank you so much darling, I love you.

I am also thankful to you all, my readers, commenters, reviewers and supporters. Your words keep encouraging me and I am very grateful.

So what are you thankful for today?