“I Don’t Think You Can Sell Books Without Being A Nomad” – Femi Fairchild Morgan
A few weeks since we began the #Publisherseries we have since interviewed awesome publishers like Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi of Parresia Publisher, Nur-d-din Busari of AMABBooks, Servio Gbadamosi of WinepressGroup and Karo Oforofuo of Pelluera.
Today, our guest is Femi Morgan, the last Nigerian publisher we will be speaking with on the #Publisherseries of #SyncityNGLLL. In the coming weeks, we will be exploring publishers from Uganda and beyond before wrapping up the publisher series.
Femi Fairchild Morgan is a PR executive, creative entrepreneur, culture and content curator at Fairchild Media. Fairchild Media runs a publishing imprint; Baron’s Cafe.
Baron’s Cafe is an avant-garde publishing brand that drives new and important narratives across genres. Baron’s Cafe, an imprint has published 5 books; two amongst which has achieved ‘Sold Out’ status, A Tiny Place Called Happiness by Nwilo Bura-Bari (Shortlisted for the ANA Prize for Short Stories 2016, Nominated by GARARA Book Reader’s Award for Book Cover ) and The Call by Chinedu Akiti-Diego which explores nationhood, migration, the shocks of return.
#Synners please give a round of applause as we welcome on the show, Femi Morgan!
Thank you! It’s an honour to be here!
Let’s begin. @Fairchild09, do you introduce yourself as “publisher” and even after that, do people ask what you really do?
I prefer the title Creative director. The creative house, Fairchild Media is a PR, Content Management and creative enterprise firm. Baron’s Cafe is a publishing brand of Fairchild Media. Beyond titles, it is slot of work. I prefer the title Creative director, it is a robust team of creative folks and associates. People do not have a full sense of what a publisher do but at least some are contented with the familiarity of the job. But when you complicate by saying you are creative director, then you have to explain.
In your opinion, what does a creative director do?
A creative director is a MAD person. He is always looking for ways to create ideas, to curate discourse and to engage the public. The main goal is to win more souls to the beauty of the craft. This is why Fairchild Media is more than just publishing.
Out of the 5 imprints you have worked on, you achieved “sold-out” status for 2. What is the secret? How did you achieve this?
That’s a tricky question and it is a bit boastful. First answer is God. For those who need to hit their heads on culvert of third mainland bridge for this answer. Go ahead. And then experience, communication, collaboration and strategy are important. I started out as a book marketer of many publishers, ventured into a partnership publishing and achieved sold out titles before starting Baron’s Cafe.
There are simple rules. Collaboration: sit down and have a blunt chat with the publisher. Be truthful about what is possible and what is not possible. The author must never be aloof about deploying his influence along with the publisher for the work to be successful. I have talked about experience. I have sold books, I have dealt with booksellers across Nigeria and a bit across the continent. I know how to negotiate and how to withdraw from bookstores that can’t fly.
Understand the demography of your book, and then tell yourself whether you are ready to run after your dreams. So when I read a book, and chat with the author, I have a hunch on what will happen.
You talked about the influence of the writer. How important is a writer’s circle during promotions? Why should a writer bother with promotion? Isn’t that the sole work of a publisher?
My answer is we need more bookstores. I once had an argument somewhere and the person ‘insulted’ me by calling me bookseller. As much as we need bookstores, we need people to become book disciples. More like if there are no bookstores in my area can I become the ‘go-to’ person for books in my area?
How many copies does a publisher originally print?
Thank you. The standard for indie-publishers is 1000 copies for the first round. With progress, you can do 2000-5000. I think it is a very low output. 1000 copies given the population stat of 180 million Nigerians but the market is a war zone. I tell you, I believe if we can cover 5% of our population to serious booklovers, we will not need foreign validation for our works.
Wow. Publishers + writers still struggle to sell 1000 copies? Where did you sell @BuraBariNwilo’s copies?
In Nigeria. Right here; at festivals, to ordinary people who aren’t literati and to literati. @BuraBariNwilo also pulled his weight and for that I am very grateful. An uncle took ATPCH to an oil company he was consulting for and one of the top admin managers fell in love with ATPCH. She asked whether @BuraBriNwilo had written other books. I was so damn happy. She paid for her copy.
Phew! Marketing books seems to involve waka-waka. How do you choose writers to publish and how do you set price?
Waka waka is real. I don’t think you can sell books without being a nomad. Perhaps when there are more cultural systems in place, it would stop. Distribution remains a huge challenge nevertheless. The price of a book is way lower than the quality of intelligence, stress, design, logistics and planning that goes into the production and sale of a book. You cannot do it if you want to hammer like a yahoo boy.
So, you print at a loss or because you love literature so?
I think the way it is is that there are some sacrifices you make as a publisher that can never be quantifiable in naira and kobo, even in dollars and other high currencies. A publisher is driven by the vision of creating a legacy. Same with the author.
Opinion poll time! Synners, I need your thoughts on this one.
Do you think new writers should be part of book hawking (as @mystiquesynn puts it). What is the job of a publisher?
@mystiquesynn: I noticed people don’t tell big writers to promote their works as actively as young writers. Young writers still do a lot of book hawking. Synners, I need your thoughts. Do you think new writers should be part of hawking. What is the job of a publisher? I think people need to mark their books to their audience. But some publishers just publish and dump on the writers head. That’s bad.
@harchychy: New writers should promote their books as well as the publishers. I mean, it’s only supercool that you have a newborn you are proud of and you want to let the world know whether or not u have got the traction and/or platform for that. But I always thought it’s one of the roles of the publisher.
@Lagos_Tout: My opinion is this. With what currently obtains here, whether big or small, you still have to, maybe not hawk, but ‘mouthly’ sell your books. At most, we glorify people who sell 2k copies, like its the standard. It’s so mediocre. We should be doing more. In saner climes, I think writers’ direct involvement in sales is very minimal. But here, well…. I’m sure you know how it is. We know of brilliant books that performed poorly in sales. When you write, you want people to read it, you want people to read it. So, somehow, you try to sell it however you can. Maybe if publishers didn’t see each other as rivals, we could all seat and try to crack the distribution code.
Wow! #Synners airing their opinion on the involvement of writers in direct sales. Thank you! One last question for Femi Morgan before we wrap up the show. How do you select a writer to publish? Do they reach out or you do? What kind of stories do you publish?
I really love to explore all sorts of stories and narratives. I love to have books that are brilliant and well placed, establish and well paced, established in craft, but I also love to test the waters with new authors. My team and I need to love the books we publish. The author has to have something important to say. Apologies to those who pitch style without meaning.
And with that we have come to the end of the show! Special thanks to our guest, Femi Morgan.
Thank you @SynCityNG for having me on the platform. I am proud of the work you are doing for literature in the continent. Keep pushing.
Special thanks to all the Synners who tuned in. Join us next week on Twitter @SyncityNG Don’t forget to SHARE!