Publishing consultant Emma House presents a series of interviews with members of the PublisHer community.
Azafi Omoluabi Ogosi founded Parrésia Publishers in Lagos in 2012, with Richard Ali to sell books to Nigerian readers and promote freedom of the imagination and the free press.
EH When did you set up Parrésia Publishers and what inspired you to set up a publishing house?
AOO Parrésia was established in 2011 and became operational in 2012. Richard Ali and I became friends and thought about a business we could collaborate on. We came up with a literary agency. I pitched this idea to my younger brother, who said: ‘Well, you love books, why don’t you go the whole yard and publish them?’ And I thought, True, why not? And so Parrésia’s journey began.
EH How has the business grown? What’s the journey been?
AOO The business of publishing is growing. We’ve gone from selling 1,000 copies of published books in a year or more to selling them in a few months after release. The market is getting bigger. More Nigerians are becoming more aware of contemporary Nigerian publishing and trade books – that’s a great thing.
EH What are the biggest challenges and obstacles you’ve faced along the way and how have you overcome them?
AOO The biggest challenge has been funding for traditional publishing. We’re still struggling financially. We don’t get any external support or funding, everything is down to us.
“We’ve gone from selling 1,000 copies of published books in a year or more to selling them in a few months after release. The market is getting bigger. More Nigerians are becoming more aware of contemporary Nigerian publishing.” Azafi Omuluabi Ogosi
EH You now have four imprints – Regium, Origami, Cordite and Ọmọde Mẹta – covering a range of publishing styles and genres. Do you have any plans to expand in the future?
AOO No, I won’t create any more; I have all areas of interest covered.
EH You have a recent prize-winning title. Tell me more.
AOO We won the award for the Best International Fiction Book at the Sharjah International Book fair – The Son of the House, written by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia. It was a huge win for me as a publisher and for the author, and a win for other women in a predominantly male universe.
EH What is your motivation in your business, and do you have advice for other women looking to succeed in publishing?
AOO My main motivation is the fact that I love books. I love to read, I love the feel of books, I love the process of getting them published and the impact they make. Yes, it’s a business I’d advise other women to venture into, but I’d advise to be extremely patient – there are other gains in this business and not all of them are financial.
“Yes, it’s a business I’d advise other women to venture into, but I’d advise to be extremely patient. There are other gains in this business, and not all of them are financial.” Azafi Omuluabi Ogosi
EH What is the status of women in publishing in Nigeria?
AOO There are more male run publishing houses than female. There aren’t any support initiatives for women in publishing that I’m aware of, however.
EH The PublisHer initiative is about empowering women to use their voices individually and collectively, to combine their strengths, to support and listen to each other. As the fantastically talented Afra Atiq put it at the PublisHer summit, in Sharjah: ‘Your voice is your most powerful tool’. Do you have any comments on this network and how it may benefit you and other women in Nigerian publishing?
AOO I heard about PublisHer in Sharjah this year, and the fact that we have a network of female publishers supporting one another is fantastic. It’s hugely encouraging and I’m glad it exists, even though I’m pretty new to its support structure and hopefully its benefits.
NB this interview is also available on BookBrunch.