By Anote Ajeluorou
For those who continuously worry about flagging reading culture in the country and how best to make available to the few interested readers good fiction at affordable cost, solution may have come quicker than expected. With the launch of 14 titles by NS Publishing last Sunday at British Council, Ikoyi, Lagos, short fiction will now be readily available at pocket-friendly sizes and prices to the generality of readers across generations and tastes.
With the publication of these titles, NS Publishing has opened the year on yet a note of short stories that closed last fictive year, with such titles as Indigo by Molara Wood, Dream Chasers from Nelson Publishers Ltd and Lagos 2060 from Dada Books. It also attests to the growing popularity of short fiction in the country. But now, rather than look for N1000 and above before buying a book, NS Publishing has made it possible to just spend only N200 or N400 per copy and you would be rewarded with fine, thrilling prose.
Books from NS Publishing are a throwback to the 1980s when MacMillan’s popular paperback series ‘Pacesetters’ hit the stands to nourish the imagination of generations of young and adult readers alike before Ibrahim Babangida’s Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) made it impossible to continue with the series, which gradually ushered in the bookless society that eventually emerged. However, what Macmillan’s recent series tagged ‘Past & Present’ is a mockery of what the Pacesetter series stood for as fiction for young adults.
Indeed, NS Publishing boss, Myne Whitman, said the pocket-friendly idea for her outfit actually came from her experience of reading Macmillan’s Pacesetters series. She said she used to save hard for each book back then, even as they also sold for as low as 25k.
From romance to crime to every conceivable subject pooled together by what may turn out to be a revolutionary publishing style, readers will find something to read and treasure in the slim volumes. They are short stories already published in the popular literary site, Naija Stories, a site conceived by Myne Whitman (real name Nkem Okotcha) some years ago to cater for young writers seeking outlet in the open space of the worldwide web. The avalanche of submissions made shortly after the site opened convinced Whitman that her venture was in the right direction.
Shortly after also, Whitman called for a short story contest, which also produced its own harvest of stories as a measure of the abundant creative talent in the country. Some of the stories from that contest appear in most of the works.
After self-publishing her romantic thriller, A Heart to Mend in 2009, which shot to the top bestseller list on Amazon.com, Whitman then began to think of a platform where young writers could hangout and give free expression to their creative talents, and as a community. With just about 10 – 20 members, they started to write and share stories. In 2010 her second novel A Love rekindled came out. But she discovered that selling Nigerian short fiction online was harder than selling her romance novels.
That was how Naija Stories idea came and it took off with a bang. Some of the titles in NS Publishing include Wiping Halima’s Tears, Best Laid Plans, Seeing Off Kisses, Ekumeku, Rachel Academy Heroes, Lagos Hanky Panky, Icatha: The Soul Eater, A Kind of Bravery, Our Ram Is Haram, Reflection of Sunshine and others.
Some of the contributors to Naija Stories website and the books presented were also in attendance and they gave colour to the event by reading their own stories giving them the writers’ personal lilt and flavour. Uche Okonkwo, Eloho (‘Halima’s Tears’), Funmi Adediran, Kingsley (‘Best Laid Plans’) all read their stories. But co-founder of online literary magazine, Saraba, Dami Ajayi performed his poetry with flair and panache and garnered the loudest ovation on each occasion as the poems reverberated with raw energy. From ‘Die a little’ to ‘You are my flagellation’, Ajayi pelted the audience with unforgettable, heartfelt rhythms. The poems are from his collection, Daybreak and Other Poems, already in chapbook, an e-book format that can be assessed from sarabamagazine.com.
Also, NS Publishing’s books are not just pocket-friendly in terms of size and prices, the publishers will from next week bring them to doorsteps of would-be buyers, as a way of bringing books closer to those who need them. She has mapped out a roadshow with music and dancing in a carnival-like manner to truly make books fun to have and read! The books will also be in supermarkets and regular bookstores to also widen their presence. NS Publishing T-Shirts, with alluring invitation to have and read books for fun, also make up the magic Whitman is bringing into the book space.