Susu for Ghanaian Writers

Say what you want to about Nigerians, but I don’t know of another group of people – as a collective -more driven towards success in our corner of the continent. And they love to flaunt it. They are ostentatious, extravagant creatures, and couldn’t care less how you feel about their unabashed display of their vibrant plumage. So renowned for their self-assurance that when Komla Dumor met Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister for Nigeria and a woman whom he had at that time always wanted to interview, she addressed and greeted him as ‘Kola’ – a Nigerian name.

He corrected her politely saying “Excuse me, Ma, but I’m a Ghanaian.”

“Really?” she replied, her eyes apparently widened in shock as Komla re-enacted the events. “But you are so confident!”

He revealed at the TedEx event where he was relaying this story that he often got mistaken for a Nigerian for that very reason: he exuded confidence.

What is the trait that Ghanaians are noted for? If someone of a different nationality behaved in x way or exhibited a certain peculiarity, what would that thing be? (Hopefully no one says cowardice!)

In many ways, Ghanaians are playing catch up and second fiddle to Nigeria. They outdress us. They outspend us. They are shrewd businessmen and women, have virtually taken over Ghana’s banking industry. And the one that pains me the most, the area that caused me many a sleepless night in 2013 after Chinua Achebe passed from this world: they are known as the literary giants of Africa. How! How I say when Ama Ataa Aidoo is sitting in Accra!?!

No, no, no…

I can’t do a daggone thing about fashion or banking, as these are not my areas of expertise, but I can lend my voice and apply some pressure to the literary shortcomings that now beset the land of my birth. I humbly admit that our go-to-market strategies as Ghanaian authors is severely lacking, but I find that in that regard, there is no better time to Act like a Ghanaian, and Think like a Nigerian.

My friend and fellow young Ghanaian author, Boakyewaa Glover (The Justice) recently wrote on her Facebook page that it was increasingly “getting hard out here for a writer”. Her books have been stocked (and sold out) at SyTris and Sylverbird, two of the biggest bookstores in the capital for weeks. She wants to restock the books, however she can only do so if she agrees to what amounts to a 40% levy on the sale of each book. As she broke down what amounts to highway robbery, a violent beating and a “Dear Jane” letter left of the night stand, I saw the dilemma. Independent writers often spend more money than they make on the release of every work we do. There are printing and shipping costs, stocking fees at book stores, travel expenses for promotion, not to mention the dollars/cedis we spend in creative time. The time it takes to write something worth reading is not cheap. It requires sacrifice on several levels: sleep, time with family and friends, and in my case, time to exercise. I only know of one author who seems to have found the formula to independent success, eating right and exercise, and that is the inimitable Nana Malone.

All this is to say that we writers – and the people who love our work – have a unique opportunity with a new go-to-market strategy in Ghana. (Now, I’m going to say what I have to say and let it be known immediately that I have not talked to any of the people involved in the business aspect of this idea. I just told you I’m not a finance girl. I’m big picture.)

Many of Ghana’s authors are part of the country’s burgeoning blogging community. I took the foray into becoming a novelist after garnering some respect and success in the online space. So when I saw that BlogginGh had launched an Indiegogo campaign to finance new space in Accra for their offices, I was geeked. And then I saw Boakyewaa’s Facebook post and my head almost exploded.

It all made sense.

Why don’t we just cut out the vampires at the book store and have our books stocked at a space where writers (and therefore readers) gather? Why don’t we incorporate the idea of a Writer’s Alliance into the Ghana Blogging new physical space? They basically have the format in place with the Citi FM hosted events highlighting authors every month. What we need is ‘susu’ (communal donations for an individual or group cause) for writers. This is a natural progression! Of course we can work out the details of the susu, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point I really need to get to is that we really need to encourage our readers to give to this Indiegogo campaign. I’ve done my bit, and I’ll be having my brick on the wall when the project is done, but I and the 5 other people who have donated at the brick level can’t get a wall without the generosity of like-minded people.

And can I go ahead and tell you something? There is nothing more painful as a writer than having someone ask me where they can get a physical copy of my book.

“Oh! You can get it on Amazon.”

“Ah. I see…well, I live in Takoradi.”

Then there is that pregnant pause in the conversation. The conception that happens every time I have this conversation with someone on the continent. I calculate the cost of mailing one book from Atlanta to Accra and sheepishly,  I ask:

“Do you have a Kindle?”

We have 21 days left to fund this endeavor, and I KNOW we can do it. We saved the Rex. We raised money to fight jaundice. I know we can and will save (or create) a viable biblioindustry (yes, I just made up a word) in Ghana!

Hey…I just thought of a Ghanaian trait! Optimistic.


*Click here for a link to the campaign–2/x/5297180