Panelists: Kola Tubosun, James Murua, Anote Ajeluorou
Moderator: Oris Aigbokhaevbolo
An important thing for writers is how they and their work engage with their audience and one of the ways this happens is via the media.
The panel which was moderated by Oris Aigbokhaevbolo was made up of journalist Anote Ajeluoruo, Kenyan blogger James Murua and linguist/poet Kola Tubosun.
The panel discussion began with a poem by Kola Tubosun who read an adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s Telephone Conversation.
A lot of the discussion revolved around how the actions of an author or who they are affects how their work is received and handled by media.
“If you as a writer have a book with a certain theme, it will have a lot of coverage from the section of media which appreciates it. It’s a function of what the audience you cater to wants,” James said. So media may sometimes pigeonhole a write based on what ideals that writer has expressed consistently. So a Chimamanda Adichie’s work runs the risk of being looked at as feminist whether or that is the theme of the work in question.
Away from writing, more and more writers are beginning to treat themselves as a brand. How does this affect how traditional media interacts with such writers?
“Newspapers feed on what is trending,” Anote Ajeluoruo who runs the literary pages of Guardian Nigeria said. “Branding does play a role in engagement.” He added that sometimes writers might want to change up and move to a new form and that might present a challenge because they have been known for one thing consistently.
The discussion moved to how bloggers are viewed in literary circles. The moderator has a thing for what he called ‘serious writing’, which he repeated a lot. The question of whether criticism by bloggers should be taken seriously came up.
"A lot of people just want to know whether to buy a book or not and that’s where bloggers come in. Newspaper reviews are more like an art form and they have their audience. A lot of writers prefer blog reviews because it helps them sell books,” James said.
“So it is a matter of influence over seriousness?” Oris asked.
The traditional journalist had an answer. “These days we realise that people have less time to read long reviews so we try to combine the traditional style and what the times call for. We keep the pieces short.”
How do blogs contribute to critical acclaim of a book? “The books which are considered serious are the high art of the literary world,” James said. “Blogs are a medium where people want to get information on a book they want to read. Blogging is about people’s needs.”
The use of social media for engagement with readers came under discussion. For a lot of writers social media is a way to connect with their writers and give them a better understanding of their work. As James Murua however said, “It doesn’t matter how well you brand if you don’t have the art, it doesn’t matter.”
Works will find their readers, no matter what the mass appeal is or populace thinks.
Enajite Efemuaye works as enterprise editor at Kachifo Limited, one of Nigeria’s foremost independent publishers, and is also the Manager of Farafina Trust. Her work has been published in African Independent, This is Africa, Ake Review, Sabinews.com, Guardian Life Magazine and Brittle Paper.