« Editorial

Nigeria’s Farafina Books: Publishing By Africans for Africans

• Established in 2004, Farafina Books has become one of Nigeria’s leading independent literary publishers. With 24 titles on its list — including the work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — the company is leading a revolution in the movement to publish books by Africans for Africans.

• Though Farafina continues to struggle against the limitations of publishing in Nigeria, notably poor infrastructure and distribution, the owners believe change is coming and have launched editorial workshops to help engender the next generation of African publishers.

By Belinda Otas

LAGOS: In Nigeria, demand is primarily limited to books for the education market. So, how does a literary publishing house thrive and stay profitable? This is the riddle that the owners of Farafina books have been working on since 2004 when they first launched their company. Along the way, they have helped break down barriers within the Nigerian publishing industry and become one of the nation’s leading independent publishers.

Owner Muhtar Bakare has been described by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as “a humanist, who is widely read, a pan-African, who is thoughtful and has an instinctive understanding of the nuances of Nigerian society, and a capitalist eager to prove that publishing can be a viable business.” His company was founded on the premise of “Telling Our Own Stories,” first to Nigerians and then to the wider world, as well as a desire to change the shape of Nigeria’s publishing landscape. “When we started Farafina, publishing in Nigeria was totally focused on textbooks and biographies. No one wanted to touch fiction, and for very good business reasons, too,” says Bakare. “Literary fiction writers in Nigeria were either published abroad or they were publishing themselves out of sheer necessity. We wanted to fill that gap, find and publish good quality literary fiction that could be commercially viable in Nigeria and possibly also exportable. We wanted to deliver quality at a goods price to Nigerians.”

Simidele Dosekun, chief operating officer (COO) of Kachifo, who runs the day-to-day business, adds it is critical for Nigerians to publish themselves, because “For too long, we have been misrepresented by others, especially by those who came and still come with colonizing, paternalistic and exploitative agendas. We have thereby to an extent lost touch with ourselves, our histories, culture and realities.”

New Outlets for African Creative Writing

Since its inception, the owners have developed three businesses, the best known of which is Farafina Books, which offers literary and popular fiction, general interest, children’s and educational books. Farafina has developed a reputation for strong work, particularly among literary enthusiasts, and has published over 25 books including, Everything Good Will Come by Seffi Atta, Purple Hibiscus and Half of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, A Life Elsewhere and Goodbye Lucille by Segun Afolabi, the 2005 winner of Caine Prize for African Writing. Adichie and Atta have also gone on to win awards with their books, with Purple Hibiscus winning the Commonwealth Prize for First Book and Atta taking the Wole Soyinka Prize for Fiction in 2006.

The two other businesses include Farafina magazine, which was in print until September 2009 (there are plans to resume publishing under its non-profit organization, Farafina Trust) and Prestige Books, which offers offers contractual editorial and publishing services, primarily to banks and social organizations.

“The establishment of Farafina –- books and magazine provided a new and credible outlet for contemporary Nigerian writing, literary fiction in particular, in a context of relative scarcity,” says Dosekun. Farafina, she explains, strives to publish “the best in contemporary African fiction which, in our opinion, fairly represents the many complexities -– good, bad and everything else -– of the continent.” She adds, “We would not as a matter of policy shy away from a work which touched upon negative aspects of contemporary African life, but neither would we choose a work which was only defensive against the many negative stereotypes. We choose our books on their merits and hope they spark reflection and dialogue among our readers, reflect our African humanity and complexity to the world.”

Despite a long stretch in which Nigerian publishers were almost exclusively resigned to publishing educational books, Dosekun says their experience proves that people are hungry for new African writing, to see and read stories of themselves and their reality in print.

The Challenges of Publishing in Nigeria

However, she admits, African publishers have their task cut out for them. “We still have work to do; particularly with finding and developing new talent. A lot of the most successful and well-known contemporary African writers were first published abroad, including most in our stable. We also need to further develop our editorial capacity so that we can develop some of the manuscripts sent to us which have potential but maybe need further honing and crafting.”

What’s more a general lack of enthusiasm for reading still persists throughout the country. Dosekun points out there are a number of reasons which compound to this factor. “There are many things, which diminish the book reading culture in a country like Nigeria, especially among the youth, such as the dominance and popularity of multimedia entertainment. However this is not particular to Nigeria or Africa, it also affects reading in the West. Relatively high rates of poverty and under-education means books may be low priority for more people than elsewhere.”

Bakare describes the current state of Nigeria’s publishing industry as “severely challenged.”

Distribution remains one of the biggest hurdles Nigerian publishers have to overcome. “Our books are available in bookshops in the major cities of Nigeria,” he says. “However, they are not as widely distributed as we would like due to the fact that there is no effective or centralized distribution chain for books. Instead we and most other publishers employ sales representatives nationally and deal with lots of individual booksellers, retail outlets and schools scattered around the country. This is not efficient or cost-effective and is also risky. Our books are not widely available all over west Africa for the above reasons.” Hence, he says Farafina is developing creative means to expand its distribution network. He goes on to add the fact that small publishers across Africa need to develop a centralized and independent distribution network, who would in turn work with a chain of outlets; stating this is the model used in the west, which gives publishers the chance to focus on publishing and not distributing.

Printing, too, is an issue. Farafina prints from as little as 1,000 to as many 100,000 units of its books, depending on the nature of the title and the anticipated or established demand for it. Dosekun said Farafina prints both locally and when necessary, overseas in the Middle East and Asia. It is Farafina’s aim to make quality books affordable for its market, while imported books remain prohibitively expensive. “We keep affordability in mind when pricing, which is also affected by the quality of the book we printed, location of printing and the level of marketing we need to do in order to sell the book,” she noted.

And though the Nigerian publishing industry is lagging behind that of the West, both Bakare and Dosekun admit there is a renaissance with the new wave of writing and publishing coming from small publishing outfits and publications dedicated to fiction, general interest and niche genres. It is Bakare’s belief that the only way this can be sustained is for Nigeria and Nigerians, “To embrace freedom of expression, invest in education, literacy and subsidize the production of culture.” Dosekun adds that the business environment needs to improve to make publishing more viable. “If infrastructure is improved, reducing overheads and inefficiencies, more retails chains and outlets are established, the government offers incentives to publishers, and if people read more and are better educated, this will lead to more disposable income.”

Change is Coming: Farafina’s Editorial Workshop

In addition to its drive to deliver quality books and new writing, Farafina is also equipping the next generation of editors and writers in Nigeria. Earlier this year it inaugurated the first Farafina Trust Editorial Workshop for editors, with the aim of aim transferring knowledge of best practices and providing a forum to discuss the challenges African publishers face to the editors. The three-day editorial workshop was held in March and in Lagos, and facilitated by Ellah Allfrey, deputy editor at Granta, and former senior editor at Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Random House Group

In respect of the success Farafina has had as a publishing house, there are issues within the Nigerian publishing industry, they would like to see changed. “We would like to see the editorial and production quality rise, especially for children’s and educational books, “says Bakare. “There’s also considerable corruption in the industry as publishers compete to get their books on government lists which ensures them bulk sales, as well as the problem of piracy of books on government lists and those in high demand. The pirated version sells at almost half our price and is of very shoddy quality.”

All the same, Bakare and Dosekun believe African publishing will get stronger, more organized and efficient, and have more collaboration between publishers. “We will get amazing results from well thought out investments in education, literacy, a robust commercial infrastructure and a well designed and diligently implemented program of subsidies for the production of culture,” says Bakare. As to how Farafina fits into that picture, Dosekun says they hope to stay at the forefront of producing quality books of different genres, in addition to developing, “Multimedia content, including CD-ROMs, e-based learning platforms and films.”

“We are in the industry for the long haul,” adds Bakare. “We are pragmatic and believe in a well regulated market economy. We will continue to run our business ethically, continue to innovate and explore new channels while edifying African ideas to Africans at affordable prices.”

DISCUSS: Is the Internet Africa’s “Gutenberg Moment”?

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  1. f
    Posted August 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    great stuff wish you the best

  2. Ejike Muoneke G
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    As an upcoming writer how can get ur full details. The challenges i am going to face & so on…

  3. Peter Ripken
    Posted August 31, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Publishing in Africa is generally rather difficult. And in Nigeria there have been too many people around who claim to be publishers while in fact they were mainly business men.

    In this respect, Farafina is like a new light on the horizon, and good news not only for book lovers but also for authors who are looking for some publisher with a decent approach to publishing.

    Congratulations, and all the best to Farafina.

  4. Emmanuel S Ude
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Oh farafina…thanks for coming to our rescue…

  5. chinenye adekanmbi
    Posted November 23, 2010 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    im thankful for your birth and vision.i blive u’ll be a blessing to many myself inclusive.more grease to ur elbow.

  6. Emmanuel Bassey
    Posted February 14, 2011 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    As a new writer, I need full information about you and what you can offer as well as what it will cost me for you to be my publisher. Thank you.

  7. Anthony Emeka Emina
    Posted March 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Please i have a little book on being awake in our dreams. It is a Bible based religious concept on vanity of life, and how we wake up in the real world after death. What can you do for me Farafina? The whole world will begin to see that we do not truly exist, and that the world is one big illusion; a dream world put in the hearts of men.This book is wisdom for those that will understand and believe the great ritual of reconciliation of man unto God.

  8. Posted March 29, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    The major challenge in publishing is marketing.This can be defeated if the channels for distribution are much.Hence,i would that Farafina should expand its outlets for the flow of its published books.Calabar is one channel to consider.Thanks

  9. iykefrequency 21@yahoo.com
    Posted June 14, 2011 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    Contact office in Nigeria. thanks

  10. sotonye boyle
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Dear Farafina,
    I am a quite delighted today, coming across your website, which I had long sought for over the months. I also sincerely commend your good works at Chimamanda’s books. She is truly a role-model and a mentor, whom I strongly admire and try to emulate, though could not have a way of expressing my sincere love for her great works and to learn from her how to become a literary icon like her, which I have long dreamt for, from birth.
    As an upcoming writer, I have been so much troubled even on how to publish the few works of fiction I have done and even to meet a professional hand at editting and reviewing my works.
    Recently, I ran into a Self-Publishing firm in the USA, while looking for a reputable publisher and reviewer, in the net and afterwards, made my first publication with them, titled “The Prostitute With Conscience”. I was amazed that out ignorance about the act of publishing, I had made a wrong choice and now I have always thought of quitting trying a hand in writting my stories and killing my childhood dreams. I did not get the promises stipulated in their terms of agreement and regreted all the effort at trying a hand at my work of fiction, which I owe wholely to our professionals here, a handful of whom I had met and begged to even see my work reviewed over the years and who had never met their promises just to encourage the upcoming ones. Hence, my mistakes.
    However, not losing all hopes, I wish to ask how you can help me to actuallize my dreams with you and also the conditions with which you work with your writers to bring them to limelight in achieving their dreams of writing African literary fictions.
    Also, may I also ask if you are also self-publishers or a traditional publishing firm, since the world have some doubt in self-publishing and self-published works.
    I sincerely commend your good works to your writers.
    Thank you and best regards,

    Sotonye Boyle.

  11. Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Well, I must say that you guys are not bad, I also commend your work on Adichie’s works.
    I’m an upcoming writer, my first book THE RISING MONSTER, a fiction story based on the uncertainties of life, and the hidden interaction between humans and Aliens, published by a local publishing firm at Awka, Anambra state. (Christon publishers).
    I have been looking for publishers to work on my second book EMBER TO EMBER, Because I don’t want to self publish it, The book depicts the theme of a comtemprory Igbo community, where uncertainties and false accusation has taken the day.
    Please I will be extremely glad if I will get your contact details, Bet me you won’t regret it. My e-mail is lactoo4real@yahoo.com and my phone number is 08132059697 and also 0813298641.
    Thanks in anticipation.
    From Akwaeze Louis, Abuja.

    Posted July 21, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Waking up to the chilling sound of night time jamborees, an innocent child walked into the trap of destiny; where she bestowed upon herself the crown of liberation.
    Years later, a young university undergrad opted to help her mentor in distress only to find herself intertwined on a web of her weakness which led her to the ultimate taboo that rifted the barrier between light and dark, thus exposing the world to a kaleidoscope of deathly tyranny.

    I got the idea to do this story whilst reading for a Medical exam. And as weird as it may sound it has ever since been boring holes on my lap top computer yelling to “get out” so to speak. I believe the time has come for it to eventually hit the lime light, i just hope and pray that you guys give it knees to crawl if not wings to fly.

    Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink


  14. Posted August 28, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Goodday Farafina, i’m so glad to have come across your website. I feel relieved.
    I’m happy to know that you trully exist cos i can’t wait to see my dreams come true.
    I write, i have lots of manuscripts waiting to be published. I’ve been waiting for the people to do this with. Just published a small drama on HIV/AIDS which i distributed to the students in the school and community where i’m serving. I really want my work to go wide because they’re not just stories, they have a message.
    I need advice and counselling on how to go about it…i need your help.
    I’m anxiously waiting for a reply.
    Edikan Akpan

  15. Uc Amalu Jr
    Posted September 3, 2011 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    I’ve got two great manuscipts that I believe would be great books. They are purely fictional and presents a deviation from the conventional Nigerian works. Please reply.

    Posted September 4, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink


  17. agholor morgan
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 6:29 am | Permalink


  18. Ngozi Ebubedike
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I just came upon u site in my search 4 a publisher. I will like to get more information about ur operating system. I write basically romance novel and books on relationships. Thanks. Ngozi Ebubedike.

  19. ava
    Posted November 1, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    i have some works which i have done.how do i get it across to you?

  20. fred6215
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink


    How may i reach you.


  21. Chimee
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    I will soon be sending my manuscrips

  22. Chimee Adioha
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I will soon be sending my manuscripts

  23. Gabriel Faniyan
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Hi Farafina, i like the idea of Africans for Africans. but am keen on genre. i av git the manuscript of a sceience fiction that teh word is waiting to read, i think you should take a look. It is 2028. A student proves that the dreaded effects of global warming and the ozone layer depletion will not gradually rise to an unbearable crescendo. They will hit us suddenly.

    EARTHCARE and NASA scientists confirm the claim. They also get a clue the world has a hundred and twenty days before a chain of events are triggered; To prevent earth from destruction, the world must reduce greenhouse gas emission by ninety-five percent. But men seem only to be ready to do all it will take only when it is too late.

    All over the world, less than sixty thousand people survive the first blow. The ozone layer disappearing is just the spearhead that is determined to erase life on earth. For the human race to continue, they would have to look for another place to live and to do so in two hundred and forty days!

    DOOM, until a NASA scientist announces that a long term project to force a planet accommodate humans has been successful. The world does not have enough rockets to take everybody to Mars. They had to build one bravura rocket that would take fifty thousand people to Mars – in two hundred and forty days!

    It was impossible. But when the survival of the human race is at stake, very few things are impossible. The rocket is built and against odds, against terrible odds, it takes off. It is a display of great will, determination, courage and hope but, it is a doomed journey. It is doomed from the very beginning

  24. abiola olusegun
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Dear farafina,

    A̶̲̥̅♏ very glad that ♈ōϋ are creating a medium for young writers to. Display the in built talent in them. I have a drama written in YORUBA LANGUAGE and A̶̲̥̅♏ hoping farafina can help M̶̲̥̅ξ publish it. The title is ODE ATAMATASE. In a nutshell I wil brief the book. its about a young man known as Eda Eledumare he his good hunter loved by everybody in his village. One day he went for his hunting game as usual,in his quest in the forest he met Iji Aye which Eda Eledumare offended along the line and was imprisoned by Iji aye. The king of his village felt bad about his disappearance S̤̥̈̊o̲̣̥, the king ordered balogun to send a search troop to find him.among the search troop were……..please I will be S̤̥̈̊o̲̣̥ glad if our language is given an audience and M̶̲̥̅γ̲ work too.I will be expecting your reply.

  25. enne aig
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    I wish to publish my book: escape from torture. Should I send you the first chapter? Pls reply .

  26. Posted January 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink


    I have written a book one Website Design, it is set to be published in the U.S and Singapore By April.

    Now i want to bring it down to Nigeria and African As a whole. How do i go about it with your publishing company.?

    The target audience for my book is for all, any literate person with knowledge of Computer and internet.

    its will have a very good market base and will affect the Youths positively. however, it will bring us to the next level of technological advancement around the globe.

    i hope you are not one of those useless ” So called publishing companies in Nigeria claiming so”.

    I want you to publish the book for me.. Reply if you are interested. tok2ak@gmail.com


    Posted March 14, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I became a writer as a child, out of boredom. But now, writing is a passion my current work is a futuristic book that shows a Nigeria we all would like to live in, meanwhile taking us back in time to the things we can do as to effect that change. It also shows the pain of corrution, robbery and kidnapping but those were featured as in the past. It is a book written to also accomodate the minds of children, since there is only so much we can do for an adult, but a child’s mind is a fresh tablet upon which we can write. I’d love to have you request for my manuscript. Thanks in advance

  28. Posted May 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m a Self-Published Author in the USA and looking to have my books published in other parts of the English speaking world especially in Africa. I already have legal representation in Nigeria and now seeking a publisher. Please visit my website at http://www.booksbyememgenesis@yahoo.com for information on all my published books. All with copyrights and ISBN numbers

    Titles by EM.EM.Genesis:
    Words of Wisdom for Warriors and Stories of Encouragement
    Tales from an American Soldier’s Diary
    Boarding School Secrets
    Anania Goes To…
    Cecilia and the Bumblebees

  29. Kingsley Eguare
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    While thanking you people most supremely for shedding light on this haze that makes publishing in Nigeria daunting for a beginner, I want also to oil your acts with sincere praises.
    Writing came to me in my primal years; igniting a passion best described as ‘unquenchable’. I rose through the years writing fictions on adventures and heroism for friends to savour.
    In more recent years, I’ve brought my writings home – with a couple of didactic ‘unpublished’ works that can spin any mind in the manner of earth’s endless rotations. My works: fools of the century, Nostalgia and Golden year; were not written for my friends and quiescent bookshelf alone. On the contrary, they were written for the wider world. If it does please you, I wish you point your light in my direction where I currently lounge in the crucible of despised obscurity.

  30. Enyinnaya Okoro
    Posted May 21, 2012 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    Good day to you all at Farafina and Kachifo Limited.You are all doing a wonderful job in the printing and publishing Industry in Nigeria.
    As an upcoming writer who is passionate in wanting to contribute my quota in the literary society,How do i go about this?
    I have written a book which i would want you to please see to the editing of the manuscripts.I also need your advice on how to go about the publication of the work.

  31. Enyinnaya Okoro
    Posted May 21, 2012 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    Good day to you all at Farafina and Kachifo Limited.You all are doing a wonderful work in the printing and publishing Industry in Nigeria.
    As an upcoming writer who is passionate in the act of writings.
    I have a book which i would want you to see to the editing of the manuscript.How do i go about your needed attention?
    My CONTACT NO:08025727117.
    Thank you.

  32. C.O.C. Onyiorah
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Please have you published poems?

  33. Osita Kingsley
    Posted June 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I am an astute writer and I have a manuscript titled “The consecrated sceptre”
    In view of this, I would like to publish this aforementioned manuscript and others with you.
    I would be grateful if this request is granted.
    I hope to hearing from you soon.


    Osita Kingsley.

  34. Andy odeigah
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I wrote a book it is about a girl who had difficulties but decided To take it on and came through eventually having her own business and i am currently writing another book. I want you to publish my books my phone number is 08135327541

  35. Posted June 29, 2012 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    Dear Bakare,

    Thank God for discovering you this morning. I am an avid reader and lover of books, author of 14 books and resident in the United States. I am working on three materials at the moment: an intellectual biography of Nnamdi Azikiwe, An Autobiography and a book on Jesus and Politics. We share the same focus about Telling Our Own Story. I hold a Ph.D. in history and can help you connect with the American Book industry. Just contact me if you are honest and sincere. I am the ex- owner of Emida International Publishers based in Washington, D.C. Call me 540-249-2392.

  36. Christopher
    Posted August 4, 2012 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I am writing to certify of my government textbook, which entails a great insight for Nigerian history, best for all especially secondary school students but the worst problem is getting a publisher since I don’t have the resources of publishing it. Can u help? Honestly, the book is exceptional and profit oriented. Hoping to hear from you soon.

  37. Posted August 25, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    i am a poet; I have written about two poetry books(one manuscript for children /nursery poem and another manscript for small poetry book i have written for adults)but do have to the money to publish.I want to know can i transfer a right to have them published through your company;
    i.if i cannot transfer the right how much do i have pay as the publishing fee,and contractual commitment would be invole.would there be library numbers for the books after your,how long would your review process take?are there royalties for author and how does this work?
    I look forward to sending my manuscript as a i recieve inform how to start

  38. nonso uzozie
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    sometimes when I look around and see the products of Farafina, I SMILE BECAUSE IT IS DOING WELL

  39. Mrs hadiza oyewo
    Posted November 25, 2012 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Am glad 2 learn abt ur firm 2day.During my teenage days i yearn 4 books with african perspective by africans 4 africans but they were uncommon except 4 pacesetters and a few novels like time changes yesterday and so on as a youngster what i had access 2 were mills&boom and what have you,so as i grew older i felt d need 2 write interesting books which are not only full of fun and laughter but teaches african culture,tradition of morality.my stories will also have a touch of islam as i intend in my little way correct d wrong notion everyone world over has abt islam due 2 politics,suicidebombing and so on.my writting is still very green and needs reviewing&editing bt i believe its goin 2 b a master piece.Writting is my childhood dream and i pray ur company will make d dream come true. I await ur reply.
    Am Mrs oyewo,B.sc economics(unimaid),Mba (unilorin in view)08028594588 or 08028798092!

  40. Theodora DW
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Dear Farafina
    I am almost rounding off my first official romance novel. I would like to know if you publish romance writers or if you can be of help in anyway at all.
    I would really appreciate a response. Thank you.

  41. Nneka Edeh
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Hi Farafina

    I just came across your website today, I have written this great novel about the issue of divorce and broken marriages. And I’m looking for a publishing company but thank God I found you.
    I would really love it if you contact me at jenwise20@ymail.com or 2347034397279.

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