Sorry it’s coming late and not on the usual platform. Here’s my Friday Tot for today. Please read and share.
If you are a writer, then hear this – the reader is not under an obligation read anything you wrote, no matter how brilliant it is. In the same way we must not kowtow to our readers for deeming it fit to read what we write, we must not develop an entitlement mentality about them reading our work. It is a choice they make, a choice to either spend their hard earned money, or very precious time on our work. And we must not forget this, ever. It’s one of the things that drives us to make our work better.
There is much competing for the reader’s attention. TV, radio, work, family, kids, surviving, other writers. We must continually seek to make our work not only what will win this battle for attention, but we must ensure that the effort they must take to get our work is drastically reduced. Remember the old adage that where the desirable is not available, the available becomes the desirable? It rings true in this case. The TV is a remote control away. Radio is now an earpiece away. So we must recognize this and apart from being agile enough to use these media to deliver our writing, we must also continue to creatively use whatever means that is available to get our writing to the people with minimal disruption to their schedules. Let me site an example – we publish a book and put it in the bookshops. Getting a book from the bookshop might hold a great experience for many avid readers, but the vast majority that I know in the main centers will only enter that bookshop if their schedule takes them there. They will probably not leave their houses, fuel their cars or take a bus solely to go to the bookshop to buy a book. These same people daily buy pirated copies of the works in traffic willingly for two main reasons. The first is that buying in traffic doesn’t disrupt their daily schedules. The second is of course cost considerations. Why therefore can we not produce low cost versions of our books and leverage the established distribution networks by getting them into the hands of the guys that sell in traffic. We can still keep the premium editions in the bookshops and cater to that market, while expanding to the new markets. And then deliver via mobile devices, via audio devices, expanding the market and form, while keeping the substance. That should be our aim. If nothing else sticks from this piece, it should be this – readers are not obliged to read our work; we have to create the desire and then deliver our work to them with ease.
And to the reader, it is important we appreciate our writers. The journey to being a renowned writer is a long arduous one, fraught with huge doses of frustration and self doubt. Many Nigerian writers have taken to blogging to put their work out there for a couple of reasons. One is the fact that many have tried to get published and have suffered rejection. They come to blog for self expression. They also come to prove to themselves that their writing is not as bad as the many rejections would have them believe. They come to build a brand and to give away free work, in the hope that when they do finally put out their published work, you would buy. So please when you read these free works on the blogs, be a teeny-weeny bit nice. Where you want to critique, try to be objective and specific. Try not to condemn the writer’s whole work for a single error in a single story. Remember that the writer might have a frayed ego and a fragile belief in their ability at that moment and that it isn’t easy to put yourself out there. Try not to generalize your criticisms. And where you have enjoyed the free work for a while, when the writer does pull the resources together to publish something, buy. There’ll be different options – you’ll probably be able to buy on mobile devices, in traffic, in bookshops, online from the various e-commerce sites like jumia, konga, lushdeals and dealdey. Whatever you do, in whatever form, the essential thing is that you buy that author’s work. Show that you value the author enough to spend your money on his/her work. Help spread the word about the work. It’s the least you can do.
In building this thing, both the readers and the writers have roles to play and mindsets that will need to change. One thing is certain though – there’s loads of writing going on in Nigeria and loads of reading going on too. Now, let’s make it profitable for the writers and enjoyable for the readers.