Wilfred Kanu Jr., Badson Publishing

Jatinder Padda, editor with Read African Books, interviews Wilfred Kanu Jr., CEO of Badson Publishing, about how he founded the organisation and ambitions for the future. 

Jatinder Padda: Hello, Wilfred! So you’re a new addition to the African Books Collective, and we’re keen to find out more about your publishing venture. Can you start by telling us what led to the 2007 establishment of Badson Publishing, and can you tell us about your involvement?

Wilfred Kanu Jr.: Good day! Sure. There are numerous creative individuals whose families did not provide support for their pursuits. Some families take extreme measures to dissuade their people from following their dreams. These families undermine their loved ones by creating confusion to hinder their artistic focus. Regrettably, I, too, faced such challenges, but fortunately, I found a way out of it.

That sparked the idea of Badson Publishing long before 2007. Having gone through the naturalization process in the United States, I found myself in Toronto, Canada, where a close friend resided. He invited me to visit and record my original songs while trying to establish myself as a recording artist. Upon arriving there, I was struck by the fiercely independent atmosphere and entrepreneurial endeavours.

If I wanted to make a name for myself, I had to establish a unique imprint. And thus, Badson Publishing was born, reflecting my determination to forge a path. After brainstorming, I returned to my home state of New Jersey to officially register the company. As time passed, I broadened the imprint to incorporate The Theatre of Literary & Performing Arts, furthering my creative platform.

How does the operation work? Is it a model to support self-publishing writers? Or is it for publishing your books?

The focus is on creating my work and aiding fellow writers who face similar challenges. I aim to lend a helping hand to independent authors and musicians who have been impeded by various circumstances and empower them to achieve their literary dream. I intend to offer contracts to these writers, inviting them to submit their finished manuscripts in a Word format for evaluation.

After obtaining the necessary information, Badson Publishing arranges a meeting to discuss the writer’s vision and objectives for the book and establish a timeline for its publication. While we offer complimentary publishing services, we also provide various additional options, including ghostwriting, editing, and graphic design, at a reasonable cost. These works can be published and distributed through the African Book Collective. However, in the meantime, I will personally oversee the publication of my books.

What sort of contract would authors expect?

Since the African Book Collective serves as the distributor, an author under contract with Badson Publishing must consider that. A portion of profits is allocated to both ABC and Badson. However, authors have the choice between two standard contracts. They can opt for a book publishing agreement, where they submit a manuscript along with its artwork and barcode. If the submission meets Badson Publishing’s standards, we shall publish and present the book to the African Book Collective.

The alternative is a book publishing and marketing agreement in which the author allocates a budget for additional services such as ghostwriting, editing, graphic design, formatting, and promotion. Badson caters to writers hindered from pursuing their careers for various reasons. Typically, people in that situation possess the means to invest in their project, whether it be a prominent figure seeking to publish their memoir or someone else with a passion for writing.

As you widen the model to select titles for publication and support self-publishing, how do you go about the selection process?

As the CEO of Badson Publishing, my selection process is driven by the author’s drive and the appeal of their work. I don’t want to have to pursue authors to publish their books. They should have a completed manuscript with a clear vision of how they want their book to resonate with readers. The author must be prepared. Writing is a true passion, requiring dedication and creativity. I seek narratives from equipped authors to their stories.  

As Badson Publishing is Berlin-based, how do you reach out to African authors? And more widely, how do you relate to the African continent?

I’m an Afropolitan, a member of the African diaspora who has experienced a great deal of geographic mobility. Perhaps you’re a Nigerian who received primary education in South Africa, attended secondary school in Kenya, and pursued higher education in the United Kingdom. As a Sierra Leonean, I attended primary school in Liberia, secondary school in Sierra Leone, and higher education in the United States. An Afropolitan is defined by their frequent relocation, thereby planting roots in various places. Badson Publishing, a registered company in the US and Estonia, is headquartered in Berlin as the publishing subsidiary of The Theatre of Literary & Performing Arts. With a wholehearted embrace of Africa, the company is eager to collaborate with writers from all corners of the continent, regardless of their location. Whether in Asia, New Zealand, India, South America, or the Caribbean. We are also open to writers from other continents or nationalities outside Africa.

Your publisher's press statement notes that you intend to translate works into several European languages. Will you also be working with those writing in African languages? How do you see the role of African language literature in your publishing model?

The choice of the writer and their desired outcome greatly influences the book’s direction. Unfortunately, due to colonialism, European languages such as English, French, Spanish, Dutch, and German have a more comprehensive global readership than African languages. I strongly recommend that African authors who write in their native language also offer an English, French, or Spanish version to expand its reach. However, showcasing and promoting African languages to the world is equally crucial. 

Among the first books being distributed by ABC, we have Crime Rhymez. Can you let readers know who Freddy Will is? And why does music have such a strong influence on Badson Publishing?

My creative abilities are displayed in three distinct ways: music, literary writing, and entrepreneurship. Initially, I pursued urban music passionately, but my family was unsupportive, insisting I should focus on academia instead of the arts. As African parents, their expectations were overwhelming, so I adapted by embracing both the academic and artistic sides of myself.

Freddy Will is a rendition of my given name, Wilfred. He exercises his autonomy through artistic pursuits. Growing up in the tumultuous regions of Sierra Leone and Liberia, I bore witness to the devastation of two civil wars as a refugee in The Gambia and Senegal before ultimately settling in the US. I’ve overcome numerous adversities. Moreover, my coming-of-age during the 90s exposed me to the harsh realities of street life, influencing my perspective and choices.

When you tune in to my earlier compositions, you will experience a gritty urban feel, as that was all I pursued then. For eight long years of my adolescence, I was isolated from my family while they resided in the States. That’s the essence of my book Crime Rhymez, which chronicles my evolution from a streetwise persona. My artistic journey began as a master of ceremonies, then I dove into music, and eventually, I ventured into the world of authorship and publishing.

My ultimate goal is to release a plethora of literary works and thrive in the realm of publishing. I aspire to venture into podcasting, conducting workshops, delivering motivational speeches, producing film adaptations of my books, and anything video games. Each of these endeavours should be complemented by good melodies. While Wilfred, the author, represents my writing side, Freddy Will embodies my musical talents. Together, they are the same. The new me desires to sustain my professional trajectory by spreading positivity.

Seeing the ambition for African literature as film adaptations is exciting! How do you see this relationship between genres?

As authors from all genres, we envision the next big thing in African literature to be its adaptation into documentaries and films, bringing our stories to life in others forms, including animation. We aim to provide a multi-dimensional experience to our audience, where they can not only watch the film but also read the book and listen to the music of the same project, all created by the same artist and their team of collaborators. Once this content is available on popular streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and others, it will undoubtedly generate more exposure and impact.

You also have a division dedicated to female-centric and LGBTQIA+ writers. Can you talk a bit about how and why this came about?

As a conservative and traditionalist, my content is deeply rooted in Abrahamic religions, the traditional African mindset, and the modern lifestyle of an Afropolitan who seeks connection with different countries while still searching for a sense of belonging. My company, Badson Publishing, embraces this unique combination of influences. But what if a writer, driven and determined to see their manuscript through to completion, identified as a feminist or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community? How would their perspective shape the narrative? Perhaps these individuals may not feel at ease signing with Badson Publishing due to its name suggesting a focus on heterosexual men.

This led me to establish Gully Daughters Publishing, providing a platform for female writers who wish to align themselves with their values. The same inclusivity extends to the LGBTQIA+ community, as I wanted to create a haven for them to express their artistic talents freely. While Badson Publishing welcomes all, I recognised the need for a separate option for those seeking something different. 

What project are you working on now? Are there any new releases or ventures you want to discuss?

I am beyond thrilled about my latest literary creation, Theatre, Dance & Poetry, a collection of my poetic works and short stories set to the tune of the song ‘Natural Light’. In collaboration with the African Book Collective, this project has been a year-long journey of editing and re-releasing my previous books and music. With five publications this year, including two fresh pieces, this latest addition is a testament to this fruitful partnership.

Thanks for your time, Wilfred! 

Books from Badson Publishing are available via African Books Collective

For more information, please visit: www.freddywill.com

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