The Sun News

Competition from social media dwindling publishers’ revenue

By Simeon Mpamugoh

Remi Akano started up with Spear ventures limited, a multimedia outfit before Kingdom People’s (KP) Books come on board. “KP Books is a publishing outfit that publishes KP Magazine. We also have Kingdom Men, which was formed in 2009. It started as an outreach of the magazine. Those entities run under the aegis of Spear Ventures Limited such that Kingdom Men is partly funded by Spear Ventures as a kind of social responsibility initiative,” he says in a conversation with this reporter.

He used to work with Daily Times and later with Spear Magazine, leaving as features editor. He was to work with a private enterprise, Alpha Communications, a publishing and public relations firm. “We started with publishing aspect of the organisation,” he says. Their first assignment was the Nigeria Banking Annual.

When Alpha Communication wound up, Spear Ventures Limited was birthed. “One of the first projects we undertook was the publication of New Spear Magazine. Everywhere I went, I was recognised and called ‘Spearman’ because of the publicity the magazine received,” he says.

“Today, Spear Ventures Limited has expanded its printing outfit to production of barges, traditional printing of brochures and books, and large format indoor printing,” he says.

Aside the magazine, his company has produced He Made the Difference, The Dynamic Story of Ambassador Christopher Kolade in Britain, among others –the latter written by  a UK-based journalist, Pamela Chinekwe.

He is chiefly concerned with “books of enduring values” at a time new Nigerian authors are paying attention to novels that can win awards. He differs: “If an author is writing for awards, he/she has made a choice. I know for sure that Chinua Acbebe was not writing for an award when he wrote Things Fall Apart.”

The recognitions he has so far received were as a result of the work. He didn’t set out to earn anything. So, what gave him the value he earned translated into the number of languages the book was translated and published in several parts of the world; it wasn’t the award but an enduring quality of work.

“I also know that people go to publishers with manuscript that is targeted at awards. They do that because of fame and money, but I’m not knocking it; those are not my values. I believe that whatever we do should ultimately glorify God and what glorify God are things that add values to us. For instance, if anyone brings any publishing business idea to me, the first question I usually ask is: what value is it adding to you and to us?”

“Leader Equipped” is a project of the KP. He explains its literary significance. “The project is tailored towards finding a handful of people who can sponsor 10,000 copies of the book that we can give on their behalf to counsellors, legislators in the states and at the federal levels, members of the executive and people who would have need for it who would read it and allow it influence the way they live. It will mean we have leaders, who allowed God in the way they play their leadership role.”

The second title is The Teleos Man: Your Ultimate Identity written by Larry Titus. The third is Me, Football and More, by Segun Odegbami. He says : “What value does the book add? It was written by a footballer that was writing even at the time he was playing. He is perhaps the last man standing among his peers who played football.”

Speaking on his views about publishing in the past and what we have today, the journalist-turned-cleric says: “I didn’t get into book publishing until seven years ago. I cannot claim to be versed in the publishing industry, but, as a former Daily Times person, who transited to owning a publishing outfit, the critical thing is that we didn’t have the kind of technologies that are available today.

“We tended to work a lot more hard and, with all due respect to today’s publishers, they don’t have it the way we had it in the area of versatility. In our days, we knew a bit about everything, which served us very well when we had to go into private business.

“It was easy for me as a journalist with the kind of exposure I had, to go into public relations, radio and television. I did all manner of things. The media was a close-knit industry. The versatility doesn’t exist too widely in today’s publishing industry. We tend to have taken specialisation to the extreme. It is one of the things that come to my mind when I meet with my colleagues.”

He observes that the constraints to the newspaper publishing industry were the penchant for news now brought about by the social media. “Something happens now, and all one has to do is put it online. And if one has 10, 000 followers and they begin to spread the news, that is it! So, competition, from the social media is a major area of constraints,” he adds, noting that newspapers had started tottering gradually due to the cost of newsprint and all the inputs, especially when one has come to an economy where one needed some baskets of naira to get one dollar and inputs that had to be bought in dollars, whether one was buying them directly or from a third party who has imported.

“It means one would pay a lot more apart from cost constraint and the prize of any product in Nigeria cannot be inelastic at a time like this and newspapers cannot sell above a certain level, because, if they try to, nobody is going to buy and advertising rates cannot go beyond certain level because if they prize themselves out of the market there is always the social media waiting to take the advertising,” he sums up.

Proffering an enduring solution towards improving the growth of the publishing industry, Akano say, “When you talk about improving the growth of the book-publishing arm of the newspaper industry, I think that there are so many would- be authors, who have stuffs they cannot find publishers who would fund it and pay their royalties that engage in self-publishing. The outlay is everywhere. Even if one finds a publisher, they would claim the minimum that can be published is between 500-1000 copies which many considering their bank account would want the manuscript to wait.

“Perhaps, we have to look into the possibility of ‘print on demand presses’. It is one of things we are looking at in Spear Ventures Limited.  For instance, one looks at his/her newspaper articles in the last ten years and sees how close they are to the kind of things that had happened after the story was published, one compiles them and somebody says, ‘Bring X amount of money to produce 1000 copies’; Is it in your sitting room you are going to stalk them and how are you going to market the copies.”

“If we have ‘print on demand presses’, what can happen is that all that would involve is money for editing, proofreading and production. It can even be as little as five copies and that can be carried in brief case and sell at work. Then somebody who saw it could say he liked it and the author calls his publisher and demand ten more copies. That way the new entrant author is not burdened and we can therefore have many more authors to expand the scope of the industry.”


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