2016 Miles Morland Winners Announced

And the Winners are:

*Abdul Adan – Somalia

*Ayesha Harruna Attah – Ghana

*Lidudumalingani Mqombothi – South Africa

*Nneoma Ike-Njoku – Nigeria


Julie Iromuanya, author of Mr. and Mrs Doctor, is shortlisted for a 2016 Miles Morland Scholarship

The fourth annual Miles Morland Scholarship for African writers has announced an impressive shortlist:

*Abdul Adan – Somalia (Shortlisted for the 2016 Caine Prize; Founding member of the Jalada collective)

*Jekwu Anyaegbuna – Nigeria (Shortlisted for the 2012 Commonwealth Short Story Prize: Africa; Shortlisted by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for the Farafina Trust International Creative Writers’ Programme)

*Ayesha Harruna Attah – Ghana (Shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize; author of two novels including Harmattan Rain and Saturday’s Shadows)

*Rotimi Babatunde – Nigeria (Winner of the 2012 Caine Prize; Longlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award; included in the Africa39 Anthology)

*Dayo Forster – Gambia (Author of Reading the Ceiling)

*Amy Heydenrych – South Africa (Author of the short story “The Money Shot“)

*Abubakar Ibrahim – Nigeria (Author of The Season of Crimson Blossoms, The Whispering Trees, Daughters of Bappa Avenue, and The Quest for Nina;  winner of the 2016 Nigeria Prize for Literature; included in the Africa39 Anthology)

*Nneoma Ike-Njoku – Nigeria (Author of the short story “Daddy Lagos;” Recipient of a Writing for Peace Young Writers Prize)

*Julie Iromuanya – Nigeria (Author of Mr and Mrs. Doctor; Shortlisted for the 2016 PEN/Faulkner Award and PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction; Longlisted for the 2016 National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize for Debut Fiction and the Etisalat Prize for Literature)

*Hamse Ismail – Somalia (Author of the short story “Mediterranean Bird: A Quest for Love in Paradise,” a Mandela Washington Fellow at the University of Delaware in Newark)
William Ifeanyi Moore – Nigeria (Author of Lonely Roads and 30/30: Short stories on love, life and other such nonsense)

*Lidudumalingani Mqombothi – South Africa (Winner of the 2016 Caine Prize)

*Nick Mulgrew – South Africa (Author of Stations, The Myth of This is that We’re All in this Together; Co-Editor of Water: New Short Fiction from AfricaFounder of the poetry press, uHlanga)

*Otosirieze Obi-Young – Nigeria (Author of “The Lion in Harmattan;” 2015 Pushcart Prize Nominee)

*Okwiri Oduor – Kenya (Winner of the 2014 Caine Prize; included in the Africa39 Anthology and One World Two: A Second Anthology of Global Short Stories)

*Adeola Opeyemi – Nigeria (Editor at WriteHouse Collective)
Olawale Olayemi – Nigeria (Freelance Writer)

*Troy Onyango – Kenya (Winner of the 2016 Inaugural Nyanza Literary Prize)

*Mary Ononokpono – Nigeria (Winner of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books; Shortlisted for the 2015 Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship; included in the anthology of Water: New Short Fiction from Africa)

*Koye Oyedeji – Nigeria (Writer; Critic; Literature Professor)

*Bryony Rheam – Zimbabwe (Author of This September SunWinner of the Best First Book prize at the 2010 Zimbabwe Book Publishers’ Association Awards)

*Sandisile Tshuma – Zimbabwe (Honourable Mention in the 2010 Thomas Pringle Awards for the best short story published in a newspaper or journal in southern Africa in the preceding two years)

The Miles Morland Foundation will award one Fiction grant of £18,000 to be paid monthly over the course of 12 months, and one Non-Fiction scholarship at the discretion of the Foundation of up to £27,000, paid over an 18 month period.

Random House Uses E.L. James & Other Authors to Defend Publishers' Importance

A month after author Joe Simpson went on camera to explain why he parted ways with Random House, the publisher recruited E.L. James and nine other authors to sing its praises, and that of publishers in general. With self-publishing tools enabling authors and agents to bypass publishers and Amazon offering more attractive returns on e-book sales, publishers have been forced to prove their value. Interestingly, James originally self-published Fifty Shades of Gray.

Random House’s authors argue that the publisher’s value lies in their vast amount of resources from copyediting to cover art to marketing. “Organizing the book tour that I did in the U.S.; doing some events here in the U.K. — as a self-publisher, that’s just so time-consuming,” James said.

Sir Terry Leahy added, “You hear nowadays, with the internet and digital, that people won’t need publishers, you know? They can self-publish, and so on. My experience at Random House really taught me how important the publishers’ contribution is.” Leahy and the others also touted the relationship with the publishers, noting the importance of having a team on the author’s side.

It’s important to note that the authors speaking on their behalf are among the publisher’s most successful which means they most probably got the “cosseting” writer Joanna Trollope is referring to. They also ignore the reality that authors — self-published or not — can’t afford to sit back and let the publisher handle the marketing alone. As author Ayesha Harruna-Attah pointed out in a recent interview, “Whether you go with a big publisher or a small one, you are ultimately the one who has to make sure people hear about the book.”

I think Random House could do better than this hard sell that doesn’t address why more and more authors are taking advantage of self-publishing tools to get their work out.

Authors are frustrated by most traditional publisher’s closed-door policy when it comes to submitting manuscripts. It can take years to find a literary agent (as it did in my case), and then years after that for an agent to sell a writer’s work. As a case-in-point, author Chinedu Achebe says he chose to self-publish because “because telling my story and getting it out was the most important thing to me. …I didn’t have time to write letters to different publishing houses to see if they would want my manuscript.” Additionally, the economics of self-publishing can be more advantageous for authors if they choose to distribute their work digitally or via print-on-demand services.

If I were Random House, instead of discussing relationships and copyediting, I’d be trumpeting the one main advantage publishers still have over self-publishing: upfront money. Even though book advances are apparently not what they used to be, it’s still a lump sum of cash, whereas self-publishing can requires thousands of dollars to cover printing and other costs.

As a secondary point, the editors’ expertise borne of years of experience in the business is important too. Publishers must have miles of data of readers’ buying habits down to gender, region, etc that is advantageous to writers for marketing as well as story editing.

That said, Random House and other publishers need to look at other ways to increase their attractiveness. Tor UK, for example, has done so by lifting the gates formerly kept by agents, allowing authors to submit manuscripts directly to editors. What do you think? What else can / should publishers do to prove their worth to authors?

Author Ayesha Harruna Attah: Big or Small Publisher, You Have to Sell Your Book

Ayesha Harruna Attah - peoplewhowrite

Author Ayesha Harruna Attah

Though most writers are stuck on the traditional publishing dream, there are so many different and viable paths and options to publication. In addition to getting published by a traditional house or self-publishing your novel, there are small presses as well as literary groups like the Harlem Writers Guild that publish members’ works. Author Ayesha Harruna Attah’s debut novel Harmattan Rain, for example, was published by a co-op called Per Ankh which is run by a collective of friends.

Here, Attah shares her publishing experience; careful to point out, “Whether you go with a big publisher or a small one, you are ultimately the one who has to make sure people hear about the book.”

How/why did you choose Per Ankh to publish Harmattan Rain?
Per Ankh is a publishing cooperative run by a worldwide group of friends who choose the books they want to publish. Per Ankh also runs a writers’ workshop, Per Sesh, for young African writers and gives them the resources—space, time, mentorship—to write novel-length manuscripts. I’d applied and been accepted to Per Sesh, and four months into the nine-month fellowship one of Per Ankh’s members, Dr. Natalia Kanem, came to visit and heard me read excerpts of my work in progress. After that meeting she decided to invest in Harmattan Rain and have it published. And here we are! Luckily, Per Ankh chose me and I did not have to seek other publishers.

Please share the details of your publication process.
One of the goals of the Per Sesh workshop is to have African writers be more independent, so in addition to learning to be better writers we were taught how to typeset manuscripts, the ins and outs of the business of publishing, and what goes into distribution. This meant that I had control over everything from the book cover to the kind of paper Harmattan Rain was made from. The cover art, for instance, was painted by the son of Ayi Kwei Armah, the author of several novels including The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and coordinator of Per Ankh. This isn’t an experience a lot of writers get, and it’s made me a lot more savvy on what goes on backstage once your manuscript is completed. With editing, once the book was completed I sent the manuscript to Per Ankh members as well as people whose editing I trust (my mother, for instance, is a mean editor!). It took about seven months for the physical book to appear.

Harmattan Rain by Ayesha Harruna Attah - peoplewhowrite

Harmattan Rain was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize

How did your publisher support you once the book was finished?
Once the book was done, a member of Per Ankh, Bonnie Kwan, helped distribute the book in the US, and Dr. Kanem threw a launch party in New York City. Another member, Ama Gueye, introduced me to Centerprise Books in the UK, where I held a reading. Ayi Kwei Armah has become a lifelong mentor and I find myself emailing him when I seemed blocked or unsure if I’m cut out for this writing life.

What’s the biggest revelation you’ve had about the publishing business in your experience getting Harmattan Rain published?
Whether you go with a big publisher or a small one, you are ultimately the one who has to make sure people hear about the book. Books are constantly being published and after yours has received some buzz another hot piece will soon kick it out of the way. You have to keep it in peoples’ sight by using channels like social media, word of mouth etc. Then again, some might say a good book is a good book, and it will do the talking for itself.

How do you think technology is impacting the discovery of good books?
I’m fascinated with the current evolution of publishing. Everyone is scared technology is turning people into Philistines, but I disagree. If anything we have more access to books than ever before, and I’m convinced a lot of people are taking advantage of that. It’s not just the religious leader’s job to be literate and translate to the masses. Now, if you have a kindle, nook, or Ipad you can get a copy of Anna Karenina with one swipe. This is not to say I don’t buy physical books. I love the feel and smell of books that have been sitting on shelves for goodness knows how long, and flipping through a book I’m really excited about for the first time makes me heady!

What advice do you have for authors currently shopping their manuscripts for publication?
Don’t give up! Keep trying. The publishing world is not an easy one to break into. You also have to learn to be creative. If the traditional way isn’t working for you, look into contests, smaller presses, even publishing an e-book. You never know how that might open up possibilities for you.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned overall?
Keep writing. Writing, like any profession, has to be honed and crafted. One of the best ways to do this is to read good and bad writing. Bad writing will show you what you don’t like and what pitfalls to avoid. Good writing you can steal from and then make your own. Read everything. The back of a cereal box might inspire your next great short story!