Thursday, 25 May 2017

16 Dos and Don’ts for Aspiring Writers

Writing advice is everywhere you look these days, from blogs to YouTube to 140 characters on Twitter. And a lot of it deals with story structure and plot elements and how to create memorable characters. But that’s not what this post is about.

Rather than focus on plot or character or style, these 16 Dos and Don’ts focus more on the practice of writing, how to develop good habits, and how to help shut out some of the inevitable distractions. Because trust me, there are always distractions…

DO write every day. Ideally at the same time. Preferably without distraction. Half an hour. An hour. Fifteen minutes. Whatever works with your schedule. Just pick a time and develop a habit and stick with it.

DON'T worry about your word count, especially when you first start out. If you don’t write much of anything and just sit there and stare at your computer, it’s okay. The practice is what matters. Eventually the words will come.

DO some writing exercises if you can’t think of anything to write. Pick a scene and write the same scene from different points of view: first person, second person, third person limited, third person omniscient. Or pick a scene and write it in different tenses. Anything to help stimulate your mind and challenge you to write something you might not be comfortable doing.

DON'T pay attention to how much other people are writing. It doesn’t matter if all of your writer friends on Twitter are pumping out 2000, 3000, or 4000 words a day. Just focus on what you can control and don’t compare yourself to others. After all, it’s about quality, not quantity.

DO carry a journal with you in your purse or backpack. Yes, that’s right. I said a journal. An actual book of blank pages that you write in with something that’s called a pen. It helps you to keep in touch with the physical process of writing. And it’s easier to write an idea down in a notebook than waiting to fire up your laptop.

DON'T check your Facebook profile or your Twitter account or your e-mail during your dedicated writing time. Staying disconnected from the Internet will allow you to stay connected to your writing.

DO read as much as you can. Novels, short stories, magazines. Read humor, romance, horror, mystery, suspense, non-fiction, memoir, poetry. Don’t get stuck reading the same thing over and over, even if it’s what you’re writing. A well-rounded reader is a well-rounded writer.

DON'T expect that you can learn how to write by reading a bunch of books on how to write. The best way to learn how to write is to write.

DO pay attention to song lyrics and movies and appreciate why you like them. It’s all writing, even if it’s in a different form. A writer can find inspiration in all sorts of places that aren’t the printed word.

DON'T pay attention to what other people say you should be writing.

DO write something that speaks to you. Something that makes you laugh or cry or get chills down your spine. Something that resonates with you. Because if it doesn’t resonate with you, chances are it’s not going to resonate with anyone else.

DON'T try to get it absolutely perfect the first time. That's what rewrites are for. If you spend all of your time rewriting your first chapter, you'll never get the second chapter written. Or the third.

DO get feedback from a writers group or a couple of trusted friends or colleagues. Family members are okay, too, but only if they're going to give you an honest critique. Criticism is only helpful if it's constructive.

DON'T try to please everyone who gives you feedback. Writing is subjective and everyone is going to have their own reaction to what you've written. Use the suggestions that help to improve the story you want to tell and throw the rest of them out.

DO realize that once you send your novel out into the world, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to everyone who reads it and not everyone is going to like it. Accept that fact and deal with it and learn how to not take everything personally.

DON'T forget that you’re supposed to be writing every day.

Monday, 17 April 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!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Africa: How Achebe's Four Books Have Traced Africa's Transition

It will be four years on March 22 since Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, the doyen of African literature passed on. That the father of African literature (a title he has declined on numerous occasions) harnessed creativity to present Africa in its transformative stages, which I would wish to categorise as pre-colonial, colonial, post-independence (a period not more than a decade after independence) and contemporary is in no doubt. In his works, he intertwines history with creativity to represent Africa's trajectory through her epochs into the current state in a style that is akin to tracing a baby from birth through adolescence up to adulthood.

Achebe's first novel, Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God belong together with regard to their period. Both of them symbolically represent the African continent at birth, when African writers were busy debunking the stereotypical misrepresentation of Africa as a dark continent and choosing, instead, to represent her as she was, her flaws as well as positivity.

I narrow down to Things Fall Apart. The novel acknowledges that Africa had her flaws. For instance Nneka's twins are thrown away. We also witness the brutal killing of innocent children, as is the case with Ikemefuna. Nevertheless, there is a positive aspect in the pre-colonial Africa: decision making is not arbitrary. For important decisions to be made, a debate -- akin to the current parliament -- has to be held and the majority carries the day. This is what happens when Umuofia wants to declare war against Mbaino. Further, tribes don't just start wars against each other. A peace delegation is sent first to seek reconciliation. Achebe's baby Africa is thus not romanticised.

The second novel, No Longer at Ease, represents Africa in transition, the symbolic toddlerhood. We encounter two characters who have ventured outside their home country: Obiajulu Okonkwo and Clara Okeke, who travel to England to study English and nursing respectively. Again, we encounter Isaac Okonkwo, who has weathered the storm of cultural conflict to join Christianity and become a catechist to the chagrin of the traditionalists. Having been set in the time of transition to independence, we meet the white people, hitherto the bosses, who must now pave way for the Africans they considered inept to take up leadership. They are represented by Mr Green. Thus the toddler Africa is characterised by spreading her tentacles to discover the outside world.

The fourth novel, A Man of the People, interrogates the symbolic African adolescence. It is a political satire that revolves around the lives of the people of Nigeria in the 1960s. Achebe explores the excesses committed by the ruling class in the name of protecting the country's hard won independence. Most of those in position of power, such as Chief Nanga, are out to use their positions to acquire wealth at the expense of developing their nation. They engage in a multiplicity of social evils such as corruption, misuse and wastefulness of public resources, for example by hiring goons to immobilise their opponents. They have managed to stay in power by making the citizens believe that their actions are meant to benefit and defend the entire community.

Anthills of the Savannah represents Africa in her adulthood. The African leadership, as represented by Sam, has shed off the innocence exhibited at the adolescent stage, instead adopting outright dictatorship, assassinations and intimidation as seen with the leaders who try to oppose His Excellency, as happens to Sam.

On a positive note, Achebe reveals an emancipated woman -- Beatrice -- whose birth to a girl encapsulates the continuation of women liberation as is the case with the contemporary woman who has, arguably, managed to overcome patriarchy.
Surely, Achebe's literary prowess is enigmatic. His ability to intertwine African history with creativity is an exceptional feat that can never be equalled.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

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!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Book: See Why You Should Read Kingdom Tales

Kingdom Tales is sometimes labelled a fairy story, but it’s far from that. It’s an allegory to the events that took place in Africa after most of the African nations were free to rule themselves. It was a time plagued with wars and coups, and the author of Kingdom Tales did an amazing job retelling those stories using animals.

Even though this novel is politically minded, it’s still very entertaining for kids to enjoy. The author has a good sense of humour and great writing style. When I first read it, I really enjoyed it as a fairy story about animals fighting for supremacy, not knowing it represented something deeper. That’s why I say it’s safe for kids to read too.

After reading it, I gave it to my son and daughters and they loved it more than I did. There is a great moral story in the book, and I think it’s a book every teenager should read. It’s totally safe for them, and there are some quotes in the book that I loved so much. A few of them are:

“…But being prepared for something doesn’t mean you are afraid of that thing.”
“…And he wished everything could leave his mind. But unfortunately, the things we wish don’t leave–they come.”
“…Be the gold in the dirt and not the dirt in the gold.”
“…Never annoy your enemy in his own house.”
“…What is meant to happen will surely come to pass. No matter what we do, it can’t be altered.”

There are also some important parts every young person should read. And the book coming from a young writer would make it easier for teens to wrap their head around it and apply the moral lessons this book teaches. I still know my children listen to their friends more than they listen to me.

There was a part of the book where Hasha, king of the eagles, lived with nothing after being exiled by his officials. Instead of committing suicide or giving up like most people would do after losing their family and wealth, he held on. He stayed alive and started getting back on his feet one step at a time till he finally got back his kingdom and rescued his family. This should be a form of motivation for anybody not to give up and be patient enough to accomplish anything.

Charles was able to add African folklore and medieval feel to it too, so anybody from anywhere can totally enjoy the book. And it’s a quick read too. Very classic.

It’s an interesting read, and you should get it for yourself or your kids. If you enjoyed reading books like Lion King, Animal Farm or Chronicles of Narnia, then you should also get this book. Happy Weekend. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Africa Mourns ‘Mother of SA Literature’

The recent death of the first black South African woman to be published, Miriam Tlali has robbed Africa of its pioneers in literature.
Tlali died last Friday at the age of 83 after a long illness.
She is remembered for the books she wrote such as “Muriel at Metropolitan”, which was the first to be published by a black South African woman in 1975.

Some of her books include ‘Amandla’ (1980), ‘Mihloti’ (1984) and ‘Footprints in the Quag’ published in 1989.
In her native land, the late Tlali is remembered as the ‘mother of literature’.

South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, described Tlali as a literary legend and a literature pioneer who told the African story on the international arena through her reputable novels.
“Mama Miriam Tlali has earned her stripes as the real mother of South African literature,” said Mthethwa as he poured out his heart on social media.
“In Mama Miriam Tlali, South Africa and the entire African continent, has lost a literary giant.
“An African proverb says ‘when an old person dies a library burns to the ground’. What then happens when an old writer, a man or a woman of great knowledge, like Mama Tlali dies? Do a thousand libraries burn to the ground?
“The late once said just a book by itself, if it has the right messages in it, can change the whole human being. It can remake a person.”
He said Tlali was a trailblazer having been SA’s first black woman to publish a novel.
Zimbabwean celebrated artist and novelist, Albert Nyathi, in his tribute message said Thali did not belong to South Africa alone but the whole region.
“A writer carries the history, hope and aspiration of a nation or continent.  A writer like the late Mama Tlali, does not only belong to South Africa but, she belonged to the whole region,” said Nyathi.
“Writers are observers coming from the community and are also affected with what affects the community; I believe Africa will continually give birth to writers such as the late Mama Tlali.  Although the continent may not have the exact hand of the late in literature, her legacy lives on to inspire writers of the current generation.”
Several condolence messages for Tlali – ranging from novelists, readers and literature fanatics across Africa are still flooding the social media.
“Mama Tlali shall forever be remembered for giving birth to South African literature. In her time, she was one of the female novelists who pioneered the dismissal of gender and racial discrimination in literature in Southern Africa,” said Lekhetho John from Lesotho commenting on Minister Mthethwa’s recent posts on social media.
According to SA Ministry of Arts and Culture department, Tlali was born in Driefontein and grew up in Sophiatown.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Penguin Random House Wins "Heated Auction" over Barack and Michelle Obama's Books.

The bidding war for Barack and Michelle Obama’s post-White House books is over, and Penguin Random House has emerged the winner. They won the worldwide rights to both books after what a New York Times report described as “a heated auction among multiple publishers.”
Penguin did not disclose specific terms of the deal. But the word on the streets is that it is most probably an 8-figure deal. Industry insiders say that some of the opening offers ranged from 18 to 20 million, so it is very likely that the winning offer exceeded that.
The Obamas have had a long relationship with Penguin. They published Obama’s previous bestselling books and Michelle Obama’s book on her experience running a garden in the White House.
Here is what Markus Dohle, henchman at Penguin has to say about the deal: “We are absolutely thrilled to continue our publishing partnership with President and Mrs. Obama…With their words and their leadership, they changed the world, and every day, with the books we publish at Penguin Random House, we strive to do the same. Now, we are very much looking forward to working together with President and Mrs. Obama to make each of their books global publishing events of unprecedented scope and significance.”
The Obamas are always about service, so it comes as no surprise that they plan on giving part of their earnings to charity. Penguin will also “donate one million books in the Obama family’s name to First Book, a nonprofit organization that provides books to disadvantaged children, and Open eBooks, the Washington-based partner for the 2016 White House digital education initiative.”