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The Business Side of Writing and Publishing Books in Nigeria

The book publishing industry in Nigeria has seen rapid growth and evolution over the past decade. While Nigerians have always had a rich literary culture, the business mechanics of writing, publishing and selling books in the country continue to change. Authors and publishers now have to adapt to new challenges and leverage opportunities in a dynamic marketplace. This article takes an in-depth look at the business aspects of publishing in Africa’s largest economy.

Overview of the Book Publishing Industry in Nigeria

Nigeria has a fast-growing publishing sector, currently valued at over 203 billion naira (around $509 million). The industry is dominated by educational publishing which accounts for 60% of overall revenue. Trade publishing focusing on fiction, non-fiction and children’s books follows with a 30% market share. The remaining comprises other niche segments like religious publishing.

There are over 130 registered publishers in Nigeria, with the major ones being Learn Africa, Macmillan, Evans, University Press and Farafina. These large players control about 80% of the market. The industry is highly concentrated in southern regions like Lagos and Ibadan. Northern Nigeria remains an untapped market.

The local publishing scene has made major strides in the past years. More Nigerian writers are getting published and there is increased international interest in African literature. Revenues have expanded at an average annual rate of 9% since 2015. But there are still many growth hurdles like limited distribution networks, lack of funding, piracy and low literacy rates in the country.

Keys to Success in Book Publishing Business in Nigeria

Understanding the Target Audience

The first step for aspiring authors and publishers is identifying their target demographic. The Nigerian consumer market is highly diverse and segmented. Some key reader demographics include:

  • Students
  • Urban professionals
  • Rural populations
  • Expats
  • Nigerians in diaspora
  • Women
  • Youth

Writers need to deeply research their intended audience. Elements like age, gender, location, interests, cultural context and socioeconomic status help shape book positioning and sales strategies. Publishers have to analyze market trends to commission manuscripts aligned with demand.

Selecting the Right Book Genre

Another crucial decision is choosing a book genre or niche. Some popular and lucrative categories in Nigeria are:

  • Children’s books – Stories for early readers, picture books, fiction/non-fiction for middle grades and teens.
  • Educational/Textbooks – Academic publications for schools, colleges and vocational institutes.
  • Religious books – Christian literature like daily devotionals, biblical fiction and Islamic books.
  • Fiction – Literary fiction, genre fiction like romance, crime, science fiction and graphic novels.
  • Non-fiction – Business, self-help, health, history, biographies, memoirs, politics.
  • Poetry – Spoken word, performance poetry, collections.
  • How-to/Self-help books – Life advice, personal development, career guides.

Authors need to assess categories with the highest readership demand. Publishers look at profit potential for various genres before acquisition.

Crafting Robust Book Proposals

Whether pitching to a publisher or planning self-publication, every book starts with a strong proposal. Key elements are:

  • A short overview of the concept
  • Author’s background and credentials
  • Market analysis and target audience
  • Table of contents
  • 2-3 sample chapters
  • Word count and completion timeline
  • Marketing plan
  • Competitor analysis

Proposals convince publishers about a book’s commercial viability. For self-publishing, they help authors strategize and execute their projects.

Signing the Right Publishing Deal

The two publishing routes open in Nigeria are:

Traditional publishing – Contracting with an established publisher for editing, marketing, printing and distribution. The author gets an advance and royalty on sales.

Self-publishing – Releasing the book independently by hiring freelancers or using a self-pub platform. The author handles all aspects and keeps most profits.

For traditional publishing, authors must review contracts carefully before signing. Key clauses cover:

  • Advances – How much is paid upfront to the author.
  • Royalties – Percentage of revenue owed to the author per book sold. 10-15% is standard for new authors.
  • Subsidiary rights – Revenue split for adaptations like movies or licensing merchandise.
  • Publishing costs – Who pays for editing, cover design, printing, marketing etc.
  • Territories – Geographic regions where the book will be available.
  • Term – Duration of the contract.

A good publisher provides larger advances, fairer royalties, covers more costs and promotes authors internationally.

Editing and Cover Design

Editing improves the manuscript quality. Types of edits required are:

  • Developmental edit – Assesses overall structure, plot and character arcs.
  • Line edit – Focuses on language, style and pacing.
  • Copy edit – Corrects grammar, spelling errors and inconsistencies.
  • Proofread – Final check for typos, and formatting issues before printing.

For self-published books, authors should budget for professional editors. Traditional publishers handle editing but authors can request additional rounds.

An attractive, genre-appropriate cover is equally important. Publishers have in-house designers. Self-publishing authors can find freelance cover artists and graphic designers to create book covers matching their vision.

Pricing Strategies

Pricing impacts royalty revenues for authors and sales for publishers. When determining print price points, important factors are:

  • Production costs – Editing, design, printing, shipping, and warehousing expenses affect the base price.
  • Page count – More pages mean higher pricing.
  • Competitors – Benchmark to comparable books in the genre.
  • Market conditions – The purchasing power of target audience.
  • Profit margins – Standard margins are 20-30% for publishers.

Ebooks allow more flexibility. Ebook pricing considerations are:

  • Marginally lower than print editions
  • Multiple price points can be tested
  • Free or discounted prices help generate visibility
  • Bundled print + ebook pricing builds value

Prices should maximize profits without deterring readers. Rising production expenses need to be accounted for as well.

Distribution and Sales Channels

A book is only successful when readers can access it. Publishers invest heavily in distribution while authors should drive sales.

Distribution in Nigeria happens through:

  • Physical bookstores – Local stores and national chains like Glendora and Quintessence.
  • Online retailers – Jumia, Konga, Roving Heights, Okadabooks.
  • School bookshops – Partnerships to supply educational books.
  • Libraries – Public and university libraries.
  • Book fairs/conferences – Vendor stalls at literary events.
  • Direct sales – Author events and website orders.

Promotions to boost sales include:

  • Book tours – Author events like readings and signings.
  • Social media marketing – Building author/book brand on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • Discounts and bundles – Price promotions on online stores.
  • Reviews – Getting book bloggers, critics and media to review titles.
  • Publicity – Pitching to newspapers, magazines, TV/radio shows.
  • Advertising – Google, Facebook ads, Amazon marketing services.

Driving discoverability and availability across markets is pivotal to sales. Authors should be actively involved in marketing efforts.

Combating Piracy

Book piracy is a huge threat in Nigeria costing publishers over $12 million annually. Photocopied and pirated books account for 60% of some educational categories.

Anti-piracy measures include:

  • Litigation and raids to arrest counterfeiters.
  • Digital rights management (DRM) systems which limit ebook copying/sharing.
  • Partnering with rights organizations like Repro Nigeria.
  • Reporting sites hosting pirated downloads.
  • Watermarking printed books.
  • Fast-tracking release of new editions.
  • Education campaigns on the impacts of piracy.
  • Providing affordable licensed editions.

Combating piracy requires coordinated efforts between publishers, authors, printers, distributors, schools, and enforcement agencies.

Leveraging Ebooks and Digital Publishing

Digital publishing is a potential growth area for Nigeria. Some advantages are:

  • Lower production costs compared to print.
  • Faster publishing timeline.
  • Ability to test niche topics.
  • Interactive multimedia content.
  • Global distribution and borderless sales.

However, ebook adoption has been slow due to low device penetration and digital literacy. Some tips for publishers are:

  • Release both print and digital editions.
  • Price ebooks competitively.
  • Partner with digital distributors like Okadabooks, Publiseer and Kobobooks.
  • Use multi-format ebook conversion services.
  • Leverage print-on-demand to reduce inventory costs.
  • Use DRM to limit piracy.
  • Experiment with bundling print, ebooks and audiobooks.

Investing in digital workflows and embracing new technologies ensures publishers stay ahead of shifting consumer preferences.

Opportunities and Challenges for Aspiring Authors

The Nigerian publishing landscape offers many opportunities for writers if they craft strong manuscripts, build their platforms and skillfully navigate the business aspects.

Benefits for Authors

Nigerian authors can gain several advantages by getting published:

  • Share their stories with wider audiences.
  • Grow their brand through book recognition.
  • Monetize their work via royalties.
  • Profit from subsidiary rights like movies, merchandise etc.
  • Use books to build credibility and establish thought leadership.
  • Traditional publishing provides higher discoverability compared to self-publishing.
  • Potential to get published and distributed internationally.

Overall, a published book gives authors creative fulfillment and accelerates their professional progress.

Challenges Facing New Authors

However, there are several hurdles for first-time, unpublished authors:

  • Getting a traditional publisher’s attention without an established platform.
  • Misconceptions about how publishing deals work.
  • Lack of understanding of the target market.
  • Funding book production and marketing costs.
  • Minimal name recognition to drive sales.
  • Managing business aspects like pricing, royalties, and distribution.
  • Dealing with rejection from publishers and agents.
  • Fighting discounting and piracy hurting royalties.
  • Structuring advances and contracts fairly.

But perseverance, professional support and following best practices can help new authors successfully publish their books.

Key Takeaways and Conclusion

The Nigerian publishing industry is going through an inflection point in its evolution. While still a developing market, there are sizeable opportunities for both established players and aspiring entrants. Some important learnings are:

  • Conduct in-depth target audience research before writing or acquiring books.
  • Choose genres strategically by assessing demand and competition.
  • Create stellar book proposals with complete information for publishers.
  • Negotiate contracts to maximize author benefits.
  • Invest in professional editing and cover design.
  • Use pricing strategies to balance margins and value perception.
  • Leverage physical and online distribution channels.
  • Actively promote books via book tours, social media marketing and other tactics.
  • Combat prevalent piracy through technology and education.
  • Embrace emerging digital formats alongside print.

For authors, getting published provides income, platform growth and creative fulfilment. Perseverance and learning publishing business skills are key for new entrants. For publishers, adapting to market changes and investing in new tech-driven workflows ensures sustained profitability.

The outlook for book publishing in Nigeria remains exciting given strong local literary talent and growing youth demographics. With prudent strategies, both authors and publishers can flourish in this high-potential market.


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