A wise man once told me, do not speak or write when you are angry. ok I lied, a wise man never told me that ish[sic]….I read it on the Internet some time ago when I was searching for crap to kill time with.
Nonetheless it is very good advise, because when you are angry you can write ish[sic] that you will regret…so I am probably going to regret this article I am about to write. But I have to write it because I am sick and tired of getting robbed by Nigerian bookstores. Bookstores who take your books, sell your books and then give you the run around for your own money…frustrating you to the point that you succumb to their bureaucracy and forget about your books and payment.
In reality forgetting about the money is what I have considered doing for a while. Which means ignore my anger and act as if everything is ok…but everything is not ok! I am sick sick sick. Sick and tired of scratching recharge cards and calling bookstores only to receive stories such as madam is not around, call back in 2 weeks (which occurs exactly 2 weeks after being told that same phrase), our manager just got fired, our manager is not around or the classic: I thought we had paid you already.
I have heard so many excuses, that I am half waiting for a book titled: THE EXCUSES: How To Steal Money From Nigerian Authors By Creating Stories. written by ________ bookstore!
Sadly, I realized that If I publicly expressed how I truly felt about this situation my books might never appear at those bookstores ever again…but then I realized that If I didn’t speak up, they would continue with their silent robbery and keep stealing from authors, while living under the false pretense that they are doing us a favor. And then I can imagine that little girl with dreams of making a living as an author having to deal with the whole bureaucratic nonsense all over again. So I decided to step forward and speak up against the silent robbery going on daily in some Nigerian bookstores.
I call the robbery silent because you don’t realize that you are being robbed. These stores make you write letters and letters before they take your books, then they charge you anywhere from 30 to 40 percent on all sales made. But when they are done selling the books that you marketed yourself, they will keep silent. The only way to know that you have any money is to stalk call or visit them. And when you do make contact, they put you on a bureaucratic spin of robbery through frustration.
They make you call and call, visit and visit and then tell you tons of stories but you never see your money just excuses. Their whole strategy is that if enough authors get the run around, they will end up getting frustrated and giving up thus making the bookstores a cool 100 percent profit on their books. They might deny it, but this is exactly what they do whether indirectly or directly.
Which is why the robbery is silent, you don’t know it is occurring but overtime you start to realize, that if you are this frustrated there are surely 30-40 authors out there who have given up on collecting their money. The culmination of monies given up is where the silent but deadly robbery occurs. So I said enough! I will not keep quite again. I will speak up against bookstores, especially the management of those stores…
Number one on this list of silent robbery are the folks of Silverbird bookstores. No one does a better job at silent robbery than Silverbird. I often take great pride in saying that my books are in Silverbird Port-harcourt, Lagos, Abuja and Ghana…people like to hear that…what they don’t know is that I am being owed over N250,000 in sold books from all 4 stores combined and anywhere from 6-12 months overdue! To this date Port-Harcourt (finally made first payment 2 weeks ago) and Ghana are yet to pay a dime…I take that back…a kobo for any books supplied to them.
I have spoken to numerous Managers, sat down in many offices but all I hear are the same old recycled excuses…the first time I heard them it made sense, but when I heard them over and over again I began to get suspicious. It was always the Manager or accountant is not around or the manager is on vacation or we are working to improve our payment system….yada yada…
I mean I have never walked into a Silverbird mall and been like: “You see my manager was not around this month so he didn’t pay me my salary…so do you think it is okay for me to buy a book, eat popcorn and watch your movie and then pay you when my manager comes back in 6 months time?” I am sure would get slapped and hurled out by security if I tried that. So why does Silverbird bookstores believe they can do the same to authors.
What irks me even more is that Silverbird Lagos and many of the stores owing money are within driving distance…so I can visit them everyday but yet amazon.com whose manager I have never met and whose office location I have no idea where it is, send me payment and a monthly statement without me asking for it. It just appears in my account like magic.
And yet amazon manages more inventory than all the Silverbird stores combined times a couple hundred. But Silverbird on the other hand believes that paying authors monies owed to them on time is magically impossible or that authors are not worthy of a monthly statement and check without them making numerous emails or calls!
If you can read this Silverbird and Glendora, know that it is not okay, to owe authors over a year without paying them their money, that is stealing, it is not okay to make them run around for their own money, that is insensitive and dis-respectful (and let’s not forget the opportunity cost of them running around could be used to write another book or rest…but I digress).
And authors out there reading this…it is not okay for you to fight and scream before you get paid…it is not okay to spend precious minutes running around visiting bookstores for sales update…More importantly, it is not okay to keep quiet when you know you are being owed or being given the run around.
If everyone keeps quiet nothing will change…If you have an experience positive or negative I do encourage you to share so that people know whats going on. I beg that you do not get clouded with the over excitement of having your book in a fancy bookstore, because if they are not paying you after sales it pointless!
Ironically I have offered solutions to Silverbird before (especially the Lagos branch). I suggested having a discussion forum with authors to see how they can improve their system, but that fell on deaf ears. I asked if they could pay authors ahead of time so they don’t owe anybody, but they said they only do that for foreign authors (I really don’t know what they meant by foreign authors).
I even suggested them setting up an automated direct deposit system…and I was told that would be too much work for them (huh). I was even told to adjust to the Nigeria way and toughen up and call more aggressively for my money. Excuse me…
So I have decided….F it! I am not giving my books anymore to bookstores who owe me money. They might be the biggest bookstores in Nigeria, but size is not defined by square footage but rather by quality and efficiency of service. Nigerian bookstores that understand this concept are the folks at TerraCulture and Laterna.
They both call you up when your check is ready and even deposit the money into your account along with a sales report. That’s how business should be done. They don’t tell fictional stories about your own money or book sales, they are up front with you…if the Silverbird’s, the Hub’s and the Glendora’s of Nigeria borrow a leaf book (a page simply won’t be enough) from the Laterna’s and Terraculture’s…authors will sell more and bookstores will even make more money and everybody will be happy.
But yet they still maintain their status-quo of excuses upon excuses upon excuses…bleeding authors dry with frustration. But we can make them stop by speaking up…