High cost keeps Nigerian publishers out of London book fair 2016

Omoluabi-Ogosi,Imasuen Bakare-Yusuf

Omoluabi-Ogosi                                                                            Imasuen                                                                     Bakare-Yusuf

The yearly London Book Fair (LBF), 2016 edition, opens on April 12 through 14 and will host some 25,000 authors from 124 countries. It is, unarguably, one of the biggest book markets in the world. Already in its 45th year, organisers have dubbed it ‘A World Event in a World City’ and scheduled to hold at Olympia, West London.

However, many Nigerian publishers will be missing out of the three-day book fiesta in the world’s cultural city except one, CEO, Cassava Republic Press, Dr. Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, who would have been in London weeks before the fair opens. Until recently, members of Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA) were a regular feature of the book festival when they had a training collaboration with LBF organisers on management in the publishing business for senior managers in the industry.

But former Executive Secretary, NPA, and Country Manager, Cambridge University Press, Mr. Lawrence Aladesuyi, said over time the association could not muster enough trainees to warrant the subsidised training LBF usually offered the association. As a result, that collaboration petered off. Aldesuyi would not be attending himself; he has a lot on his plate to contend with.

However, only one of three publishers of literary texts who have new books to showcase will be in London. Two cite high cost of attending the festival as reason. With Nigeria’s currency at prohibitive exchange rate with the British Pounds, it becomes quite understandable. Poor book sales on the local scene could be another reason.

CEO/Managing Editor, Parresia Books, Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi, cited the expensive nature of the fair in view of a devalued Nigeria currency as reason why she would not be at the global book fiesta. As she put it, “It’s so expensive to get a stand at the London Book Fair. So, my own is, let’s cover African book fairs; I’m for African book fairs like the ones in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria. If we had been invited the way the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany does, we would have been there”.

However, Omoluabi-Ogosi is not sure of getting a stand at the Nigerian International Book Fair (NIBF) coming up in May although her books will be on display. She is hoping for collaboration with other publishers to be able to make a big showing.

COO, Farafina Books, an imprint of Kachifo Limited, Dr. Eghosa Imasuen, was emphatic about how expensive attending London Book Fair usually is, and how it would not be a good business idea for his company at the moment. He, however, said attendance in future was in the cards. According to Imasuen, “We’re dealing with distributing companies in the U.K. that will display our books at the fair. But for now, we can’t really afford the extravagance. It’s so expensive. Besides, the ubiquity of the internet is giving us the same world wide exposure as the LBF.

“Right now, we’re consolidating on our business. But we will plan for the London Book Fair in the future and try to get sponsors to help defray the cost of attending”.

However, in an email interview with Bakare-Yusuf she would not need to bear the cost of coming from Nigeria or get a stand as she was already in London long before the fair opens. As she put it, “I am not attending as an invited guest.  I am already here in the UK; so cost implication is minimal apart from cost of entry to the fair.  But, of course, if I was coming from Nigeria, then I will have to factor in flight, hotel and expenses which can prove to be quite expensive, especially given the currency situation.

“We have no stand and no need for one. But we will certainly have lots of meetings with agents and publishers, both to see what we can buy and also rights that we can sell, too. Yes, Elnathan John will be in one of the sessions with the Guardian (U.K.) literary editor, Claire Armistead”.

Also, Bakare-Yusuf said optimistically that there’s so much to gain from such a fair, but that it wasn’t all there’s to it. According to her, “You only go to a fair if you think you have something to gain from your attendance. It is neither a good nor a bad thing.  It is not a bad thing that they must attend.  Many U.S. publishers do not attend the LBF. Technology has made it a lot easier to build relationships and connect with publishers across the world; it is not always necessary to attend these fairs. So, Nigerian publishers not attending probably don’t see the necessity for their business.

How should such a fair impact local publishing like Nigeria’s?”
And on the possible impact such fairs could have on local publishing, Bakare-Yusuf explained, “Fairs only impact on local publishing to the extend that you can buy or sell rights. Our major aim for attending fairs is to sell rights.  So if we succeed in selling rights, especially translation rights to some of our books, then we would have succeeded”.

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