Publiseer is a literature and music publishing platform created by Nigerian twins, Chidi & Chika Nwaogu based in Lagos. The platform aids Nigerian writers and musicians in distributing their content online, globally, at no cost. The idea was birthed when Chidi wrote a book and Chika recorded a song and they both encountered unreal roadblocks in trying to distribute their work, which shouldn’t be a thing in today’s digital world. Publiseer bridges the divide hindering African writers from having their voices heard and it does so without charging exorbitant fees for publishing, it also aids the plethora of musicians vying for a place on the global stage with a simple streamlined process that excludes the exploitation familiar with Nigerian music distributors.
The young start-up recently emerging as one of 14 finalists at the 2018 Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition has been growing steadily, averaging more than five submissions daily, and they currently have over 135 writers and musicians on the platform, published 65 books and 144 albums. In an African environment that’s never had a real structure to distribute content both locally and internationally, Publiseer like many other African digital publishing platforms is a welcomed change, aiding to share our stories and sounds. Publiseer distributes it’s literal and music content through a variety of mediums, with a distributing channel of 400+ stores worldwide including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play Books, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Scribd, Playster, OverDrive for books; and Amazon, Spotify, Google Play Music, Apple iTunes, Deezer, Shazam, Claromusica, Tidal for music.
Publiseer is providing a very valuable service that would be useful to many. With millions of aspiring authors and artists in Nigeria, who have not been able to get themselves out there as a result of lack of funds, the platform has a lot of potential of making a name for itself and being a go-to place for publishing within a short period of time. – Founders Africa.
The breakout company has been reviewed by numerous media outlets like The Nation Newspaper, Pulse.ng, Techpoint.ng, IT News Africa, Disrupt Africa, Innovation Village, Tech Gist Africa, Tech Moran, Inventive Africa, and The Spirited Hub, Konbini, Lucid Lemons amongst others for their drive in creating a cheap ecosystem for young African millennials to showcase content. “Most of these authors and artists spend so much on publishing that they have very little money left to market their book or album. That is where we come in. We are the publishing company for the third world”, Chidi Nwaogu shared with Konbini.
I reached out to founders for an interview, all answers are from CEO/Co-Founder Chidi Nwaogu :
Tell us a bit about your backgrounds?
We are Chidi Nwaogu and Chika Nwaogu, identical twin brothers, physicist, computer programmers and serial Internet entrepreneurs. Together, we have founded, grown, and sold two startup companies. We studied Physics at the University of Lagos, where we founded Ladies And Gentlemen book, popularly known as LAGbook. LAGbook started as an exclusive social networking utility for students of our university, but grew rapidly and expanded to one million registered members within three years from inception. LAGbook was acquired by a Canadian tech company in January 2013.
What sparked your interest in the publishing scene?
After selling our second startup company in 2014 to an American non-profit company based in Texas, I wrote a book and my twin Chika recorded a song. I began my search for a book publisher, and my twin was hunting for a record label. For months, we couldn’t find any who didn’t demand money from us. Eventually, I became my own publisher, and Chika started a small label. We were both successful with our projects. I was able to get my book across hundreds of platforms, generating revenue, and Chika was able to get his song across hundreds of music streaming websites, generating revenue as well. It was at this moment we decided to start Publiseer, a digital publishing and distribution platform to help young and budding Nigerian authors and musical artists from low-income families get discovered.
What are your individual roles in the company apart from being its founders and how big is the team so far?
I, Chidi, serve as Publiseer’s CEO, while Chika serves as the company’s CTO. We’re a small and fun team of six young chaps who are passionate about bringing technology and publishing together.
How did you first get the idea of starting Publiseer?
Publiseer was born from our personal struggles as writers and musicians. Going through such hassle, we realized that there are several millions of Nigerians gong through the same or similar challenges, and being able to overcome ours, we wanted to help others overcome theirs as well. Publiseer is removing the hassle in digital content distribution and monetization, by making it free but extensive in reach.
Publiseer is created by a team of authors and musical artists, so we understand the problem and got what it takes to solve it because we feel the pain of our writers and musicians. We are very passionate about the success of our authors and artists, which is why our services are broad; touching every important sector in publishing. We are creating the digital platform needed to succeed in today’s competitive market.
Making it to Harvard’s Business School competition really put the shine on your growing company, how did that push help shape the company’s future?
This was an amazing experience for us all at Publiseer. The media broke with the news of a Nigerian digital publisher becoming a finalist at the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition. This brought a lot of positive attention for us, and the journey has been much rosier ever since.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Every startup company experiences different challenges as it continues to grow, and Publiseer isn’t an exception. Our major challenges are that many authors and artists do not fully understand our service limits. Many authors send us manuscripts via snail mail, in print. We do not accept manuscript submissions this way. We do not offer any typing services, free or paid, so we only accept submissions via editable digital formats. Also, many musicians think we are a recording studio that helps artists record their songs for free. Publiseer isn’t a recording studio. We do not record songs, rather we only remaster them to meet the standards of digital stores. Our remastering service is free, and we only work with recording artists, so an artist must have recorded a song before coming to us.
Running a start-up in Nigeria can be really difficult, how do you keep the company’s growth stable?
We manage to keep publishing and distribution free and stable because we only spend money on the very important stuff. We do not spend unnecessarily. We draw a budget and stick to it. Many startup companies rent very large and cozy offices and employ hundreds of persons. This is not a good practice especially when your company isn’t profitable yet. Publiseer is almost profitable, and even after reaching profitability, we will still continue to remain disciplined with our expenses. Ideas are free and they worth more than money. So we throw ideas around situations and not money because money is a limited resource, but ideas aren’t limited.
If a startup only sets out to make a profit from day one, then the startup has failed from the very beginning. A startup should be more focused on solving an immediate need. Profit comes after a good reputation, and that’s what we are building at Publiseer, a reputable digital publishing platform that Nigerians will be proud of.
Navigating the African publishing scene, what would you say are the problems we face apart from distribution?
In Africa, we face problems with monetization. Many Africans aren’t yet comfortable with digital purchases. We hardly buy anything online, and this is a mentality that has to stop. For books, we sell more than half of our titles on Amazon, and more than half of our songs on iTunes, and most people that buy our content are from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. South Africans even buy digital contents more readily than Nigerians. This is one of the many reasons why e-commerce startups haven’t been able to reach profitability quickly. But at Publiseer, our mission is to promote the creativity of the African people to the rest of the world, so our target customers are western countries, and so far, sales figure have been impressive.
How did your partnership with CakeTunes come about and did you always plan on distributing music alongside literal content?
Before our partnership with Caketunes, Publiseer has distributed hundreds of songs across digital stores. Our partnership with Caketunes was initiated by Caketunes’ CEO Ability Elijah. He reached out to me on LinkedIn for a partnership, and it sounded interesting to me, so we took it from there. From the inception of Publiseer, we have distributed songs alongside books, and it has always been our intention to do so.
What would you say sets you apart from platforms like BookBaby?
Apart from BookBaby, some of our competitors are FastPencil and Blurb, but the reason why Publiseer stands out is that while our competitions charge extortionate fees to have books distributed worldwide, Publiseer offers a more quality and personal solution at no charge. In return, we share in the revenue generated from the sales.
You’re distributing the publishing scene by fusing the internet to help distribute content, would you say bookstores and hard copies are dead for the African scene?
Physical bookstores and hard copies aren’t necessarily dead, but we live in a digital age now. People find it difficult to walk into a bookstore and browse through shelves for the newest titles. People find hard copies heavy to carry about. These days technology has made things easier. Now, we can discover new books via Amazon recommendations and purchase them into our Kindle app with one click. With mobile devices, one can now carry hundreds of books inside a small device.
What in your opinion sets African literal content apart from the rest of the world?
The world doesn’t have enough African literal content. Most bookstores are filled with western literature and very little of African literature, so at the moment, the world is deficient in African literal content. African literature is unique because it carries our beautiful heritage and culture in it. Take a look at ‘Things Fall Apart’, it has become one of the greatest books ever written because of its portrayal of the Igbo culture and lifestyle. That’s what Publiseer’s mission is: “to provide the world with amazing African literature and non-fiction books.”
Whats next for Publiseer?
Our vision is to become the number-one publishing destination in Africa and the world at large. Step by step, day by day, brick by brick, we’re building the largest digital publishing utility to be born out of Africa and beyond.
Publiseer is relevant today because as the number of African writers and artists increase every day, a platform readily available to help their content reach the far corners of the world is the piece of the puzzle much longed for to establish African literature and music as a force to be reckoned with.