Farafina Books — the literary imprint of publishing house, Kachifo Limited — is home to books by Nigerian authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lesley Nneka Arimah, and Ben Okri, amongst others. I spoke to their managing editor, Enajite Efemuaye about her (very cool) job, how she got there, her work in training editors, and book publishing in Nigeria.
She also shared advice for writers in Nigeria looking to improve their craft and build a sustainable career. I loved reading Jite’s answers and I think her advice for writers is spot on!
What do you do for a living and what does your job entail?
I read for a living. That’s the answer I like to give even though what I do is a lot more than that. I’m the managing editor at Kachifo Limited. Most people know us by our literary imprint, Farafina.
I’m like the production manager at a factory with books as the final product. I work with a team of editors, graphic artists, illustrators and sometimes photographers and translators. I also work with writers, agents, and other publishers. This means I send and receive a lot of emails.
How did you end up working as a managing editor at a Nigerian publishing house?
In 2016, I had just quit my job as editor at Sabinews (at the time owned by Toni Kan and Peju Akande) to go back to school for a masters degree when I was invited to temp as an editor at Farafina because the managing editor was going on a road trip around Nigeria with Invisible Borders. After the two-month stint, I was offered a full-time position, and I took it. I started as the enterprise editor, which saw me managing the publishing services imprint, Prestige and when my boss left for grad school, I was promoted to managing editor.
Before Sabinews, I spent two and a half years volunteering with a youth development NGO in Nnewi Anambra state. Before that, I was a graphic artist/editor at a print press in Awka Anambra state for about five years.
What is your favorite part of your job?
The favorite part of my job is reading a manuscript that blows my mind from the first chapter. We get tons of submissions, and most of them are really bad. So when I get a book like Of Women and Frogs by Bisi Adjapon from the submissions editor, it’s like getting soft ponmo from the ewa agoyin woman who is notorious for jaw-breaking ponmo. Another favorite part of my job is the spontaneous conversations we often have about literature and all the gentle shade we throw at writers and readers.
Which parts of your job are the most “stressful”?
I can’t really think of any particular part of my job that is stressful. There are stressful situations from time to time, and that happens when you’re working with deadlines, but nothing specific to the job that I’d consider stressful.
What do many people not know about the publishing industry in Nigeria? What would you change about it if you could?
Publishing is a business first and foremost. We worry about the bottom line like other businesses. We face the same challenges with power and poor infrastructure and government policies and corruption. That we work with books does not put us in a celestial plane.
Very little about the publishing industry in Nigeria is unique to it when you look at it as a business. If I could change anything, I’d make it easier to do business in Nigeria. I’d fix the educational system. Build libraries in every local government. Make sure people have enough to eat so buying books stops being a frivolous luxury for many.Very little about the publishing industry in Nigeria is unique to it when you look at it as a business. If I could change anything, I’d make it easier to do business in Nigeria. Click To Tweet
I know you’re passionate about training more editors. What’s the motivation behind that passion?
I am a mostly self-taught editor. I learned by doing, googling a lot of things, taking paid online courses. I want to take the knowledge I have gathered and pass it on — even if it’s just to give directions on where to go for what kind of resource. I didn’t have anyone doing that for me and it made the learning process in the early days somewhat difficult. It doesn’t have to be.
Also, we don’t have enough good editors in Nigeria and I would like to see that change.
What do you think writers and editors could do to improve their craft? What advice would you give them about navigating the world of writing and building a sustainable career?
They should stop folding their arms and expecting to be spoon-fed success. There is so much talent that won’t lead anywhere because the people who house them don’t think self-development is important. They believe in “inspiration” and the “muse.”
So, I’ll say, read. Read a lot more than you’re writing. Read good writing. Read classic and contemporary literature. Read romance and memoirs. Read profiles and essays about food.
Research on your own. Find out how the publishing process works. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities.
Network. This doesn’t necessarily mean form cliques, but cliques are not all a bad thing if you spend the time helping and challenging yourselves. Attend literary events – book readings and launches, festivals and so on.
Do the work. And put yourself out there as much as you can.Read a lot more than you’re writing. Read good writing. Read classic and contemporary literature. Read romance and memoirs. Read profiles and essays about food. - @jyte12 Click To Tweet
Would you consider yourself a morning or night person? What three things are part of your morning routine?
I’m a morning person. I go to bed as early as 9 p.m. and I’m up at 3 a.m. I do my morning devotion, read emails and check my notifications on social media.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
It goes without saying that I read a lot in my spare time. I also watch Netflix and YouTube and stare into space.
What is the future of the Nigerian publishing industry? Can we expect any cool things from Farafina this year?
The Nigerian publishing industry is a many-pronged thing. There are publishers of educational books, religious books, fiction and so on. I honestly cannot predict the future of the industry. We just plan for it as much as we’re able to.
I will say though, that a lot more people are self-publishing and that’s a good thing for the industry.I will say though, that a lot more people are self-publishing and that’s a good thing for the industry. - @jyte12 on publishing in Nigeria. Click To Tweet
Aren’t we always doing cool things?
We have an e-book platform, www.farafinabooks.com which we launched late last year. We plan to launch the mobile app later this year. We’ll be publishing two winners from the 2018 Okadabooks/GTBank Manuscript Prize.
Enajite Efemuaye is the managing editor at Kachifo Limited, an independent publishing house in Lagos Nigeria. She is a sometimes writer and retired graphic artist, with a chemical engineering degree which she has never used.
Connect with Jite on Twitter.
I’ll be interviewing more freelancers in the coming months. Do you have any specific questions about freelancing, regardless of your specific field? I also plan to share some tips I’ve found useful, so I’d like to know your interest areas 🙂