Felix Duyilemi is an international best-selling and award-winning author of ‘How to Borrow God’s Brain to Succeed’ and an empowerment speaker. He spoke with Paul Omorogbe on the challenges Nigerian authors face on international bookselling platforms and proffers solution. Excerpts:
How long have you been writing books and how did your writing start?
I wrote and published my first book, “Your Importance to your generation” in 2007.
I have always had the desire to write. I love reading right from childhood. I was always fascinated with anything in print. I dreamed of the day others too would read my book.
The opportunity eventually came when I was a fellowship president at the University of Ibadan. Fellowship members would come to me after meeting to tell me how much they enjoyed my messages. Somebody, in particular, encouraged me to put my messages in a book, and to show he believed in me he gave N2,500 to support the project.
I knew nothing about publishing, but asked questions and I got a publisher who later published the book. The book was foreworded by the Late Emeritus Professor Muyiwa Awe. That was the beginning of my foray into publishing.
Today, I have written about 14 books some of which have hit the Number 1 spot on Amazon’s top 100 bestsellers in some specific categories.
What has been your greatest challenge as an author?
I will start with my greatest motivation. My greatest motivation has been the life-changing impact of my books. I have a file filled with testimonials of readers whose lives have been impacted by my books. A guy was in Lagos looking for jobs for months, then he stumbled on my book, “It’s In You,” read the book and went back to his hometown in Ondo State. Today, he has built nursery, primary and secondary schools.
My greatest challenge is writing a better book than the previous ones. When you write books, especially at my level, your readers will have certain expectations of you, and you want to exceed their expectations in your next books. That is always a constant challenge. Every book is unique, and so is the preparation and the design.
Have international book-selling/reading forums been fair to African writers, especially Nigerians? Tell us about your experience.
Well, Amazon gives you global exposure. Through Amazon, I have been able to gather several international followers. These global online platforms like Amazon, Apple, or Tolino will push your books to some of the fastest corners on earth.
The downside to Nigerians is, most times, it is difficult to get your books on them. Some like Google books don’t even accept Nigerian authors. The other issue is the payment issue, Amazon pays 70 percent royalty plus 30 percent tax withholding. That means, you only get 40 percent of the sale price. Also, you have to have a foreign bank account to receive payments. In the end, only a small percentage of your money gets to you.
Do you think we Nigerians are at a disadvantage? If so, how?
I think we are. Why do we have to depend on a foreign online bookstore to express our unique voice? Recently, Smashwords closed my account because of their recent merger with Draft2digital because I am from Nigeria. Imagine that!
I feel we shouldn’t be a pushover because of our nationality. But if you don’t own it, you can’t control it. Someone might just wake up tomorrow and close your account.
Why did you then decide to launch Bookteria?
We launched Bookteria because we wanted something indigenous, something we can control yet global in design. We wanted a Nigerian online bookstore too to enter into the global consciousness.
Bookteria makes it easy for Nigerian authors to publish their books without unnecessary restrictions, and still achieve the global exposure retailers like Amazon or Apple offer.
For instance, on Bookteria we have two payment gateways, Paypal and Paystack. With PayPal international buyers can purchase your books without fear and with Paystack local buyers can easily make payments. Also, you don’t have to wait for 30 days or 60 days before you receive your money. The longest time to receive your money on Bookteria is three days.
What difference will it make for Nigerian and African authors?
A lot. Bookteria is our own. There is freedom of control. If you are an author on Bookteria, you won’t wake up and find that your account has been closed because you are from Nigeria! Also, instead of the measly 40%, you receive from Amazon, Bookteria pays 70 percent royalty.
We are also working on a partnership with Scribd the biggest online library in the world. What that means is once you publish your books on Bookteria, they will also be available on Scribd for readers globally. So, it’s a big deal.
What’s been the experience so far with Bookteria?
We are in the creation and developmental stages. We are perfecting the features to compete globally. Now we are getting authors on board and creating awareness on social media. The reception has been encouraging.
What’s the sustainability plan for Bookteria?
Bookteria will be community-driven. We are creating a bond between our authors and readers. We will be hosting annual best-selling authors award, and book clubs in schools. This award will motivate our authors and make them brand promoters of Bookteria and our nation Nigeria.
Financially, apart from the 30 percent administrative fee we charge our authors after a successful purchase, we also offer a wide range of services like mentoring for new authors, book editing, and cover design.
Fundamentally, our team is made up of authors who are passionate about the business of books.