African publishing innovation showcase: Accord Literary
One of the projects the APIF supported in 2020 is led by Accord Literary, a Ghanaian-British partnership to mentor, develop and encourage African writers to create books for young readers.
Accord is the brainchild of children’s publishing titans Sarah Odedina and Deborah Ahenkorah Osei-Agyekum, who have made it their mission to find original, unique voices and get their books into the hands of readers around the world.
Deborah and Sarah won a $20,000 grant from the APIF to do something about the acute lack of African fiction available to children in Africa and around the world.
Local voices for local minds
Using the APIF sponsorship, Accord Literary developed a programme to cultivate local talent and produce high quality, relevant stories that accurately reflect African children’s lives.
Sarah and Deborah believe that when young readers in Africa and beyond can read stories that accurately portray the contemporary African experience and debunk the stereotypes and misconceptions, then African publishing can flourish.
Having signed up seven new authors and secured Norton Young Readers as a major publishing partner, Accord will launch six new titles over the next three years, including two in 2021.
Deborah told the APIF: ‘It’s incredibly exciting. We’re working with sub agents who are selling the rights of the books into different markets. We have organized several online workshops and training for writers, reaching about 300 authors over the past 18 months.’
Sow today, reap tomorrow
Accord’s work starts with discovering writing talent wherever they can, from calls for submissions and writing workshops at literary festivals and events, to liaising with writers’ associations that can connect them to emerging talents. In this sense, Accord acts as a literary agent, which is currently an undeveloped link in the African publishing value chain.
Having identified a number of promising new authors and their work, Deborah and Sarah then identify the key improvement areas and use this to design a series of masterclasses that will enable the writers to hone their abilities and bring out their best work.
Accord then provides hands-on editorial support to select authors and helps them license the rights to their work in Africa and internationally so the authors can build a viable career from their talent.
Deborah added: ‘With this combined approach of strategic partnerships, direct work with authors, open submission initiatives and appearances at festivals and events, we will create a platform for change that will disrupt the traditional model of publishing in Africa and for African writers around the world. We hope we can contribute to developing the new generation of African writers who are creating books for young readers.’
Taking reading beyond the classroom
In 2021 the APIF’s focus is on other innovations to develop recreational reading culture a perennial African challenge that is at the heart of Accord’s mission.
Deborah told us: ‘The trouble with the reading culture in Africa is fiction and book lovers are in the minority, and we are expecting the majority, who do not appreciate the magic of books, to inspire children to read at home or in school. I think the key is to really empower those already doing things to inspire children to read and help them to scale. From those organizing reading clubs to community library programs to NGO reading programs, we really need to fund, promote and give wings to such projects. One person can create a whole community of children book lovers and that is powerful.’