Emma House presents the first in a series of interviews with members of the PublisHer community
PublisHer is an industry-led push for tangible progress on gender equality in global publishing. This movement led by female publishing leaders to address gender imbalances and advocate for change was launched by Bodour Al Qasimi, CEO and founder of the UAE-based Kalimat Group and Vice-President of the International Publishers Association, in March 2019 at the London Book Fair, at the encouragement of leading women publishers and creative industry figures.
The forum seeks to understand the biggest diversity and inclusion challenges facing women in publishing and to become a platform for new ideas and initiatives to catalyse progress, partnerships and purposeful actions, including innovative approaches to diversity and inclusion. The community is global, with events taking place at publishing and literary events internationally. This is the first in a series of interviews with members of the community - inspirational women who are committed to the PublisHer cause.
Parrésia Publishers is based in Lagos, Nigeria. It was founded by Azafi Omoluabi Ogosi and Richard Ali in 2012 with the aim of selling books to the Nigerian reading audience and promote the freedom of the imagination and the free press.
Azafi Omuluabi Ogosi is in conversation with Emma House.
EH When did you set up Parrésia Publishers and what inspired you to set up a publishing house?
AOO Parresia 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 is the journey you have been on?
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 have been the biggest challenges and obstacles you have 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.
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 motivations 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.
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 launched by Bodour is about empowering women to use their voices individually and collectively, to combine their strength, to listen to and to support each other. As the fantastically talented Afra Atiq put it at a recent event: "Your voice is your most powerful took." Do you have any comments on this network and how it can be beneficial to 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.
Upcoming events will be the PublisHer 1st Birthday Summit on 9 March 2020, at the British Library, London, and an event on the sidelines of Bologna Children's Book Fair (30 March-2 April), details to be announced shortly.