By Olivia Snaije | @OliviaSnaije
Developing B2B DiscussionsThis
said it was the first time since she’d attended a book fair in Zimbabwe in the 1990s that she’d seen a rights section at a fair on the continent.
Kyomuhendo came to Nairobi as both a writer and a publisher and was looking to sell rights and find distribution for the 20th-anniversary edition of her novel Whispers From Vera.
She met with East African Educational Publishers, and said they were on the verge of signing a deal to distribute her book into a total of five countries including Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia. She also visited Nairobi booksellers and will be distributing her book in four bookshops, as well as doing readings in them.
Authors as well as publishers flocked to the rights area at the eKitabu stand where professionals from the African continent, Europe, and the United States, invited by eKitabu, had their own tables. Although encounters were often impromptu, and authors and publishers were not always familiar with those they were meeting, it showed the strong interest and desire that publishers had to develop B2B discussions and writers had to find publishers or agents’ representation.
Several literary agents were present, including Amsterdam-based Bieke van Aggelen of the African Literary Agency.
Van Aggelen said she was impressed by the quality of the writers she met. “I was interested to meet authors,” she said, “and was pleasantly surprised. They were well-prepared and asked really pertinent questions. They might not know about all the clauses in a contract, but they knew exactly what they wanted.”
She said she found the publishers less interesting and informed and thought it would be interesting if they could diversify their business strategies from publishing just textbooks to include fiction, making an effort to reach out to local authors.
‘The Intricacies of Contracts’
Raphaël Thierry of Ægitna Literary Agency; Kenya’s East African Educational Publishers CEO Kiarie Kamau, who is also chair of the Kenya Publishers Association; intellectual property lawyer Sharon Wata of the Kenya Copyright Board; and Mariana Yasmin Pardini, who heads cultural affairs at the Embassy of Argentina in Nairobi.
Thierrywhich has published African authors since 1949.
Kamau said that as publishers, “
he African Publishers Network (APNET) is working on holding training sessions for publishers and providing a rights template.
‘You Can Take Your Books Farther’
Kolawole asked Mariana Pardini
Muthoni Garland, director of the Nairobi-based children’s publisher Storymoja,
rights programs across Africa are necessary to encourage more cross-continent deals.
In one happy outcome of the fair, Mutesi Gasana of Unbuntu Publishers in Rwanda said that she and Ghanaian publisher Asare Yamoah of Adaex Educational Publications were concluding a rights agreement about a coming-of-age memoir Gasana is selling called Light in the Dark which–should the contract be signed–may be appearing in bookstores in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and other West African countries.
Publishers said they were happy to see the rights initiative at the Nairobi International Book Fair and they suggested that APNET could play an important role in reproducing rights programs across the continent.
Will Clurman, co-founder of eKitabu, said that the company will put together statistics about the rights deals that are in progress or that closed following meetings at the Nairobi fair. As he put remarked, “It’s opening everything up and about moving content across the continent.”
More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing in Africa is here, more on the Kenyan market is here, more on international book fairs and trade shows is here, and more on rights trading in international publishing is here.