Calculating Self- Publishing Costs in Kenya – Non-Fiction Books

Break out the calculator!  It’s all about the Word Count!

So, I’ve had a few questions about what the process of self-publishing a physical book in Kenya looks like.  What does it take?  How much does it cost?  So, let’s calculate it in this post.

Are you ready to self-publish?

Writing in Kenya is a journey! A myriad of experiences that sort of take you through very high highs and low lows, but when you find the perfect fit, you end up in a sweet spot.  You can lower your costs depending on how hard you decide to work.  I can only share a snippet of the journey my sister and I have traveled under The E.i.N Company on our publishing journey.  As you know, or are now learning, hehehe, my sister and I run Amari Baking Center.  The center has published recipe books and a How To book on the baking industry.  To get the Business Baking book published has been quite a process.  I will share some of that with you here, as documenting it all would take a few pages.

Is your manuscript finished? 

This is a question you need to ask yourself the moment you write the last word on the last page of your work.

  1. If your answer is yes, then seek a Beta Reader before you find an Editor.  Beta readers are test readers.  Your first test reader.  You can have one, two or five, have them read your work and let you know what they think.

A good beta reader will give you valuable feedback.  They help you clear your mind, refine your thoughts as you want to lay them out in your book. They don’t mind having a discussion with you about your content, and they save you thousands, helping you refine your manuscript.

Listen to each beta reader if you get five, you can also have just one who really gets you, and that is also important.

Best places to get a Beta Reader:

  1. A Friend/family with the same interest.  Someone who will not coddle you, and is honest about your masterpiece. (I played this role for the project along with two others.)
  2. Join writing groups or critique circles.  Be warned, you might go through a few groups to find the perfect fit.
  3. Online resources – Goodreads has a Beta Reader group, explore it., join the community and find a group that you’re comfortable with.  You can even get critiques on your work. the links are a great resource.  Facebook Writing groups like this one: Beta Readers & Critiques.

Find your right Beta Reader fit.  The person who makes you comfortable enough to discuss your work and how to improve it for the better.  If you are not relating with your Beta Reader, stop and seek a new relationship.  Sort of like dating…hahaha, get your right fit.

Cost in this part of the process: Your Time. Beta Readers are beautiful souls if you find someone willing to gain the experience at reading/editing, it costs you nothing cash wise but work and a willingness to listen to your beta reader.

Once you are satisfied your work is ready, find an Editor.

2. Invest in an Editor.  There is no way around it.  I’m serious.  They are gold to your work.  Find someone who is willing to work with you, and if you find you are not melding with your editor, please, stop and find someone who is singing to you.  That way when they yell at you about the commas you keep adding in the wrong places, you won’t hate them for life.

Our cost in this process was as follows: Cost: 0.20 cents per word, or Kshs. 45 per 250 words(We had about 35,000 words in the manuscript the end cost was Kshs. 6,300)  The service included the following: 

  • Proofing for spelling mistakes, typos, punctuation problems, capitalization errors, and awkward grammar.  The overall structure of the manuscript.  Which includes managing your content flow, word choice, clear narrative, and offer research help to ensure situations and scenes are factual.

The process took a little over two months as we worked to ensure everything was just right.  Inputting time for Re-edits, and general discussions among all involved.  Quite a process.  When it was done, it was time for the cover.

3. The Book Cover – The first cover for this book was simple.  It cost Kshs. 500 to design.  I had taken on the role of publisher at this point, so we had numerous chitchats, and we weren’t really looking for something expensive looking.  It was an industry book, one we were testing out, so that’s about how much we felt it deserved at the time.  We printed out 50 books to start, but more to come on the printing. Here is the first cover.  Pretty basic, but it was the first, and so still proud of it.

Book Cover1

The second cover we worked harder.  It cost about Kshs. 2,500, and it now included the ISBN barcode.  Very proud of this one as well.

Amari Cover

What to know during the book cover process:  Understand your budget, and the person working with you, and what kind of book you want to sell.  This creation process took a week, though with the second cover there was a lot of back and forth, going almost to two weeks.

Now: The first cover had no ISBN and we had not even gone searching for copyright, so those costs didn’t factor in.  However, it’s good to get copyright and your ISBN the first time you get published. So, here are the ISBN and Copyright Costs.

ISBN – Kshs. 1,500 (confirm with Kenya Libraries on this as you get yours)

Copyright Costs – Kshs. 1,000 (The price at the time, confirm with their site as well)

In total our book cost:

First time Print:

  1. Editing – Kshs. 6,300
  2. Book Cover – Kshs. 500
  3. Printing – (Kshs. 180 x 50) = Kshs. 9,000
  4. Total = 15, 800 (We sold it at Kshs. 500)

We weren’t happy with our first print.  Pages misprinted, and arranged wrong, about 10 of the books were given for free. So, that first time was a bit of an experience.

Second Printing

  1. Re-editing – Kshs. 2, 000 (There were a few changes we needed to make)
  2. ISBN – Kshs. 1,500
  3. Copyright Costs – Kshs. 1,000
  4. Cover – Kshs. 2,500 (included the ISBN bar code)
  5. Printing – (Kshs. 180 x 50) = Kshs. 9,000
  6. Total = Kshs. 16,000 (We sell it for Kshs. 500 still, but now all we need to do is reprint for restock)

A very generous and kind client of ours shared the Publish4All  contacts with us.  A simple email actually. ( He said they print really well and this book would come out so well with them.  They were really fast to respond, and very helpful. So, that’s how we redesigned the cover and sent the book to Publish4All for second print.  The end result was amazing and they even helped us sort delivery, becoming our perfect fit at last.

Do note that Publish4All requires you to have your book edited and formatted for print, as well as formatting the book cover for print.  You can reach out to them and learn more.  Remember, word count is key.  The larger your book, the cost rises as well.

So, this is the process of printing a non-fiction book in Kenya.  The end product has 102 pages, and the cover, pages neat and sealed to perfection. You have a snippet of the costs to get you through a first print. Be brave and try and get something printed, it’s the only way to know what works for your work.

Friday June 8 2018 167

Friday June 8 2018 173
Sis proudly spreading the news! She’s awesome.

With the book in hand, the rest is marketing in all shapes, forms and sizes.

Thoughts on this process:

Before the first print, we had walked all over Nairobi trying to find the best printer.  There was a printer who had the best product, but wouldn’t take our book without us printing 500 copies in one go.  Imagine our shock, that was a low, because we really liked their work, but couldn’t afford all those copies at once.  So, you shake it off, and keep looking. We went to the second, and a third, I think we found the first printer after talking to six printers.

I believe it depends on the amount of money you are hoping to spend, and the end product you are hoping for.  So, shop around, don’t be in a rush, just be sure to have all the information you need before you start investing.  That is what this process comes down to.  An investment in your manuscript.

Then, start marketing like the end is tomorrow.

I hope this post is of insight to you.  I will work at compiling an editors in Nairobi list that you can use for your editing process.

Keep writing, and sharing, let’s get published!


43 thoughts on “Calculating Self- Publishing Costs in Kenya – Non-Fiction Books

  1. This is great Elly, thanks for sharing your publishing experience and I’d love to read a copy of the book. How can I buy one? I am also interested in your POD friend p4akenya- do they have a phone number?

    1. Hi! No problem. You can buy a copy of the How To book at Topserve Limited – Baking accessories shop found along Accra Road, White Angle House, mezzanine floor. Topserve is also in Eldoret and usually carries copies. As for Publish 4All, email them, it is easiest.

  2. Great read! Congratulations on your published book. I’m in the process of writing my book, and I thought I’d do some research on publishing to get an insight on the process. Just so you know, I’ve been schooled by your article, a big thank you!

    1. Thank you for reading my post on Self-Publishing. I’m glad that you’re writing, and I hope you get to the end of the writing process soon. Do share all about your book when you’re ready.

  3. This is so great. I have always got stranded on how to start everything in order to get my manuscripts published. I kindly need to get in touch with you for more deliberation and guidance. Phelix Mirego.

  4. Thank you Elly for sharing your experience. Very encouraging!
    I’m an artist-photographer, working on publishing some stuff. How did you sell your book?? What outlets did you use? May I be so forward as to ask and what sort of margins would one expect to give to the book sellers as a percent of the cover price??

  5. How Beautiful, I love photos, so that’s really cool! Congrats on your work. To answer your questions:

    1. How did you sell your book? What outlets did you use? – The book in this blog post is a baking-industry book. Our audience is anyone hoping to start a baking business, or is in the baking industry already and wants insight on ideas of expansion, or how to keep up with math, and marketing. So, we market it to this particular audience, finding them at baking fairs, baking accessory shops, in social groups created around baking. We talk to people who are in the industry and market the book to them. We also work with others in the baking industry and work with them to sell our book as well. Social media ads have also been a great help! ^_^.

    2. What sort of margins would one expect to give to book sellers as a percentage? – I ran a bookshop in my very diverse working experience. It taught me a lot on how to receive books from publishers. I will tell you first that My goal at the bookshop was always to not pay for the books received until we had sold them, hehehehe..just something to know.
    My answer is involved, bear with me.
    – Firstly, your margin will be decided by the cost of producing your book. This cost of production will depend on the size of the book you want, the type of paper used, the look, that is, hardcover or soft cover. Before you print, know how you want your book to look and how much others like it are sold for. Who is your target audience (who buys this type of book) and how much are they willing to pay?

    – Second, whoever you choose to print this book, the cost of production should stick and not change when it rains (please note there will be printers you meet who change the cost of printing on a whim, don’t stay with them and find someone stable, someone you can trust in order to help you manage your printing costs).

    -Once you know these two things, you can approach a bookstore with a retail price and a wholesale price depending on your cost of production. You can use this very simplified formula, (Cost of production + Your Profit = Retail Price ) The whole sale price depends on how much of your profit you can give up. If retail price is 500/- then you can whole sale it at 425/- or 400/-.) Make sure not to over price your book, so that your audience is not able to purchase it. There is also the important aspect of not under pricing your book too. hahaha.

    Booksellers will be glad to take your book if it is a mover. Meaning, the burden of marketing is on you, to make sure your audience knows your book exists, where to find your book and the retail price they expect to pay for it. I remember at the bookshop when we got books from publishers, we always made sure to keep the retail price intact. Customers would walk in and find a book and say, oh, this is 500/- right, because the publisher has already made it known that this book is that much at all locations listed. We could never sell it at 550/-, the customers would riot and go to the next bookshop. So, our goal was to buy the book between 350/- to 400/-. We would get a hundred shillings for each book sold.

    That’s a very long answer. I hope it helps you in someway. Good luck on your printing.

  6. This is a very great post and also very encouraging. I have finished my manuscript for a non- fiction book but the exergerated cost almost put me off. Am still looking an editor. May I email you for more guidance?

    1. Hi Phil, sorry for the delay. Publishing a magazine depends on the look that you want to achieve at the end of your process. Magazines often are a4 size, with glossy paper, so you would need to approach your printer and ask him/her the costs of printing your preferred end product.

  7. Hi. Your blog is very informative. I am working on a workbook for high school students. It has colors and drawings. How does that impact the price of publishing/printing?

    1. Hi Anne,
      Thank you for reading my blog post! Printing your workbook will depend on whether you want the drawings in color or black and white. Black and white costs less than printing in color. This cost is also determined by the printer you choose.

      In terms of publishing and how drawings impact your workbook:
      This depends on whether you’re using original art, or art made by someone else. This is relevant in terms of copyright infringement. You need to consider whether yes or no this artist has given permission for the use of the work in your book. That way, when you’re getting your workbook copyright, you’re not copyrighting someone else’s content without their permission.
      So, Printing – Black & White is always cheaper than printing in color. The color may be affordable depending on the number of pages in the workbook. The Cost of 50-80 pages with color is different from a 200 page book with color.
      Publishing rights – Make sure your art is original and if not you have permissions for use from the original artist. Or use images with free-to-use license.
      I hope this helps you out.

  8. hi, this was quite helpful. i always get discouragements from colleagues whenever i talk about writing a book. With this info, I now have the courage to complete my manuscript.

    1. Hi Sharon, I truly hope you are inspired to write your book. Don’t be afraid to complete your manuscript. Finish it, edit it and let someone read it. It will allow you to have more courage to write even more.

  9. You might also want to sell your eBooks at It is a nice a platfom that many people tend to ignore for fear of piracy.

  10. Hello. Thanks for the valuable info. I have a question. Do you have to upload it to Amazon KDP before sending it to beta readers? I just finished my manuscript and am now ready for the world to read it!.

    1. No, it is good to get beta readers before you publish on Amazon KDP. This way, you can make the corrections before you publish it out to the world. If you have friends you are willing to trust with this important job, reach out to them, and ask them to read it first. ^_^

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