Tips on Promoting Self-Published Books in Kenya

Reader Question: What self-promotion tips result in high sales?

I got this question on my blog, and it had me thinking, of course.  When I first started writing, I felt a little bit a lot like a fish out of water.  Gasping for air, with no real idea on what to do next.  I know what it’s like to feel as though you have this need to keep writing, but have no real solid foundation to make it a workable financial solution for

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Photo by Tom Holmes 

your life. In short, this question filled my head on a constant when I started.

Two things to remember :-

  1. Yes, when you start, you will need to find other means to fund your life until your book turns out sales that satisfy you.  If you haven’t already.
  2. Yes, you will need to invest in your book to make it a success, and a product worth purchasing.

You cannot escape these two things.  Once you have understood that, and accepted it, now we can discuss self-promotion and sales.  I’ll explore three options today, and post the rest next week.  I’ve been on a writing binge, and want to post fiction the rest of this week…hehehe.

Tips on Self-promotion that will lead to High Sales!

  1. Great Content – I stress this every time I write about self-publishing.  Take the time to evaluate your work.  Discover your strengths, your weaknesses, your opportunities, and your threats.  Yep (SWOT) coming at you.
    1. Did you choose a topic you know?  A topic you love and are passionate about?  Do you sound convincing?  Can the reader trust you when they read your book?  Are they going to fall in at the first page, and not regret getting straight to the last page? If you answered yes to all of these questions, hey, you’re working on your strengths.  If not, find a way to do just that.
    2. Your weaknesses are found by your editor, your first fan, the person who reads your work and makes suggestions.  Listen to them, and find a solution.
    3. Opportunities are found where you work, who you spend time with, family and friends.  For example,  my sister writes recipe books, and has written on her journey in the baking industry.  Her opportunities come when she meets those who want to join the baking industry and those already in the industry and would love to try out new recipes.  If you are writing fiction, your friends, family, school mates, and those around you are your first readers.  Exploit them to the fullest.  Don’t be shy and grow a thick skin for when you face rejection.  Shake it off, and keep moving forward.
    4. Threats are your competition.  Whatever book you have written, or are thinking of writing, there is an author three steps ahead of you.  Search them out, seek them out, read what they have done, learn from it, but don’t plagiarize. ^_^  What you learn, use it to improve your own work.
    5. In one bundle, make sure you are treating your content like a high quality product.  You want to provide your readers with the best content possible.  Polish it, edit it, get a great cover and blurb, enough to entice readers at first glance.
  2. Build a Strong Platform – To be truthful, this is a challenge. I  won’t lie and say it is easy to build a place where you have people running to read your blog, facebook page, twitter, instagram, or your book sitting on the bookshelf in the shop on the first day.  It takes work. Hard, daily work.  Some days are great, others not.  The key is not to stop.  Now that I’ve said that, let’s get into it.
    1. Platforms are a central place to find your work, and all about your work, and you, the author.  I chose a blog because it was easiest for me.  I love writing and sharing ideas.  I don’t mind sharing fiction, so most of my stories can easily be found on this blog.  The readers I’ve gained have found me through this blog, which then shares my content to my social accounts: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  This blog is my strongest platform.  You can have a different platform.  Just have one place your readers can get to know you and your work.  Here are a few examples of writers with similar platforms. Peter Nena, Dilman Dila, there are more, but these two remain constant favorites for me.
    2. You are your marketer.  Share your work with people you meet in person, in groups you join.  Let people know you are writing, where to find your work, and how to access it.  I’ve said before, I prefer Smashwords as they are really great at getting your work in more online bookshops, as opposed to Amazon’s exclusivity.  You can also choose to explore Kenyan online bookstores like Magunga.com.  Connect with brick and mortar bookstores and see if they will carry your book, or even bookmarks directing people to your site.  Run an ad on Facebook/Instagram, see how many people get to know about your work. Remember that you are the PR team, and share your work constantly.  Don’t be discouraged if one idea doesn’t work out, get back to the drawing board and explore another.
  3.  Converting to High Sales – The first two parts of this list build a community around your work.   Your goal is to make this community love your work, so much, that when you publish your next book, they won’t mind paying for it. Your main job is to grow this community, nurture it, and they will, in turn, support your work in ways that will truly surprise you.  This is why you need more than one book, more than one story, more than one of all that you do, to build readership.

Writing Tips Blog GraphicAs with every plan, there are small goals in between the growth process.  Some of those are:

  1. Get readers to review your work if you have already published.  Reviews are a great way to get people to know that your work is worth a look.  I bet before you buy a book on Amazon, nook, etc, you check out reviews to see if it’s popular.
  2. Join communities that focus on your chosen topic.  Fiction writers choose genre communities to find readers.  Non-fiction writers choose their industry to find readers.
  3. Social media is a great place to start the conversation.  Tweet it, gram it, facebook it, page it, if you have the camera, make videos and youtube it. 
  4. Start a podcast, and build a following. 
  5. Don’t keep quiet, and talk about it to friends, make small business cards to share when you go to meetups. The amount of chamas (groups) people join in Kenya come on…share your cards with everyone there.  They will check it out for curiosity out of the five curious, you will get two who will turn into fans.  Fans buy books.  Just think, If no one knows, how can you sell?
  6. Going back to the start, make sure you have your work edited write right.  Your readers will love it if they don’t have to work at reading it.

I hope this is helpful to you.  If you have written a book, and self-published it, don’t hesitate to share it in the comments below.  I love sharing stuff…great place to start right?

Happy May Day!

 

 

 

How to Self-Publish your Books in Kenya

Self-publishing might seem like an uphill battle, but with  experience, it gets easier tothere is no reason to stay unpublished get into on this sunny part of the world.  There is no reason not to write.  A few years ago, the only way to access your money after you sold e-books and your money was in your Paypal account was through a bank.  It took eight days for it to process. Such a long time.  Well, that’s changed now, thanks to Safaricom’s Mpesa.  So, I thought I should post this little how-to today, coz I’m excited about it.

So, Simple how-to self-publish your e-book/book in Kenya:

  1. Write your book. – I advocate fiction books because that is what I primarily publish, but this works for non-fiction books too.  Your book must be entertaining, engaging, and in the case of non-fiction, informative.  Don’t cut corners.  Find an editor, pay them, do the work and get your book to perfection.
  2. Design your cover  – Great Covers are essential.  Find a graphic designer who can create a cover that will market your book in the best possible way.  Discover more about genres, and how covers play a role in distinguishing them.  If you’re writing non-fiction books, make sure your cover speaks to your audience, and the topic you are discussing.
  3. Write a Blurb – When you go to the bookshop and are browsing books, you pick one out, read the back, if you don’t like what it says, you return it to the shelf.  If you do like that small paragraph in the back, you immediately head to the counter to pay for it.  Hehehe…Now, take your book that you’ve spent months writing, and come up with a great blurb to entice your readers with one glance.
  4. If you’re publishing this book as an e-book on Smashwords/Amazon’s KDP, you are good to go.  The next step is to log on to your account, and start uploading the files as specified by each site.  Set your price, and hit publish.  Then start marketing your e-book like there is no tomorrow.
  5. Amazon has yet to offer any easier ways of getting paid in Kenya.  You still get a check in your mailbox with these guys when your sales reach $100.   Smashwords is more lenient.  They now pay out  monthly to Paypal.  And as I said earlier, Safaricom’s Mpesa now has an easy way for you to get your money through Paypal. 
  6. If you’re publishing your book as a physical book, get in touch with the copyright board, get your ISBN, and make sure you have crossed your T’s with them.  Then consider your printing options.  There are many different types of printers in Nairobi.  Some are efficient, others not so much. You need to find your perfect fit, money wise, and emotional-wise too.
  7. The rest is marketing and awareness.  Don’t forget that your book is a product.  Create a brand, embrace every reader who comes to you, and give them more with lots of love.  Share your work, and if readers love it, they will pay for it.

I write these little how-to’s because I believe the fiction/non-fiction books market is growing in Kenya.  We need more authors writing fiction and publishing it.  We need a bigger presence in the e-book market, and authors to take ownership of their fiction.  Then we can really have a vibrant industry, enough to entice more readers.  So, if you’re a writer reading this, get started today.  Get published!

Bonus:

Here’s a short fiction story to read for Free!

Download the Save My Heart PDF.

 

Let’s Talk Money – Self- Publishing

download (1)Is it easy to make money with Self- Publishing in Kenya?

I think on any level, this is a Tough Question. If it’s something you’re thinking about doing, please Don’t quit your day job just yet, you keep trudging on, working your day job and writing fiction in the dead of night.  You’re thinking what a strange way to start a topic.  However, Money matters require clarity.

Options available to you in Kenya:

a) Self-publishing an honest to goodness dead-trees book

– Approach  – Self-Printing at a Printing Press

  1.  To get a dead-trees(actual/physical) book published you’ll find you need to self-publish using an Your storyindependent printing press. You approach them with your carefully prepared work.  They’ll assess it, and quote you a price. For example, 100 books, each at Kshs. 150 = Kshs. 15,000. (This price is for a small book, possibly the size of a prayer book/ Please do shop around to get the right prices offered by different printers) It is your job to handle the necessary copyright registrations, editing, cover creation and all state related business requirements.
  2. Once you’re printed, you advertise which includes: asking different bookshops to sell your books.  You might need to offer invoices, as most bookshops pay only after they’ve sold your books. If you don’t have the influence to advertise your book on a serious note, tackle alternate ways like word-of-mouth, carry your books in a bag, sell to whoever you meet.  Get on social media, talk about it.  You need to price your book, judge this using the cost price, e.g. book costs Kshs. 150 you can price it at Kshs. 350 to cover all the expenses you incurred. If you’re able to sell all copies at once, good on you, if not, keep at it. Remember, this is a self-publishing journey. You learn and don’t quit.  Take this as a business.

– Alternative: Approach an Established Publisher

  1. Watch out for manuscript calls from various publishing houses in the country/ and or continent. They’re announced on publishing company websites and their social media accounts. Work on your manuscript; make sure it meets the specifics given by the publishing company. If your work is accepted, there is usually a monetary reward for the manuscript based on number of words, or the publishing company offers you a royalty payment plan. These conditions depend on the publishing company or publishing house.
  2. You can also submit your manuscript to the various publishing companies in Kenya, East Africa or Africa as a whole. If your work is good, strong, and what the company is looking for, they’ll give you a call and publish your work. You can get a contract of sale for the manuscript, and royalties payment plan. This depends on the publishing house.
  3. These are both great ideas. If you’re one of the lucky ones to get in to this type of plan in Africa, you’re talented and very lucky indeed.

– Approach – Self-Publishing E-books

This is a choice to leap into the international market, with a simple boat and oar in the ocean (^_^ self-pubHehe).  Your product must be great and you must develop a thick skin to survive. There are currently several major e-book publishing platforms in the industry; Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon’s Createspace, Smashwords amongst many others. They all offer pricing options using dollars/pounds/ (insert other major foreign currencies) and not our regular Kenyan shillings. But…Don’t despair. Life has gotten considerably easier lately in terms of accessing your money through paypal, and getting checks that require foreign exchange. (Thank Goodness for that)

Your Self- Publishing E-book Options:

  1. Make your own e-book selling platform. – There are those with the know-how and the where-with-all to create a site that allows their audiences to purchase e-books straight from their personal site. If this is something possible for you, then please, go forth and make it happen. You have control over the cart system, and money goes where you direct it, so it can be in Kenyan shillings. It is a perfect way to make it happen. Here’s a Kenyan Author who has done it. Your goal is to let people know where to purchase your e-books and focus on PR.
  2. Choose an International E-book publishing platform For Example, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. You’re able to publish your e-book on Kindle anavAmazonLogoFooter._V169459313_nd they offer it across the board on different Amazon markets around the world.  You may also choose to publish on Amazon’s Createspace. TheCreatespace platform allows you to publish physical books and make them available to your audience.  Your job is to let people know where topurchase the book, and get as many people buying.  Amazon pays Kenyans when they accumulate $100 (one hundred dollars) in checkform. This is because they don’t allow direct deposit with Kenyan banks just yet.
    1. There is also Smashwords.com.  This platform acts as an e-book distributor. With smashwordsSmashwords.com, you’re able to get your book in with Barne’s & Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iBooks, as well as Amazon’s Kindle amongst other e-book reading platforms. Smashwords can get your e-book on various e-book platforms.  Smashwords pay through Paypal. This is a beautiful arrangement as Equity Bank has chosen to allow its clients to withdraw straight from Paypal. You get your money easily, less waiting for you. Smashwords gets you paid after three months, and you’re paid as long as you’ve accumulated ten dollars and above. Once again, it’s your job to get people to purchase your work.
    2. There are other e-book publishing platforms like Lulu.com. Explore your perfect fit online.
  3. You can choose to have your e-book available across the board.  Use Smashwords.com, Amazon, Nook, Lulu.com and your personal website.  You may also decide to choose just one platform.  You have the control, make the choice.

Your cumulative sales depend on:

  1. How good your story is. Write well, edit meticulously, and take the time to get a great cover. Create an enticing product.
  2. noiseYour ability to market your book – Since you’re self-publishing it’s your job to talk about your work. If you don’t, no one else will. So, get on social media, blog about it, seek reviews, and connect with your readers. If you put effort in to it, you’ll get sales, which translate to more money for you.
  3. Keep writing new books, the more titles you have, the more likely you are to remain visible on various publishing platforms.
  4. Don’t Unpublish – Think of your e-books as long-term assets. Even if you don’t get sales now, you’ll definitely get someone purchasing it in the future. Some e-books gain momentum after they’ve been published for a year or more. They surprise you one day when you get money in your paypal like a super surprise. Don’t hit that unpublish button
  5. Keep Learning the Writing Craft.

As I’ve said, your written work is an asset, treat it as such, and invest quality time in to it. The more books you have, the more pay. The above doesn’t only refer to Fiction, it can also work on Non-Fiction Books.  If you’re an expert in your field, think about getting a book out. You can also offer your Editing Skills to Authors on the Self-publishing path, and make some money that way too. ^_^

Best Advice someone gave me lately was; – Don’t slack! Don’t give up! Think Smart!

← Promotion & Awareness

Five Excuses to Extinguish→

Self- Publishing Fiction e-books in Kenya – Promotion & Awareness

5. Self- Publishing Fiction e-books in Kenya – Promotion & Awareness

download (10)Books are sold by authorpreneurs who take an active role in publicizing their work. Authors working with big publishing companies are lucky in that they get creative, marketing and PR departments working for them.  You have chosen to self-publish a book. You’re choosing to take on all those departments as well as write more books, that is, Double Duty.  Most African writers end up peddling their books from their handbag as I’ve heard once before. They are their own marketing team, their own creative department, and they are the PR team as well. In between all that, they must come up with the next book.

Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself here. Be strict with yourself.  Take yourself seriously, that means coming up with writing schedules, and promotion plans. Please note if you have an eight-to-five job, this might mean extra dedication, on your part. If you’re in between work or have never had a job and are thinking to self-publish for money, you have more time. Good for you, please use it well and beat down that procrastination monster.

Ways to Promote and build Awareness:

1. Get involved with the publishing industry in Kenya – There are different events that arranged by different Kenyan publishing companies and individuals. Participate in them, let people know you’re writing, and what your story is about. If possible, direct the people you meet in these events to your work. If you tell five people, chances are one or two will read it. If you tell twenty, five or six will get there. So, tell up to a hundred people. The number will grow. You’re building an audience, raising awareness.

2. Utilize your family and friends – they are a powerful network. Take ownership of your work and let your family know that writing is important to you. Show them what you’ve done. They’ll take pride in you, if not; convince them to take pride in you. If you’re having a hard time convincing them, tell them it’s not going to stop so they better get used to it, and start reading your stuff.

There are situations that occur, for example, I have moved countries in the past years. You find that you’re leaving your foundation community for a new one, and you are suddenly the odd one out. You have family but not as many close friends. This could lead to shyness, and/or insecurity. You’re the only one who knows you write – that kind of thing. In this case, take it one person at a time. You’ll find someone who believes in your work and go from there. Just don’t allow yourself to self-publish alone.  It gets tough, so talk about it.

3. Explore the Online Community – Join writing groups on Facebook and other social platforms. Are you on Twitter?  Follow other authors, readers, book reviewers, publishing houses, and other people involved in the book industry. You can also follow your favorite authors. Start a Blog. A blog is essential for any writer. You should have a blog. When starting out, you can share your struggles, and they’ll be many. If you’re established, use it to let people know what you’re writing about. When you’re successful, let people know about their favorite characters in your stories. Blogs are your home online. Please start one already if you haven’t.

4. Your book is your product. Talk about it, blog about it, tweet about it, Facebook about it, create posters, ask for reviews from noiseother bloggers, guest blog on people’s blogs and talk about it. Do you get my drift? Self-publishers sell their work by getting noisy and loud both online and offline.

Remember, it helps to have a quality story that’s worth the hoopla. Although, this is relative, some people have managed to sell stories that aren’t as good. If you have an advertising and selling gene, this is the time to make it work overtime. Get people reading those chapters. Don’t forget to write new stories while you’re at it. New stories are the best form of advertising.

←Short Description & Blurb

Let’s Talk Money→

Self-publishing Fiction e-books in Kenya – Short Description / Blurb

4. Self-publishing Fiction e-books in Kenya – Short Description / Blurb

When you pick up a book, you turn it to the back where you read a description of the story. The description lets your reader know who the main characters are, what they do, and what makes the story worth a read.

In short, this part of the book summarizes your story in one short paragraph. You have to entice your audience otherwise; they’ll put it back on the shelf, or move on to the next e-book.

Practice makes perfect. Teach yourself how to summarize your story.

←Plagiarism & Copyright

Promotion & Awareness→

Self-publishing Fiction e-books in Kenya – Plagiarism & Copyrights

3. Self-publishing Fiction e-books in Kenya – Plagiarism & Copyrights

I’ll touch a little on this.  Copyrights are a contentious issue in Kenya, mostly because there are many copycat entrepreneurs. When we talk self-publishing in Kenya, you’re mostly going to have your books published online, on your website or on international platforms. In this case, you, as the writer, you have to watch that you haven’t plagiarized someone out there. If you’re sure with your creativity, then the platform you choose helps you place copyright rights on your work.

Educate yourself on Creative Common Copyrights. They’ll help you protect your work. The Creative Commons copyright licenses and tools forge a balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates. Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The combination of our tools and our users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.  Read More about this on their website.

I think people should never be afraid of sharing their work because of copyrights. If you can prove that the story is yours: that means keeping a clear record of development, from drafting, all fifty-or-so scribbled drafts and different word .docs you created in the process, to the final product, then you shouldn’t have a hard time proving your ownership.

In Kenya, you can decide to register your author name as a business/company to protect your creative products. Consult with a lawyer, and find out how this can be done.  A good lawyer won’t mind having a conversation about these issues with you.  Learn what you can do to protect your work legally.  If you do catch someone stealing your work, take the necessary measures, grab the same lawyer and go to court if you can’t resolve it amicably.

If lawyers are not in your means, find out if the person is selling your work online. Google allows you to report copyright infringement, so does Amazon.com, and any other platform you choose to self-publish. Make use of the report button and follow instructions.  If all fails, result to shaming them on your blog, social media, e.t.c, people will listen.  No one likes a cheat.

Please note that the same process will be carried out on you if you plagiarize someone’s work.

In the end, it is all about your own integrity and responsibility.  Be Original at all times, and know your rights.

Food for thought:

There are established writers who offer their work for free online.  They go as far as supporting people who get their books in dubious ways.  I think the point is to get as many people reading.  The more popular a book is, whether it is through pirating or whatever, it gets staying power, and therefore more sales.  Just a Thought.  Sharing is not bad as long as you credit the author fully.

Outright robbing however, that is terrible.  (This is when an individual takes your story, changes the names of the characters and decides to put his/her name as the original writer.  This is wrong! Don’t Do It! Just Don’t)

←A Cover

Short Description & Blurb→

Self-publishing Fiction e-books in Kenya – A Cover

2. Self-publishing Fiction e-books in Kenya – A Cover

So, your story is complete.  Now, you need a great cover for your e-book. This is also the reason why you need to choose a genre. Covers often interpret what your story is about to your audience. Every book you’ve ever bought has a cover that attracted you to it. You might have known the author, but the cover ultimately drew your eye to that book. Don’t think so? Check yourself the next time you stand in a bookshop. Really, I dare you to test this out.

indexTo use examples, Romance novels use specific types of pictures on the covers e.g. hot guys, pretty ladies, sexy shoes, jewelry, silky fabrics, flowers, wedding gowns, if it can invoke the sense of romance, they’ve used it on a romance novel. In this case, reach out to some good-looking, gym-visiting Kenyan guys and chicks and get them to pose for your romance novel cover. 

When it comes to horror and murder stories, there is blood on the cover, green monsters, crime scene tape, scary monsters, bloody scissors or knife, guns; I’ll scare myself so I’ll stop here. I’m hoping you’re getting the idea.

Reach out to graphic designers, and artists to help you come up with a cover that speaks to your audience. You can also purchase a cover from different cover makers on their sites, Deviant Art, or in real life creative shops.

Remember, stick to the genre covers and come up with your take on them. If it’s romance, create a cover with a romance theme. If it’s Sci-fi, they choose those robots and aliens for a reason. To let people know what genre they’re buying. So, know your genre, your story, and find a cover to match.

P/S: Don’t use borrowed, copied pictures in your work. It is always best to get permission for pictures you get online, or from people. This is to avoid jumping into a copyright argument. Go original at all times, do your best to follow this rule.

←Your Story

Plagiarism & Copyrights→