Self-publishing in Africa

Ify (far right) with his fellow drama students in a university photo.

A few years back Ify Iroakazi, a Nigerian drama student, sat down and wrote a fantasy novel, a dark 400-page epic about war between kings, magic and revenge. However, writing such a book is one thing, getting it out to the public is another. We asked him some questions about the difficulties he has faced as an African.

Historyradio.org: There can’t be that many African fantasy epics? Why did you decide to write a fantasy novel?

Ify Iroakazi: I chose fantasy because this literary genre affords me the opportunity to explore life and reality beyond this material world. I think that it is only in fantasy that writers stretch their imaginative string to its limit. Your imagination must be highly fertile before you will be able to write a great fantasy novel. Take Harry Potter and the Songs of Ice and Fire (Game of Throne) series, The Wheel of time, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and many more. The writers of these fantasy novels taught me that fantasy writers are not only writers, but also inventors and creators. We invent objects and create beings in fantasy books. And by reading these works, readers will enrich their lives.

Historyradio.org: Which writers would you say inspired you the most?

Ify Iroakazi: A lot of writers inspired me. I am simply a lover of words and beautiful sentences. I enjoy fiction and non-fiction – there are no limts – I am good as long as I have something new to learn or faint memories to rekindle. But I would say that Shakespeare’s The Tempest introduced me to fantasy.

Historyradio.org: When you wrote the novel, did you have any idea about how you would go about getting it published?

Ify Iroakazi: No. I knew absolutely nothing about publishing when I began writing this work, but I believed like every other writer that somehow it would be published. Even when I was done writing, I still was not sure of the direction.

Historyradio.org: Tell us something about the difficulties you have faced?

Ify Iroakazi: The first difficult was money. I was and still am very poor. There is no shame in telling the truth about yourself. Born and raised in an environment where I lack the basic necessities of life, I struggle to survive each day. I am very ambitious and I would dare even the devil (hahaha) to change my narrative. My worst ambition was trying to get a university education. This is truly the worst. I think poverty is the major challenge in this part of the world. People rarely afford what to eat, decent shelter and decent clothes. I could not afford the services of proofreaders/ editors when I was done writing the final manuscript. This is one of the reasons it took so long for the book to be published.

Another difficulty is finding interested literary agents and traditional publishers to pitch my manuscript. I tried few online. Well, I don’t want to go into my experiences here. But just remember that I am a Nigerian. The first person (I think he is also the only person) who has ever trusted and believed in me outside the shores of Nigeria is a Norwegian guy I met on Facebook. He edited this work for me and helped with the publishing as well.

Historyradio.org: You don’t even own a computer, do you? How did you manage to get the text into a digital format?

Ify Iroakazi: No, I don’t own a computer. I wrote the greater part of the work on paper, a large exercise for a book, and then paid for it to be typed. The last part of it I typed with my phone using an app.

Historyradio.org: What about the price of the book, can you afford to buy your own book?

Ify Iroakazi: Hahahaha…This is a very funny question. But unfortunately the answer is that I cannot afford the paperback of my own book which is 14.99 USD. The one I think I would have been able to afford was the Kindle version which is 4.99 USD if Amazon had not restricted readers in Africa from accessing it.

Historyradio.org: What about other Africans, can they buy it?

Ify Iroakazi: I think not as many as those on the other side of the planet can afford the paperback. Like I said earlier, Amazon restricts readers in Africa from accessing the cheaper version, the eBook.

Historyradio.org: What about payment. Not all payment options are available to Africans, are they?

Ify Iroakazi: No. This was also the difficult I faced during the time I was trying to publish this work. Amazon KDP doesn’t do direct deposits into bank accounts in Nigeria. Writers and publishers here have to go through certain intermediaries to receive their royalty. Some of these intermediaries include PayPal and Payoneer, but unfortunately PayPal currently does not allow deposits into account holders receding in Nigeria. You could send out money but can’t receive. Payoneer is the payment option that is currently working for Nigerian KDP authors and publishers.

Historyradio.org: We have heard that you have no birth certificate and no identity card, is this common in Africa? How did this affect your publishing efforts?

Ify Iroakazi: Yes it is common in Nigeria, probably all over Africa, in that most people were not given birth to in an established hospital. In fact, most of us were born at home. In the farm, etc. So your birth certificate is always a court affidavit which you get later in life when official necessities call for it. Well, I didn’t care about an identity card, especially the National Identity card, because of the bottleneck involved in getting one until I was asked to fill information from such a card during publication.

Historyradio.org: Now the book has been published, has there been a lot of attention?

Ify Iroakazi: Well, NO is the answer for now. But it’s too early for that. The book is not a month old. However, I have been getting  a lot of of congratulations from many people. Many from my university chat and call to know how they can get my book.

Historyradio.org: Do you have a marketing plan?

Ify Iroakazi: For now I don’t have a very serious marketing plan other than a kind of book signing in December. I am hoping to make my book available to those those who have the resources to support me come December. I have plan of using that medium to get my books to local libraries and those who love reading, but cannot afford to buy a book.

Historyradio.org: If you were to give any advice to other African who try to self-publish a book, what would that be?

Ify Iroakazi: Be ready for the challenges would be my advice.

Historyradio.org: What is next for you now that this book has been published?

Ify Iroakazi: Next is to take my time and decide on my next move.

 

Ify’s novel is available from Amazon.

 Click the link below to get it: