A Week in the Life is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s “A Week in the Life”, is a bookstagrammer — an Instagram creator who posts artfully staged book content and is a part of the bookish community. 23-year-old Uchenna Nnabuguwu tells us about reading 100 books a year, finding a community of book lovers on Instagram and how he makes money from sharing his love for books on #bookstagram.
When I wake up at 7 a.m. I want to continue the book I’m currently reading — Jenniffer Nansubuga’s The First Woman. But first I have to prepare food for my dad who doesn’t know how to cook. We live in Abuja but my mom works at the federal university in faraway Ebonyi State.
I try to do all my house chores before noon so I’ll have the rest of my day to do bookish stuff. While working around the house, I listen to an audiobook. When I have more time later, I’ll continue reading from the paperback.
When I finish my chores at around 12 p.m., I settle down and start to plan my Instagram content for the week. My plan isn’t rigid — sometimes I find that I’m too excited for a particular book so I end up posting before I’m supposed to, like today. The book I’m reading — The First Woman — is a book like no other: it explores power and gender roles and how feminism has been in Africa long before Westerners gave it a name.
Makumbi’s writing is rich with culture and I simply have no words (I will when I write a full review later). But I can’t wait until I finish, so I take a quick photo of the book, post it on my Insta Story and continue reading until evening, only stopping to make lunch and attend to my father.
It’s when it grows too dark that I know that night has fallen. There’s no light at home, and there hasn’t been for some time now. This country can’t even let someone read.
Before I sleep, I book an Airbnb for tomorrow so I can take photos and record videos for my Instagram Reels for the week. It costs ₦29,000, but that’s the price to pay for quality content.
I read a lot of books — in 2021, I read 102 books, and this year, I’ve already read 35 books in March, so I’m well on my way to crush my reading goals this year. When I first found the #bookstagram community on Instagram, in 2019, I knew I’d finally found my home on the internet.
When I was growing up, I used my pocket-money to buy books. I used my pocket money to buy those ₦50 story pamphlets until I could afford costlier books in junior secondary schools. I read Harlequin books until my mom caught me and flogged me because of the photo on the back cover. Since then, I started tearing off the covers of my books.
I started posting about books on Instagram in 2019 but it took me a year to make money from sharing my love for books on Instagram. In 2020, I was broke and started looking for work. I sought work at a gas filling station for ₦15k per month, but after discussing with the manager, I knew that it wasn’t the type of work for me. One of the attendants even told me that someone like me should be working at a bookstore at least.
Jungle fit dry, but lion no go chop grass. So when I got back home, I resolved to double down and improve the quality of my content. Before, I used to post content for the fun of it, but from then on, I became deliberate about everything I put out. After all, it would be nice to earn money from my passion.
A few months later, an author reached out to me to promote her book. I was to review the book, create an Instagram Reel showcasing the book and have a discussion with her on Instagram Live about queer representation in African literature. She paid ₦15k for it. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was a start.
The next time someone reached out to me, weeks later, it was on behalf of a publishing house.
By around 11:30 a.m., I’m rounding off my chores and thinking of the book that I received this morning. I started reading it and knew there was no way I would continue. I know I like to read o, but please.
Although I like earning money from reading books, there are some books I’ll never feature on my IG. As an experienced reader, I can tell if a book will be worth my time just from reading the blurb alone. There are some books you start reading and you know that the author just said, “I can write, so let me just write a book,” or that their friends hyped them to write a book because they posted something that they wrote in their notes app. I would never recommend such books to my bookstagram community.
But when I find a book that gets me from the first word, it’s rewarding because imagine being paid to enjoy yourself!
That’s why I put so much effort into my work. I spend my money to rent picturesque locations — there’s even one time I went into the bush to create content for a book cover because I thought it’d make a nice concept. The only thing that really makes me angry is cost of data and how fast my subscription finishes because these days it’s as if MTN is following me to use my data.
But the hardest part about my work is not even creating the content; it’s getting access to quality books — the prices right now are mad. A new book is released and everybody is hyping it. But by the time it gets to Nigeria, you’re hearing ₦8k per copy.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I used to receive books from international publishers but now, it’s almost impossible. The rare chance that a publisher sends books over here, I’ll start hearing stories that the books got missing in the mail. Right now, I’m counting five books that were sent to me but I didn’t receive them.
Anyway, I want to finish reading The First Woman before evening so that I can post a photo of it and write a review.
I make sure to finish cooking, cleaning and doing market runs so that when I’m done, nobody will send me message again today. When I come back from the market, I take my bath, relax and dive right into The First Woman.
The thing that’s on my mind this morning is that I’m not happy.
I tell myself not to be ungrateful because I’ve made friends from the community and I really enjoy being a content creator. I’ve also hacked consistency because I manage to post at least 25 times a month. No matter what, I show up every day.
But it feels like my life is not moving forward. I’m yet to gain admission into the university and I’ve been trying to get admission. I applied to study medicine as far back as 2016, but I didn’t get admission. Then I tried medical lab science because I didn’t want to do microbiology; I still didn’t get in. It’s now as if I’m an olodo.
But now I’m thinking maybe I should rewrite WAEC and shift my focus to mass communication as I already have social media management and creator experience. But I don’t even know if I’m cut out for it.
Anyway, by the time I finish my chores, I’m no longer feeling down. I’m good at what I do and I see myself getting better every day. One day, I’ll work with global publishing brands and get exciting life-changing opportunities.
Hi, I’m Ama Udofa and I write the A Week in the Life series every Tuesday at 9 a.m. If you’d like to be featured on the series, or you know anyone interesting who fits the profile, fill out this form.