By Fasika Tadesse
Spike in copy sells of a historical novel leads a publisher to run the printing press
Ethiopia’s pop sensation, Tewodros Kassahun, has released his long anticipated album dubbed “Ethiopia”, thereby taking not only of a huge fan base to ecstasy but also triggering the renewed sale of the legendary Amharic novel, “Fiker-Eske-Meqabir”, literally translated “Love to the Grave”.
The publisher of the book, Mega Printing Enterprise, supplied 10,000 copies of the book first published in 1964 to the market, following the release of the album which industry sources said hit a record high half a million copies.
Mega Printing distributed the books through its 32 outlets after the title of one Teddy’s songs, “Mar-eske-tuaf”, had leaked before the release of the album two weeks ago, leading retail price of the book to jump by 10 Br, from its original 91 Br.
Authored by the acclaimed author, Haddis Alemayehu, the novel remains highly popular among successive generations of Ethiopians. It is also a subject of studies by literary students for decades.
One of such students is Molla Feleke who has taken an interest in the book for his post-graduate studies thesis at the Addis Ababa University, in 2008.
Molla writes: The novel “presents a panoramic picture of traditional Ethiopian society with a prophetic vision of change and a defiant voice that speaks out against feudal despotism, exploitation and ignorance.”
A day before the official release, Kolya delivered 476,000 CDs, with the remaining were delivered by the next morning.
Popularly known as Teddy Afro, the performer played a powerful lyrics highlighting one of the main characters in the novel, Bezabih, in a seven-minute song.
The music promoted many Ethiopians to rush to buy the book, flocking to book vendors across the city.
Yonas Tefera, a bookseller, located in an area near the National Theater, sold two-third of the 300 copies in three days he received from the publishers on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.
“I’m now left only with few copies,” Yonas told Fortune last Friday.
It is one of the times when demand for books surges, according to managers of the publishing company which has a contract with the family of the author to reprint the book, paying royalty fees to them.
Mar-eske-tuaf is one of the 14 songs included in Teddy Afro’s latest album that was released on May 3, 2017, delaying for 10 days from the initial schedule due to last minute changes made on the album’s cover.
Composed by Abel Paulos, Abegaze Kebrework, and Amanuel Yilma, this successful album was recorded in five studios, involving over 40 different people including the backup singers.
The initial plan to release the album was to use a jewel case, but Teddy demanded to make the case from a paper box and include a booklet with 24-page comprising the lyrics of the songs, people close to the singer disclosed to Fortune.
The brochures and the cases were published at Yekatit Paper Converting Enterprise, behind the exhibition centre.
The producers of the album have also made history by deploying a guerrilla marketing strategy, a tactic used by companies to surprise a market with unconventional marketing tools mainly based on personal interaction.
Copies of the album, worth 16.5 million Br, were sold out from the hands of the exclusive distributor on the same day of the release.
Tracks after tracks had left 4:00 am on Tuesday the premises of the company that printed the CDs locally for the first time, from its plant in Dukem, 33Km east of Addis Abeba.
On the eve of the album’s release, about 100 vehicles were lined up in and outside the compound of Ethiopia’s first DVD manufacturing plant, Kolya Manufacturing S.C., to collect the CDs, which took 20 days to complete and additional four days to pack them, Yared Ademe, general manager of the company, told Fortune.
A day before the official release, Kolya delivered 476,000 CDs, with the remaining were delivered by the next morning. No less than 40pc of the copies were transported to the towns of Gonder and Bahir Dar, areas where two of Teddy’s songs refer to.
Close to 100 retailers paid Joyous Events 33 Br for each CD.
Young men and women had flooded traffic lights across the capital the same day, offering each CD for 50 Br, and copies which incorporated the booklet with the lyrics 80 Br.
Fans lined up at makeshift vending spots in Arat Kilo, Mexico Square, Megenagna, La Gare, Piazza, Merkato and many centres of the city.
A 27-year old businessman, Dawit Berhane is one of the retailers who was registered in advance to receive 5,000 copies. It took him only five days to sell out all copies.