Self-Publishing is a great word in Nairobi!
A reader sent me a message and told me, ‘ I have a THING for words.. I have been low-key writing for a while now, and I think its time the world gets a piece of my taste and style.’
Inspired words if I ever heard any! They have me making a post on this blog when I’ve been low-key M.I.A, and zoning in the land of uninspired-let’s- Netflix ‘n’ Chill-mode. So, thank you! Elias, for getting me thinking.
That message followed up with a question. Where do I start? What do I do next? My answer is, ‘Arm yourself with information.‘ There are two roads in this: Traditional Publishing Road and Self- Publishing Road.
Each one has it’s own set of intimidating challenges, but you’re in this now, don’t back out now. Let’s arm you with information instead, and you’ll know what your options are.
What is the Traditional Publishing Road?
Traditional publishing includes getting your book published by an existing Publishing House, either Local or International. Please note that each publishing house has a set of guidelines on the type of content it publishes. It is important to know what type of books a particular publishing house is producing before you think of sending your manuscript over. Knowing saves you a rejection before you even start.
Here are examples of Publishers that are based in Kenya:
East African Publishers – They are really my favorite as they write out a complete guide for your submission and what to expect. Please note the types of books they publish listed on the side.
Moran Publishers – This site also has clear directions on how to submit your work for consideration. Moran Publishers have made available to you a Publishing Proposal PDF that you can download and fill out.
There are loads more not mentioned above. Do your research and get to know them. To note, Traditional Publishing in Kenya is very heavy on education and storybooks for young children and schools. Creation of set books, and etc. If you’re thinking of publishing poetry and fiction novels, your life will be full of interesting experiences. Be prepared for it.
To boost your chances on your journey into Traditional Publishing, you can also send out queries to a Literary Agent. I will be honest and let you know that Kenya is sorely lacking access to these. (Here’s a call out to genuine literary agents willing to work with Kenyans, please set up shop already. Kenya is eager. ) The few I’ve heard about led to horror stories of being paid before they read your work, with no guarantee of publishing. Ouch! However, here is some hopeful information on Literary Agents from Kenyan Writer Alexander Nderitu.
Why is Traditional Publishing so Attractive?
The idea that you write your manuscript, send it to a publisher and if they like and accept it, they will pour their considerable resources into marketing your manuscript, with no effort or little effort from you. Acknowledge that, Traditional Publishers have access to wide networks of brick and mortar bookshops, readers in schools and institutions, and know market trends better than anyone. So yeah, they are an attractive ideal. You need to work hard as ever to make your manuscript remotely attractive for consideration. Deal with it! That’s not going away.
Every time I write about Traditional Publishing in Kenya I get annoyed, because it feels like one big mass of #askweio123. Yes, they don’t make it easy here. So, let’s move on to the next road.
What is the Self-Publishing Road?
The first thing I told you here is ‘Arm yourself with information’. Why? The writers I know have all chosen this road, and have gotten results by learning how to do this right. We shall start with Digital Publishing, as it seems to most, to cost the least. Truth is, cost is relative! Your product is only as good as what you’re willing to put into it.
Digital Publishing includes selling e-books in different formats like PDFs, epubs for adobe editions, .mobi for kindle, and formats accessible by Apple products among others. It is the most attractive form of self-publishing as it places control in the hands of the author.
An author who understands that their work is a product, and therefore needs customers, excels in this form of digital publishing. Let me give you an example: I love examples, don’t you? No…oh, well, here is a good one for you anyway.
Genre: Writes from the heart
Blog: – Doesn’t like to share content, so hasn’t tried blogging
Social: – Facebook sucks, Instagram is for kids, Trump rules Twitter, it’s not for me. What’s LinkedIn?
Dream: I want to publish and be known for writing books.
Genre: Fiction, (Mysteries, Thrillers)
Social: Facebook -@writerb (1,000 follows), Instagram- @writerb254 (558follows), Twitter-@writerBwhowrites (900 follows), LinkedIn – Author Writer B (200 connects)
Dream – Sell 100 copies of 70k word book.
Who do you think will sell more books? Writer A or Writer B?
Answer: Writer B
This is the reality of life today! You need to build a community around your work, as an Author, an Artist, a Musician, a business person, well I’m talking to Authors mostly, so I hope you get what I’m trying to say. It’s hard work to even get the numbers under Writer B’s social follow. After which you need to keep up content that’s engaging enough to keep your follows, and have those follows interested in your work. (Don’t buy the follows, really that’s so 2017!) When you have them good and interested, drop your book for sale in all it’s available forms and watch some magic happen. You might sell 25 in the first week, then you continue the grind of selling until you hit 100 copies sold. All this on a really good day! Digital Publishing cost you time, serious editing costs and an attractive cover. (Yes, you need to invest time in editing. Seriously!)
Or, you can print your books!
Self-Publishing is a great word in Kenya. You can provide your book in both digital forms and actual books. In Kenya, this depends on your resources, cash wise. As I’ve mentioned before, printers come in all shapes and sizes. (The example mentioned in the link works for fiction books too.) Each Printer has their own requirements, please take the time to discover which printer will fit your needs best. You can choose to print 10 books of your poetry and/or fiction book or 1000 copies. After you print the book, your job now is to find customers to buy your books. Like Writer B, the wider your network, the more customers you gain, the more books you sell. Be a social bee, a busy bee.
The challenge, find time in all your busy-ness to write your next book.
A Note on Digital Publishing Platforms like Amazon and Smashwords.
I am a BIG fan of Do-it-Yourself. I mean that, even at home, you know when kids write on the wall with permanent markers and every adult is having a blowout. I don’t worry. You know why? I’m very capable with a brush and paint. That wall will look as good as new with the right paint. Simply keep the paint handy at home…the writing on the wall will disappear. Hahaha
Now, when I hear scandals about people who got their books put on Amazon for them and they have no access, I wonder why it’s even happening. You, starting out author, you, Amazon’s KDP has pages long of information on how to publish with them. Take the time to read, and learn. Please, Please Arm yourself with information. Smashwords.com even has a How to book you can download for free to get started. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim when there is no need.
Learn how to do it, if it’s something you want to do. Take the time to learn.
Once you’re armed with information you will be able to make the right choice for you and your work.