Editor’s note: Our interview with Ofor Aluka of Griot’s Lounge continues in the showcase of the reviving literary culture in Nigeria. Ofor answers our queries with refreshing candour and optimism, enjoy…
1. Please tell us what type of publishing house your company is?
Griots Lounge is a publishing house of Yagazie Media Limited. We will be into traditional publishing of various forms of literature. We will engage the talent comprehensively.
2. Who are the people behind the company? How much experience do your publishers have?
Ofor Aluka and Binyerem Ukonu are the founders of the company.
Ofor Aluka is an independent writer with experience in private business. His numerous poems and short stories have been published online and in print.
Binyerem Ukonu is the author of The Water Was Hot and Ekwurekwu. He has participated in several literary gatherings, events, seminars and workshops. Binyerem works closely with authors and other creative persons as Chika Unigwe, Onyeka Nwelue, Toni Kan and a few other publishing houses.
Then, we have a formidable team of young editors and creative minds, “discipled” from various corners of the art. Jama Onwubuariri, our Company Secretary and Legal Advisor, and Raymond Elenwoke, who is our Public Relations Officer, are a few of those that joined our recent course.
3. Have any of your editors or publishers made public appearances? Do you have a website or blogs?
Notably, Binyerem has appeared in a such national events as the Bayelsa Book and Crafts Fair, the Garden CityLiterary Festival, and he’s also a member of the Royal African Society, United Kingdom.
The company website is under construction, developed by The Logo Company, New York, and is expected to be online within 12 weeks. We have gone through a lot of Branding Procedures, and it has been interesting. We intend to do it well, no matter how long it takes.
4. How long have you been in business? How many books have you published or have under contract?
As a company, we are new; still in the founding stage, expecting to launch by December. We have provisionally accepted up to seven different copyrights of five authors. However, no publishing contract has been sealed yet.
5. You are still an upcoming publishing house. What can small presses do that “the big ones” can’t?
Small presses have ample zeal to grow; that is one crucial thing. Also, as a small press, Griots Lounge has the mobility to scout for talents and the readiness to work with partners for added value. It is a known fact that there are unknown literary gems out there, and we aim to help them tell their stories. The modest management structure means executives of the company can relate to the fresh talents, making the company accessible to those for whom it matters most.
6. How will you distribute your books? Is it only in Nigeria, or international? Stores or online?
We intend to contract the rights of the author. On that, our legal team is working to set out the details.9. Does your company specialize in a specific genre?
Our immediate focus is on poetry and non-fiction prose. We shall also be interested in biographical stories and memoirs. Nonetheless, we will be looking at any good manuscripts irrespective of genre.
10. How can an author write a submission query to catch your attention, and is there a format you’re looking for?
The writer should, as briefly as possible, introduce themselves and their work, in one page or less. In any case, a submission guideline will be provided on the company website.
11. Is it necessary for writers to hire professional editors before they submit to you?
A writer must not hire a professional editor, unless the writer feels that gives him/her a better chance with Griots Lounge.
12. How many editors do you work with and how many manuscripts/authors are they responsible for at any point in time?.
We have three persons working on the manuscripts that have been made available to Griots Lounge. We also have international professional editors and renowned writers that we work with.
13. How long will it take from when an author signs the contract to when the book is published?
We are working on an estimated period of three months after ‘final contract’ has been signed. Obviously, a few manuscripts would require more time to be delivered.
14. How much input do authors get on designing their covers or in the title of their books?
The author would be well consulted in the process of developing the manuscript into a priced product. They will work with us, our designers and our art directors. As for titles, the writers should have at least a working title for their work, which will be subject to change if need be.
15. Do you pay a royalty advance?
Yes. Upon signing of ‘final contract’ we will give varying sums to authors as royalty advance.
16. What are your marketing plan/strategies? Is it solely up to the author, or do you have an in-house marketing campaign?
In line with bits provided earlier, Griots Lounge would be comprehensive. And this includes marketing. We will borrow a leaf from the music industry, – as concerts and tours have become reliable sources of revenue than CD sales – they seem to be getting things right. Book tours will be organized, which will help readers meet the authors and get to know them. Book trailers are something we are looking into. We will employ whatever means possible to get the word out there. We are developing a strong Marketing team
Above all, our most important strategy would be a diligent effort to publish ‘good’ stories.
17. Could you provide a sales range for your books? For example, what’s the average that an author can expect to make per book?
We hope to provide reliable data in near future. But I must ask everyone to keep his fingers crossed.
18. Is an author allowed to self-publish other books or work with other publishers while under contract with you?
As far as it’s not the same copyright contracted to us, there won’t be a contractual obligation not to. But we won’t encourage authors we work with to be distracted as that would pose a set-back on our ability to market the author.
19. Is there anything that makes your publishing house unique from others?
The commitment of the team would be evident. We will be comprehensive in working with our authors, paying sign-on fees to authors and awarding them contracts. We will as much be eager to work with new authors.
20. For those interested, how can they contact you?
For submissions, a query should be sent to email@example.com, and then upon acceptance, the first chapter and any other two chapters of the FINISHED manuscript, total word count and synopsis of the work. For other inquiries, write firstname.lastname@example.org