IBBY-Yamada 2008: Ghana

Workshop to promote publishing in Ghana

There has been a section in Ghana for many years and in 2008 it joined with the Osu Library Fund and the Ghana Publishers Association to run a workshop with the aim of improving the publishing for children in Ghana.  Participants came from Ghana as well as from neighbouring Nigeria.  The programme included a number of sessions designed to improve the quality of Africa children's books, and especially tips on how to improve production to meet international standards.  This is sadly lacking and international publishers very rarely take books from Sub Saharan Africa.  The session on making picture books was led by Niki Daly from South Africa. He gave an insight into the making of picture books and into the detailed preparations needed for quality publications.

The two-day workshop was held 6-8 November at the Novotel Hotel in Accra in conjunction with the 7th Ghana International Book Fair.  The participants of the workshop were publishers from Ghana and Nigeria, book distributors, booksellers, librarians and academics from the university.  In all 49 participants were present and 7 speakers.

The seven sessions covered: 

  • Marketing and distribution; 
  • meeting export standards; 
  • managing the publishing process; 
  • making picture books in Africa; 
  • creating photo books for children; 
  • books enjoyed by Ghanaian children and why; 
  • developing a meaningful partnership with IBBY.

The sessions were well managed and brought out some lively debates! There is not only a great desire to produce and publish better books for children, but also to join the international network. Akoss Ofori-Mensah from Sub-Saharan Publishers is one of the most successful Ghanaian publishers in the international market and she urged her colleagues to improve standards, otherwise she felt that African publishing would always be on the sidelines in the global market. It was time to lose the image of being a poor cousin that was always looking for subvention, and worse – known for always taking it for granted.  Even though it was expensive to attend the major book fairs, the effort would pay off over the years if the product was good enough.

More training is needed to market and sell titles and marketing departments should be introduced – there are very few so far.  According to the speakers the whole business needs to be upgraded, from encouraging authors and illustrators to having trained staff in bookshops.

The session on making picture books was led by Niki Daly from South Africa. He gave an insight into the making of picture books and into the detailed preparations needed for quality publications.  This aspect is mainly overlooked and illustrators usually seem to be an afterthought and often are overruled in their work by the editor!  

Kathy Knowles, one of the organizers of the workshop, and founder of the Osu Children's Library Fund, talked about making her photos books. Although up to now the majority of her books have been published in Canada, she hopes to publish in Ghana soon.  The session on what local children like to read was very interesting, especially for the publishers. They do not seem to do any market research! 

The main points that came out of the workshop are:
1.    Improvement of basic standards: better copyediting and editing, etc
2.    Improve the process from idea to customer
3.    Better packaging and styling
4.    Better market research 
5.    More serious approach to the global market
6.    Build international contacts.

The overall feeling was very positive.  The workshop brought together speakers who shared their expertise and gave the participants a great deal to think about and act on. IBBY now has a role to keep all these ideas flowing and through IBBY Ghana this could be a platform for an improvement in the publishing for children in Ghana.

The following day participants, who were not tied up with their own work at the book fair, had an excursion to visit three of the Accra Osu libraries.