Report by Dayo Emmanuel
Members of Journalists For Christ International Outreach who attended the just concluded Litt-Africa Conference in Ghana have shared their experiences and lessons learnt at the November 2019 fellowship in Lagos.
The conference organized by Media Associates International (MAI) which had participants from about 20 African countries provided a good opportunity for Christian writers, editors, marketers and publishers from various backgrounds to exchange ideas for improving their publishing endeavours.
Speaking at the fellowship, President of the Journalists For Christ, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin who was at the conference in Ghana explained the theme of the programme and share lessons learnt.
“The theme is Bringing Word to Life, the same thing we did in Singapore last year. We decided to retain the theme,” he said, as he read from John 1:1-10.
Continuing, Otufodunrin said, “One of the reasons for the theme is that we are talking about the word of God. As writers, we need to make the word of God real in our lives.
“Writing for the Christian readers is challenging because we live at a time people have so much to read,” he said.
Recalling what happened during the conference Otufodunrin said the event addressed various aspects of publishing.
“On Tuesday the opening charge was about leading your publishing house rapidly in a changing time. Even in the Christian world publishing is changing.
“The program anchor said we live in a changing time but our God remains the same, the Bible says He is the same yesterday today and forevermore.”
On how to adapt to the changing times and disruption of the traditional publishing cycle? He explained that “Many things are going to change. We need to know and admit that things are changing. Our churches are changing. We want to reach the world, we must find out what is working, but we need to be very watchful.”
Explaining further, Otufodunrin said, “We also learnt about the Christian leader as a transformation leader. We learnt about effective marketing strategies.
“There was a speaker from Nigeria Lara Odebiyi who started with publishing a Christian magazine online before printing the hard copy and later holding women conferences,” he said.
“There was Jennifer Karina from Kenya who shared about how to build your author’s platform. In her own story, she cited an example of how God used her writing to minister to marriages in Kenya.
“According to her, writing is easy but you have to understand it. She said you must write in your area of knowledge. You must know your target audience; you must know what you are writing about.”
“She also talked about being authentic. She said it is not enough to publish, you must be ready to market it, you must be the chief marketing officer of that book and you must be able to use the social media,” she said.
Dayo Emmanuel, Administrative Secretary of JFC who also attended the conference also shared some major highlights for him.
“One of the things I learnt is that writing for Christian audience doesn’t mean the writer should be casual,” he said, saying that the main speaker on the first day made so much sense to him.
“The main speaker on the first day is a man with great publishing experience. He said a Christian publisher must always be at his best and must mind quality.
“We should be able to put our faith into what we do and we should preach the gospel with our work. As publishers of the good news we must not take our clients for granted,” he said.
According to him, the speaker, Elliot Agyare who is the CEO of Smartline Publishing House and Chairman of the Ghana Book Publishers Association said publishers should take their clients seriously.
According to Agyare, publishers should take their clients seriously because if the job is well done both parties would gain.
“Someone with 40,000 followers on social media coming to you for publishing is already coming with his own market. If you do it right, it is going to be a win-win situation because he is going to mention you to his audience.”
Emmanuel also said part of the lessons learnt at breakout workshops was that bookshops are disappearing and authors and publishers should understand this reality.
“The speaker said bookshops are disappearing, newspapers are going online but the paper is still very much with us. The resilience of the printed matter is still there.
“He also talked about books going online and we can still publish our contents. If we can’t do it in hard copes we can take advantage of the soft copies.
“According to the speaker, territories are breaking down, you don’t have to be in the US to publish your books or to sell your books, it is never too late to start documenting our lives,” he said.
Publisher of Church Times Nigeria, Mr. Gbanga Osinaike another participant from Nigeria said “the basic lessons I took from the event are from the workshops. The workshops were quite enlightening.”
“I learnt there should be a platform for our readers and there should be a synergy between the authors and their followers.
“That synergy must be there. I also learnt that there is a need to also give voice to the voiceless. Particularly in a workshop by ladies from Uganda, they wrote a book containing the stories of widows that did some great things.
“I also learnt the need to keep pace with the new trends in publishing, not to allow modern technology to drive one away from publishing but to learn to adapt to the new trends in publishing,” he said.
Members at the fellowship thank the participants for the briefing which they said has challenged them to maximise their writing and publishing potentials.
Otufodunrin announced a plan by JFC to start a publishing organisation to encourage members to publish books and other content.
Copies of African Writers: A Journey in Writing by MAI was shared in pairs to members.