By ENUMA CHIGBO
Nigeria is paradise,â€ says Italian born, Pietro Evangelista. My goodness, is he from a different planet? For crying out loud, this is a country thatâ€™s steeped in turmoil, turbulence and trauma. Why would any rational, normal, logical thinking human being remotely imagine that Nigeria is paradise, or anywhere in Africa for that matter? For decades, perhaps even centuries, Africa has been perceived as the melting pot of negativity.
In Nigeria, seemingly endless negative reports are the order of the day, so much that many of her citizens have come to accept this as normal. One may ask, do people like Evangelista not listen to, or read the news? Is he totally oblivious to what is going on in Nigeria? Indeed the facts are there – glaring and gaping- from uncountable lives lost through HIV/AIDS, and other diseases that could well be avoided, from political and religious unrests not to mention ritual killings, to natural disasters, persistent fuel crises, endless blackouts, and irate youths as a result of the breakdown in the educational sector and family structure. Lives are also gradually sapped through hunger, depression, disillusion and despair.
However, when God speaks, it doesnâ€™t matter what the contradictions are. Evangelista says the Lord spoke to him about visiting Nigeria in the latter part of 2009. â€œI had no idea how to start but the Lord opened doors in a different way by connecting me with people I hardly knew. I spoke to a man called Pastor Ose, and was pleasantly surprised by the openness of his heart.â€
One month later, more confirmations came through an unexpected phone call from a very special woman, Reverend Obii Pax-Harry. She prophesied about his coming to Nigeria, â€œItâ€™s time to release the voice of Africa,â€ Harry said. That was the deciding moment for Evangelista, as this woman was not privy to his initial plans.
â€œNigeria is a paradise,â€ Italian born Evangelista reiterates, in a clear soft voice, with a deep passion and humility, deep enough to pierce through the largest obstacles and melt the hardest of hearts. Of all people, he would understand best what it means to soar in the midst of oppositions and contradictions. â€œI was abandoned on the streets of Italy in 1959,â€ he says.
Evangelista was picked up from the streetsÂ two days after he was born and taken in by the Roman Catholic Church, who christened him Pietro, an Italian version of the name â€œPeter,â€ and gave him the surname Vernotico, meaning â€œSaint.â€ â€œIn Italy if you are not adopted, you either become a priest, a monk or a thief,â€ he laughs. Knowing that he had a great destiny ahead of him, God prepared foster parents who adopted him, and gave him the surname Evangelista.
Little wonder that he heads Destiny Image Europe, a publishing outfit that has published several authors abroad and some in Africa,Â which include Dreams and Visions by Joe Ibojie, and the award winning Isaachar Mandate by Reverend Obii Pax- Harry, which has since been translated into South Korean and now Indonesian.
â€œItâ€™s time for Africaâ€™s voice to be heard all over the world,â€ says Evangelista, who just concluded a tour of Nigeriaâ€™s three capitals, Calabar, the first, Lagos the second and Abuja, the present capital to impart his divine mandate from God, and equip budding authors with basic guidelines and the necessary tools that would facilitate the production and publication of their manuscripts.
The title of the book and the publisherâ€™s logo Evangelista says, is of upmost importance, as these are the first things that would catch any readerâ€™s attention on the bookshelves. The title and publisherâ€™s logo are usually located on the spine of the book. The spine is the straight edge that binds the book together, and this is what is usually visible on the shelves.
A title is a short sentence that expresses what the book is all about. If the title of a book is attractive enough, and, more significantly, if that book is published by a well known publisher, then the reader is motivated to pull the book out of the shelf, take a better look at the front cover and read contents of the back page. The content of the back page should be strong enough to make the reader want to open the book. Good clear photographs of the author, and a good opening paragraph in the first chapter, would also encourage or motivate a reader to take a book home.
Table of contents are also of the essence. The table of contents is where the chapters of the book are listed, and this also gives a general overview of the book. According to Evangelista, it is important for one not have too many chapters in a book.
Fifteen chapters would be the cutoff mark, he says. He went on further to say that the overall tone of oneâ€™s message in a book should not be legalistic; a book should be profound but not academic, and one should as much as possible avoid dos and donâ€™ts. â€œReligion has never helped people. Itâ€™s important to hear the prophetic voice of the Lord. Many know the word of God but not the God of the word.â€
At Destiny Image Europe, it does not matter how badly written your manuscript is. According to him â€œWe have skilled, spirit filled people who can edit your manuscript and bring it up to an acceptable standard.Â What matters is the content – if there is a strong message from the Lord that would impact on people. â€œPeople may have strong messages but may not necessarily write well. â€œPeople are looking for the Lord. Some know Him, some may not, some may not even believe in Him, but they are looking for Him.â€ It is important that the author catches and conveys the prophetic voice of the Lord. But being spirit filled is not enough. There has to be extensive research and documentation to substantiate oneâ€™s hearing or convictions, for effective delivery.
â€œWe have had to turn down manuscripts from people who quote the Bible as their only resource material. The reason we do so is that God speaks to people in different ways, but in ways that are unique. Itâ€™s important that one reads and learns from the experiences and teachings of others.â€
Most publishers only publish known authors and charge a publisherâ€™s fee but not Destiny Image Europe, says Evangelista. â€œAt Destiny Image Europe, we will not ask for a publisherâ€™s fee, neither will we ask for production costs, nor cover design layout costs. â€œHowever, the author will have to purchase a number of books at a good discount -about 50% -75% for his local distribution, which can be recouped thereafter.
First time authors are advised to start off with about 3,000 copies. Books are usually sold on the shelves for about 10 Euros, and the author is expected to buy a third of that – 1,000 copies. â€œThe reason we involve authors in this exercise is twofold. First, we incur huge costs in producing and launching a first time author, and second, authors need to know the value and cost of what they do. The author needs to be involved and encouraged to sell his books in his sphere of influence.â€
With Destiny Image Europe, the relationship between the author and publisher is critical, says Evangelista. â€œPublishers guarantee visibility, not necessarily sales, but then again sales are an end product of visibility.â€
It takes about four to six months from the time an author signs a contract with Destiny Image Europe and gives his or her final manuscript to produce the final product. On line distributions are done immediately. Books are posted on amazon.com, destinyimage.com and other related sites worldwide. Destiny Image Europe distributes to about 14,000 bookstores all over the world.