Ayo Oyeku was born and raised in Ibadan. His career as a writer made an early mark in 2004, when his first children’s book First among Equals, was selected by the World Bank for distribution across schools and libraries in the country. Subsequently, his works began to appear in several anthologies and journals including Brittle Paper, AFREADA, VINYL, Kalahari Review, The Sky is Our Earth, According to Sources (Writers Project of Ghana, 2015), EXPERIMENTAL WRITING: Volume 1 and Africa vs Latin America Anthology.
His first novel won the Ezenwa Ohaeto Prize for Fiction, awarded by the Society of Young Nigerian Writers. In 2016, he was shortlisted for the prestigious Golden Baobab Prize in the Early Chapters category. He has been longlisted for the 2018 Golden Baobab Prize in the Early Chapters category. He lives in Ibadan, where he is the Editor for Eleventh House publishing company.
It’s great to have you Sir.
How has your day been?
It’s been pleasant. Rainy day, cool weather.
It’s been the same here too. So let’s get right to it. Sir, can you tell us about Eleventh House Publishing and the purpose behind its establishment?
Eleventh House is a home for writers who see the world differently. Cutting across all genres, we have a keen eye for bold writers who are willing to bring their legacies to life. Our purpose is to use our unique publishing methods to turn their dreams into books.
Wow this is profound. As a publisher, would you say you are open to all genres?
And if not, what genres would you say you publish more and tend to get more attracted to?
Yes, I am open to all genres.
Presently, submissions received are mostly poetry, prose and children’s fiction. I look forward to more daring projects relating to tech, history, academic materials, etc. The bottom line is to make reading fun, easy, understandable and profitable.
Wow. Poetry. That’s wonderful. Speaking about submissions, what really catches your eye when you get a submission?
The writer’s style, the motive for writing, the bookshelf life of the content. This is not common but I have come to understand that all three are necessary to turn a simple writing in an uncertain time into a magnum opus. The three connecting dots, so to speak.
How often do you publish manuscripts from the “Slush” pile and not from an agent?
The idea is to publish a book per month, not more. So far, it has not been so. The idea is to always look out for unique manuscripts from all entries received. We prefer writer’s with unique voices — something more than expected.
A book per month! That is so big. Wow. How long does the whole publishing process take?
The process differs per content/genre. For example, if it’s a poetry chapbook (a collection of 25 poems) with either paperback or hardcover, it can be designed and published in 3 weeks. This is not the case for all manuscripts. Some take several weeks, while others take months.
Exactly, I’m much more familiar with manuscripts that take months. How often do you turn down books you don’t really enjoy? Probably, books that don’t meet up with all the three connecting dots?
There are many writers out there but most submissions don’t have a good shelf life. Life is moving at a fast pace, and readers don’t have the patience to build a cult-like following for writers anymore. But these are the writers I am looking for. Sadly, there are few of them.
Hmm, cult- like following.
It’s sad though, that our narratives are changing. I’m curious, have you ever regretted turning a new author down?
Sadly, no. I don’t regret anything. It’s all about perspectives. I might have made a wrong decision by turning down an author, it’s left for the author to prove me wrong (or make a fine statement). I have been in this position before. No misgivings whatsoever.
This is impressive. Is self publishing a barrier to being traditionally published later on?
No! For a fact, it’s a good window to being traditionally published. It’s more like winning a writing competition — it draws attention and opportunities. I know writers often abuse this privilege. It’s wise to see your manuscript like a child that requires tenderness & detailed attention. Treating a manuscript like a child and paying attention to details.
So, let’s briefly turn to other half of Mr. Ayo Oyeku. The Author! Sir, you signed your first publishing deal at age 17, and two of your children’s books were published in 2004. One of the books was selected by the World Bank for distribution across the country. That is every writer’s dream. To be known and be commended for your effort and works. However beyond that, what is literary success to you?
At 17, I wasn’t sure how far I could go as a writer. It was just a daring attempt that subsequently paved ways. Literary success to me is helping other writers bring their dreams to life, break glass ceilings and set new standards. We don’t have to always look to the West.
This is apt! This is our essence at the Tribe. Breaking grounds and paving new paths.
Lastly, a question coming from a Tribesman; Zoe. “Sir, may I ask what the publishing process for poetry anthologies are. Do you offer traditional or vanity publishing deal?”
The publishing house offers both. Your submission determines our decision. Note: I’m not the sole decision maker on submitted manuscripts. We have a team. Any of the deals won’t make you less of a writer. You will be known eventually, if you keep trying.
This interview was conducted by Victoria Olajide. Drop your thoughts in the comments section!