I wrote Njànsí, my first book in the early 2000s but I did not have an opportunity to publish it till 2010 when an advert email from Authorhouse UK stumbled into my mailbox. I was thrilled at the possibility of immediate global exposure for my first book so I jumped at it! I immediately started corresponding with Authorhouse, sending text and photos back and forth, making choices about size, paper quality, pricing and so on. In the first few weeks I realized that this endeavor was not going to be cheap.
LESSON 1: Count the cost before you start the venture.
After thousands of naira and tens of emails, Njànsí was published and available in several online bookstores. A simple Google search would direct one to the Authorhouse or to my website which I had started working on. It was classic but something else was a matter: among the six billion people on the planet, not very many would be search for the word “Njànsí”. Njànsí is ancient Igbo, I really had to market it for it to catch on as a brand.
LESSON 2: Branding is an important part of business. A name means a lot.
The next issue that came up was that I had to buy my own books from my publisher and get a royalty of 5%. WHAT!!! Is that my book or did I miss something? I had to pay for the on-demand printing as well as shipping to get just a few books for the launch on February 26, 2013. Boy was it expensive. And they did not tell me I could actually do offset printing until after almost three years and hundreds of pounds!
LESSON 3: Everyone wants to make money off you, even your publisher.
When I decided that I had to somehow push the book into the wider market, I realized something else. This particular publisher was even more money hungry than I thought. We had to pay for adverts, any additional editing, and they kept calling, those excellent and compelling marketers; making offers to me the author. I so wished they would push readers that hard. Almost every subsequent call was about me buying additional copies of my book or subscribing for some marketing offer or making cards etc. etc.
LESSON 4: When a seller gets a buyer, he milks him as hard as possible
More Nigerians and Ghanaians bought Njànsí than Americans or Europeans and many more hard copies were bought than soft copies. There was a lesson here: this Internet exposure did not really kick off like I thought it would. More money could have been made and more books re-printed by doing same with a good publisher in Nigeria.
LESSON 5: Start small, think big, be simple and grow with time.
If your family and friends are not willing to pay for your product then the rest of the world may not pay for it either. Start from your Jerusalem like Dr. Mensa Otabil wrote in The Dominion Mandate. With Till Death, it is a different story: An English name, local, good quality printing and sales growing more than expenses. I should add that I still got Internet exposure! Lessons worth learning, right? #dosomething.