Sheffield writer Akeem Balogun's new book heralds a fresh approach to publishing

A new book by a Sheffield writer will be the first brought out by a company he co-owns which aims to take a new approach to book publishing.

Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 4:45 pm

Okapi Books was set up in September 2019 by the author Akeem Balogun with Brett Hackett and Nathan Stacey.

The company was one of the winners in the 2019 Hallam Enterprise Awards Show.

The first book to be published by Okapi is a collection of short stories, called The Storm.

Author and Okapi Books co-founder Akeem Balogun
Author and Okapi Books co-founder Akeem Balogun

Akeem is based in Walkley, Sheffield.

He began writing fiction as a teenager in 2011 before studying creative writing at Edge Hill University in Lancashire.

Over the years, his fiction has appeared in various publications, while in 2016 he was awarded a place on the Free Reads scheme by The Literary Consultancy, which seeks to support talented writers on low incomes by assessing their manuscripts.

He has recently collaborated with the likes of Found Fiction and Festival of the Mind to create project-themed stories.

Hardback and paperback editions of Okapi Books' first publication The Storm by Akeem Balogun, with original cover artwork by Arantza Pardo

Akeem, aged 28, says: “My spark fired after going to my local library in 2011 and for the first time not finding a book I thought was worth reading.

“I also started attending Blank Street Writers in Sheffield in 2012 and still do now.”

Jade Yiu, the company’s publishing assistant, says the idea for the firm came about when Akeem and Brett were at university together and discussed how they wanted to approach publishing differently.

Their motto is ‘reaching new readers in creative ways’.

Jade says: “They wanted to create appealing, enjoyable work that was more accessible to the people they know and the content of what they are writing is appealing to them.”

One of the aims of Okapi to reach infrequent or non-readers with the books it produces through reflecting trends of growing audio and visual consumption, said Brett Hackett.

Jade points to the huge interest in comic books – the challenge for Okapi is to connect those readers to the stories they want to tell.

So The Storm will have an audiobook narrated by dub MC and poet Rider Shafique, its cover is an original painting by Spanish artist Arantza Pardo and a short animated film will be developed for one of the stories in the collection.

Jade says The Storm tells 13 short stories, set a short way into the future.

She says: “The process of writing brings it to life, like it’s happening, like you’re in the room.

“The storm that happens weaves in and out of the 13 individual stories.

“It affects the lives of all the people in the book in different ways.

“It’s like the virus we’ve been through and how it affects people.”

Jade says the stories all stand alone but the storm is the linking theme, and the different emotions and reactions that the characters have to that situation, its reverberations and aftershocks.

And Okapi Books are looking for new writers to work with, according to Jade.

The firm is focusing on fiction, short stories and anthologies.

It wants to be very personalised in its approach, both to its authors and readership.

Every book Okapi publishes will have new artwork commissioned for the cover and other creative approaches will aim to reach new audiences with every release.

The Storm by Akeem Balogun is released on Okapi Books on October 19. The book can be pre-ordered at okapibooks.com