June ends with grace and half a year is in the bag. Nairobi is cold. Coffee, warm clothes, and scarves have become a staple in our corner. It’s perfect reading weather. If you’re a writer working on improving your writing skills, here’s a list of books to get you started, or to keep you going. They add great resources to your writing kit and I’ve found I’ve returned to all of them more than once.
I discovered this book right after high school and it’s been a staple in the library. I’ve lost copies of it and ended up with an ebook. This book is a great start if you’re just beginning. When you don’t know where to start, it will get you through the idea stage, to how to formulate your story, and equip you with tools on how to create characters, decide your POV and dialogue basics. My favorite concept from this book is, ‘Ideas are everywhere. The writer of fiction must learn to search the world for these seeds.’ It’s a great addition to your writing books, and will help you find out how to plant your seeds and help them grow into fiction
This book was a referral. My favorite quote from this book is: ‘Good Storytelling…gives the audience the experience of a life…” If you want a more in-depth way of approaching storytelling, this is the perfect book. It discusses story structure, parts of the ‘story world’, and exploration on how to develop that world.
I absolutely love the idea of looking at writing as a form of telepathy. I love magic and the possibilities it represents. On Writing is a look at how to deal with rejection letters from publishers, how to build your writing toolbox and unearthing the fossils of story that fill your imagination. It’s a very entertaining take on the craft and I find that it helps to return to this book when I’m stuck. The best advice I got from this book is that you need to keep reading. Read everything that you can, to become a better writer, to increase your knowledge on people, places, ideas, concepts…just read, probably more than you write, or just as much.
Now, if you’re like me and English is the third language, hahaha, you’ll know that writing English can be difficult. It has very many words and a gazillion ways to describe things. This thesaurus is a great addition to your library for this purpose. Writers need new words in their writing toolbox so as not to repeat themselves and become boring. We remember what we often practice, so the thesaurus will help you discover new ways to say remember.
This last book is about embracing your writing and loving it no matter what level you are in terms of publishing/self-publishing or just sharing your fiction space. I love everything about this book. It explores productivity, how to create and share without allowing fear to cripple you. Mostly because I have a serious productivity weakness that I’ve been working on conquering. The last two years have been full of activities in my personal life that took attention away from writing. It’s not easy getting back. It’s like starting again when you get back to it. You need input, ideas, and concepts in books to help you along. ^_^ This book has been perfect. Words like these, ‘Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you. Make me really happy. I want to say I’m in love with this book and because I love it, I’m sharing and hoping you will love it too.
Writing is a skill to learn and improve. The books above have been a great addition to my reading list. There are more, but these have stood out for me in this month of June.
Have you completed your Manuscript and are wondering what to do?
You have finally finished writing your manuscript, be it Fiction or Non-Fiction, and you have saved your work on your laptop or in the cloud. You’re asking, ‘What do I do now?’
First, Congratulations on finishing your writing project, a finished manuscript is cause for celebration. I mean it. Celebrate that moment of completion, because it takes a lot of time to get to that last full stop.
Now, let’s get to work.
Idea 1: The Intensive Editing Process
I hate to say it but you need to consider this. Be very honest with your finished work and answer this question. Is your Manuscript a First Draft/Rough Draft? Is it a shell of an idea you have about your book? I’m asking, is it work you think still needs more effort?
– The Editing Process is intensive and it transforms your first draft into a worthy book. There is no way around it because you’re not writing this manuscript for you, but for readers you hope will engage, love and understand your work. Your thoughts or your story must be cohesive and understandable. Getting to this moment of perfection takes a few rewrites.
The process might go like this. When you finish writing a manuscript, you print it out and give it a few days before you read it. When you do pick that manuscript, read it holding a pen and make notes on a notepad. Find scenes that feel incomplete. Find sentences that read wrong. Fix typos and spelling mistakes. Discover insane plot holes that need reworking and rewriting. This happens before you let anyone else read your work. Once you have gotten your story to where you feel you have done the most editing you can yourself, let someone else read it. Why? You can’t see the flaws anymore. You’re too close.
Beta readers always have notes for you. Discuss them and more changes will likely happen in the manuscript. Try to make this a fast process instead of making it endless. Endlessness sends you into limbo world. You keep working on the same manuscript over and over and it never ends. If you have a good beta reader, you’re able to create deadlines that you both meet leading to a state of completion.
Any editor you reach out to gets the fourth or fifth edition of the manuscript. Be aware that the editor will have a few changes for you too. I’m saying this with all my love. Editor Feedback is a blessing to you. Rant and rave if you must, but get back in there and refocus your attention.
Look at the suggestions given from the perspective of your editor, the reader, and try to see what you can take from that feedback. It’s a painful process. You rewrite entire chapters or lose them, as in cut them out. You gotta keep track of these changes. It hurts when you lose changes that you really needed. I’ve cried tears over this. Anyway, your editor gets you to that nirvana that is the Last Draft, the draft to release out to the world.
Is this Intensive Editing Process important?
You’re thinking, ‘I’ve written and completed a manuscript. Other than spelling typos and a few sentences that sound off, I think I have this, no need for rewrites and second-looks. Let’s just sell this thing.’
Great! Confidence is important in all undertakings. If you don’t have confidence, well, why start in the first place, right?
Still, take a moment to really ask yourself, ‘What is the goal of you writing this manuscript?’
Is it to gain readers? Is it for crazy sales?
Is it for fun? Is it just a phase?
Do you just want to tell people you write?
Are you educating people in an industry? Do you want to entertain?
Is it for mad fame and culture-changing insight?
Is it for an important cause? Are you creating a fiction masterpiece?
If you answered 1, 4, 5, 6, then you need the intensive editing process to get your work into sparkling condition. You have competition and you need to get ahead of the other millions of writers who want the very same things. Editing gets you there. It makes your work stand out.
You know your readers measure your manuscript’s worth in reviews and sales. You want to give them the best, so you work at it until you’re satisfied with the last edition.
There is nothing wrong with answering 2 and/or 3. Still, even at this stage, you should work to polish your work, and then create a platform that is your very own real estate. Have a place to share your work and direct people to see and read your work. Stages 2 and 3 launch you into the next step. They help you grow an audience and give you the courage and confidence to go all in.
Selling your Completed Manuscript
Self-Publishing Tidbits:Have stories you create for sharing everywhere: on your blog, on social media, on looseleaf notebooks for your close people to read. Have stories you list for sale. Spend money on the stories you list for sale: on editors and book cover art. Get a website and allocate a marketing budget. You may also have stories you submit to Traditional Publishers in the hope of getting them published. (Don’t publish submissions elsewhere, please.) All these stories should have one thing in common. Make sure they are presentable in all their available forms. They are your brand and represent your body of work.
Ideas 2 & 3: Literary Agents and Traditional Publishers
Question: My Manuscript is ready. I’m in Kenya, or East Africa, and I’m wondering, what do I do next? Do I choose a traditional publisher, or should I start thinking of self-publishing?It all depends on your goals.
Publishers in Kenya receive manuscripts from thousands of writers in the region. Your work is to get yours noticed. This means, finding an editor who will help you get your manuscript up to level, if you can’t afford one, using all your effort to get to that level.
Do your homework. Publishing Houses in Kenya each have different types of genres they prefer. Do your research. Educate yourself on genres and discover how your work fits in their house. Reach out to them and take their feedback seriously.
When your work is accepted, the publisher will get you to the next step. Educate yourself on royalties, copyrights and contracts in Kenya.
The Traditional Publishing Route is as intensive as the Editing process. If this is your chosen route, do not quit in the middle. Send in your submissions, and if you get rejections, study why and grow from it. Keep going until you get that yes.
The Editing Process – Work to get your editing done at the same level as books churned out by Traditional Publishers. Make sure your content is cohesive and engaging. Do not take shortcuts and push out loads of typos.
Book Cover Art, Blurbs & Formatting – You’re the publisher now, so once you finish your last edit, you get to jump in and design your book. These decisions are yours to make and formulate. Do your research.
ISBNs and Copyright – Don’t neglect your legal needs, to protect your hard work and to get your book in the library systems.
Digital Platforms & Hard Copy Books – You get to decide what type of medium you want to pursue to sell your book. You can print a physical book, or publish it as digital content (e-book). You may choose to use both.
Marketing and Getting Reviews – Once your book is ready and available, you start building a marketing network. Find bookshops that will carry your physical book and websites to advertise your e-books. Talk about it on social media. Sensitize your audience on the book’s existence. Get the word out there, and don’t stop.
Write your next book – The journey does not stop at one book. Keep writing.
Self-publishing is essentially starting your own business. You product is your book. Your work is to create a brand, grow an audience or a following for your book, and keep writing. It does give you the freedom to choose your platforms. However, it also requires a great deal more effort from the author.
This blog post is courtesy of questions in my email on completed manuscripts and what to do next. What challenges do you face when you think of getting your books published? Thank you for reading my blog.
This question paralyzes the majority of writers in Kenya. It is the most asked question in my inbox. So, I am going to make a be-courageous-and-take-matters-into-your-own-hands post. Educate yourself on the words Word-count, Book size and Genre. Your manuscript is a product. Fiction or Non-fiction, it is a product. Know what your desired product looks like.
What is the cost? How much will you need? How do I know the cost?
In this post, we came up with a short guideline on how to decide what type of book you want to create. There are six questions you need answers to, only then can you decide the size of the book you want to produce.
If you’re writing fiction, know what size of work you want to create and in what genre you want to write in. That is:-
1. Short Story – 0 to 7,500 words
2. Novelette – 7,500 to 17,500 words
3. Novella – 17,500 to 40,000 words
4. Novel – 40,000 words and above.
Where does your current work fit in the list below?
Remember each size of story requires a different type of workload from you. You must understand that the cost of printing a novel with 40,000 words and above is more than the cost of printing 7,500 words.
The word count determines the amount of money you’ll spend when it comes to self publishing. It becomes very important to choose the number of words you want to produce in the type of work you want to create.
If you’re writing a non-fiction book, decide what size of work you want to create as well. The word count is leveled the same as the list above. Remember your chosen topic and industry. If you’ve chosen academic writing, follow the rules of that process. Do the research e.t.c. The cost of printing non-fiction is also determined by the presence of photographs and diagrams (color or black & white). The more photos and colored-diagrams, the more cost.
Once you write your manuscript, then you can start thinking about editing and the cost of editing. Once again, editors look at the amount of words (Word Count) you need edited, and the work you have already put in to make it easier to edit.
Scenario: if your manuscript has typos, misspelled words, grammar challenges, for fiction – a confusing story, for non-fiction – a mishmash of ideas with no real point, an editor is looking at your manuscript and seeing a huge workload. They’ll either charge you a large number or decline your work.
If you’ve made the effort to clean up your manuscript of a lot of the troubles above, an editor will have an easier time working with you, as they’re able to understand what your work is about, and what you want to achieve. The cost might reduce from a huge shocking number to a manageable number. ^_^
So how much do you need?
Editing – Depends on the word count, the work you’ve already put in to your manuscript, and the type of editor you get. It can range from 9,000/- to 50,000/- or more. An editor may help you with formatting at an added charge.
Formatting and Printing – Depends on the size of book (Book Size). Some printers don’t do the formatting services, others do. A book with around 30,000 words costs about 180/- per book to print, depending on the type of printer you get, and how many books you want to print.
Printing Cost is absolutely dependent on your desired end product. You can get it cheap, you can get it expensive.
Shop around and discover which printer will work for you.
So, your cost is determined by Word Count. Word Count determines your Book Size and Your Editors’s Costs. Small word-count costs less, large word – count costs more.
Genre is what your book is about, the category it fits in and how easy or fast your readers will find it.
Think of it as a learning journey when you enter the publishing industry. At first, you don’t really know much, but as time goes you get to learn and know what is working and what is not. You will need patience and the will to put in work. Your dedication is a must. Most important, know what you want out of it. Here are six questions you should ask yourself at the beginning.
1. Are you publishing fiction or non-fiction?
Are you a creative with an abundant vault of stories, poems, musings that you feel would entertain, or bring joy and inspiration to people. Fiction is art, it is very creative and comes in a myriad of forms. Best of all, there is no restriction to it. Fiction books give you more freedom to be creative.
Are you writing non-fiction? Non-fiction books are fact-based. They are also industry-based, or educative. People read them to learn. You need to be very conversant on the topic you choose for your non-fiction book. What non-fiction topic are you passionate about? Decide – Fiction or Non-fiction.
2. In what Fiction Genre? In what Non-Fiction Industry?
Now that you’ve decided what type of book you want to write, let’s break it down further. In this post, I’ll assume you’re after writing commercial/popular Fiction books as opposed to literary works or literary merit work (which is also a choice by the way). Fiction is categorized into Genres that are recognized easily by readers. For example, mystery, thrillers, romance, children’s books, e.t.c. Educate yourself on the different types of fiction people read. Then, choose a genre for your fiction work.
For Non-fiction, decide what industry you want to write for. Are you a baker with expertise? Are you a chef with awesome cooking skills you want to share or teach? Are you a teacher who has discovered a new way to teach kids without having them memorize boring texts? What kind of content do you want to provide in your non-fiction book? At what level are you in the industry, that is, beginner/intermediate/expert? Decide –> Genre or Industry
3. Who is your target audience? Who is your core audience?
Now that you’ve chosen the type of book and in what genre or industry, choosing a target audience or a core audience comes next. I will tell you right now, you cannot write for everyone. Everyone is different. We all have different tastes when it comes to our fiction reads. I might enjoy Game of Thrones, someone else might find it unbearable. GOT is categorized as fantasy, on account of the dragons….lolz. Their target audience is Adults who love Fantasy. Be very niche based with your fiction, it will help you grow an audience. Are you writing for kids, young adults, adults, women, young women, young men, high school kids, the older generation, younger generation? Who are you writing for?
In Non-Fiction, who is your core audience? Beginners, experts, novices, hobby people, intermediate, startups, people seeking inspiration? If you’re writing an autobiography, biography, life story, a literary work, what point are you trying to put across and to whom? Know it. Decide –> Who is your audience?
4. Who is already in the game?
Whatever your idea, fiction or non-fiction, you’d best believe that someone has already written it. You need to know it, read that content, and find inspiration from it. Your main goal is to find out what other authors, in the fiction genre or in the non-fiction industry you chose, are doing. Learn from their work, their experiences, and transform your work into something close, good, or even greater. Decide –>Who do you want to be like when your writing career grows up?
5. What are the authors in the game before me doing to get an audience?
Popular authors have a following, or die-hard fans that will read their work no matter what they publish. e.g. I will read anything Nora Roberts produces. Why, because I read to be entertained and know her books won’t let me down. She’s made a brand of her work. Now, your turn to make your brand. P/S – Your work at the starting point is triple, you need to convince an audience to read your work. Then, you must assure your growing audience that you’ll consistently deliver great work to entertain. Learn from the greats in your chosen Genre, or Industry. Decide–>What kind of audience do you want? e.g. Nora’s rabid fan(Elly) who will buy my work no matter what. how do i get her loyalty?
6. Will it work for me? How can I work out my own plan?
Now, it is very common for authors/writers to copy or emulate authors they idolize or admire. There is nothing wrong with that, unless you’re downright plagiarizing published work, which is absolutely wrong. (don’t plagiarize) However, you need a starting point, your chosen idol is a great start.
Use it to grow your work, your voice, your style. Once you’re clear on what type of content you want to create, what it looks like at its absolute best, then find a way to make it your own. Audiences gravitate to authenticity. Decision –> Be real, don’t cheat, and map out your goals for your work. Most of all, be passionate, and that should get you passionate fans too.
Once you understand the answers to these six questions, then you’ll have a plan to run with as you start your self-publishing journey.
On this post, we celebrate and feature one of Kenya’s Registered Valuers, Kariuki Waweru. He has written an invaluable book on How To Invest in Real Estate in Kenya. This book has a wealth of information on how to invest, tips on home ownership in Kenya and how to navigate the confusing world of loans and mortgages in Kenya. Mr. Kariuki was kind to answer my questions on his book and his publishing journey. Let’s take a look!
1. What is the most favorite question you’ve ever
gotten from a reader?
I have had people who are at the verge of making a decision on real estate investing and when they ask questions, I direct them to the book. (How To Invest in Real Estate In Kenya). It feels good to have all the answers to their questions in one book. Feels like the motto for Nakumatt, “ You need it, we’ve got it”.
2. Did you
always want to be a published author?
I didn’t always want to. My first article was on whether to buy a car or a plot? I was dating my then fiancée, now my wife, and I needed to convince her that land is a good investment but I also knew that a car can earn one some extra cash… so I thought I should write down my arguments and see. I did that and she was very impressed. She encouraged me to keep writing and I wrote so many articles which I could send to her. She then encouraged me to start a blog, which I did. It’s now called www.kariukiwaweru.com … I then extracted some articles from the blog to publish my first book and extracted some more to publish my second book.
prompted you to write, ‘How to Invest in Real Estate in Kenya’?
After publishing my first book in 2012 and revising it
in 2014, I realized that there was a gap in the market for a more practical
book. Between 2016 and 2018, I went through a practical hands on experience of
taking a commercial bank loan, a mortgage, buying a plot, building my family a
house and investing in a commercial property for rental purposes. I blogged
about this journey, the lessons learned and these came to refine my consultancy
journey and made me a more practical
consultant. I compiled all the experience and lessons learned and came up with
this book. This book has everything you need to know about home ownership,
commercial investments, loans and mortgages set in a Kenyan context by a Kenyan
Registered Valuer and consultant.
4. What is your
most memorable experience as a Registered and Practicing Valuer in Kenya?
It took me 13 years from the time in joined the
University of Nairobi as a first year BA Land Economics student to becoming a
Registered Valuer. Getting that title
was my highest professional achievement and a culmination of dreams… it was a
dream come true. Later on, seeing my
name published in the Kenya Gazettee alongside the less than 600 valuers in
Kenya since Kenya got its independence was also one of my greatest
5. You have published two books, that is, ‘The
ABC of Real Estate Investments in Kenya’ and now ‘How to Invest in Real Estate in
a. What has your publishing journey been like?
I have learned a lot. There is need to keep reviewing your work, get good editors and designers and most importantly a good person to print the book. My first book was poorly printed in downtown Nairobi and I had to redo the printing and change the layout and design in 2014. This current book, I have used very well established printers and designers (which is quite costly) and I have not regretted the outcome.
b.Which book was easier to publish? The first or the second?
The second was easier as I knew exactly what I wanted
and how to go about the publishing, editing and marketing.
c. What challenges, if any, did you face the first time, and were they present the second time around?
The challenges from the first time were using
inexperienced designers and printers to do my work. This cost me a lot in terms
of money and time.
6. What is your
view on publishing books in Kenya?
I think we should immortalize ourselves through
7. What advice would you give to someone hoping to publish his or her first book?
The longest journey starts with a single step. Start
writing. Start a blog… your readers will critic your work and you will be a
better writer. Once you are ready, talk to someone who has published before and
learn from them on how to proceed.
8. Lastly, will you write another book? What do you think the title will be?
God willing I will write many other books. Ng’ugi wa
Thiong’o has more than 15 titles under his name…I have 3…I’m just getting
The titles normally come after the content is done…so I don’t have any ready titles as yet.
Elly in Nariobi’s Thoughts:
It is always so inspiring to see an author’s journey in to publishing. If you’re wondering if the journey is possible, I hope Mr. Kariuki’s answers are enough to let you know that yes, it is. Whatever your idea, fiction or non-fiction, you can get it published in Kenya.
How to Invest in Real Estate in Kenya is a great addition to your bookshelf.
1. Because it simplifies the process of purchasing land, navigating mortgages and helping plan for the future in terms of real estate investments.
2. All the content is based on Kenyan experiences. I always feel we need more professionals sharing, and demystifying their industries for Kenyans, as Mr. Kariuki has done.
To purchase this book: The book goes for Kshs. 500.
Email – email@example.com or Visit our shop at Shililia stores, El Roi plaza, Ground floor. Tom Mboya street next to Odeon or call 0793772490.
Canva is an invaluable design resource for posters, social media posts, advertising and logo designs. They also have a very awesome book cover design feature with great results. If you need a book cover, fast, and don’t know where to get it, try out Canva. It costs you an email and time to sign up for an account.
Adobe Spark is another great resource. Their concept is similar to Canva, if you can’t find what you’re looking for on Canva, maybe you’ll get it on Adobe Spark. I use both for social posts. The interface is easy to use, and you can save the cover anywhere you wish.
This is my favorite. You get a lot more freedom with creative decisions. It does require a longer period of time to learn, but once you understand the basics, you are able to create a decent book cover, in any shape and size. ^_^
Use these to create and format books and book covers. You’ll need time and patience to grow expertise with these. If you’re willing to learn, your book cover issues will be a thing of the past. Indesign is especially great for book formatting.
Hire an Illustrator for your cover
5. Get Your Cover Designed for You
This is a really great choice especially if you want to print your book. You can get someone to design a book cover for you. The advantage to this is that you get original artwork. The artwork will match your content, as you work with the illustrator until you’re satisfied with the result. Alternatively, you can purchase a ready-made book cover design from a graphic designer.
Below please find profiles on two Illustrators based in Nairobi.
The standard cost for simple illustrations, pricing starts from Kshs. 5,000 and complex illustrations start at Kshs. 7,500 .
My work is primarily done using digital techniques and inspired by everyday objects and subjects that challenge me in drawing. My style is heavily influenced by printmaking techniques and the use of a limited colour palette. If you would like to talk to me about a project, please get in touch.
Coming Soon: Watch out for a feature on Humphrey Osoro on this blog!
If you know an illustrator who creates book covers do share, and we can create a list of Book Cover Illustrators to reach out to. If you are an illustrator who can create book covers, share your information as well. Authors are looking for book covers.
I hope these five ideas are of use to you on your journey to creating wonderful book covers.
We (my sis + me) have been working on industry books these past months, and I would like to share a bit of that journey on this blog from now on. You might find a Book Cover feature, or a story on the insane experiences we get dealing with our printer, mingled in with Fiction chapters of my stories. The journey is evolving!
My sister is the house baker, and these past weeks she’s been carrying out a massive pastry recipe testing project for this book. She bakes and we take hundreds of photos, for the book’s interior and for the book cover. Our main priority is usually the initial PDF. Once that is done, we flow into the process of formatting for print. In between all that, we’ve had to learn what Tabata Intervals are. Don’t forget to take care of your health. The struggle is real.
This first cover is our most important as it goes into the PDF copy and is used for all social media posts and sales posters. I had fun developing this cover, now I’m off to do some formatting.
Title: The Amari Beginner’s Guide to Puff Pastry
Description: Get this e-booklet if you want to learn how to make your own Puff pastry, Croissants and other Puff pastry desserts. This book contains terms and tips to introduce and explain to you Puff pastry and Croissant dough and how to get best results. If you want to start making Meat pies, Sausage rolls using the correct pastry – this is the book for you. Recipes contained in the e-booklet: Puff pastry, Croissants, Palmiers, Pain au Chocolate, Cherry Turn-overs, Vol – au – Vents, Puff Cinnamon Rolls, Meat Pies & Puff Donuts
Format– The e-booklet is in PDF format and is not printable. The Hard copy will be available from next week at Kshs. 300.
Where to get it–Direct purchase from Amari Baking Center.Send amount to Lipa na Mpesa, Buy Goods till no. 89736 (Amari Quickbreads bakery) then text e-mail address to no. 0701796688 stating you want the Puff Pastry e-booklet please. On sale until 2nd May only – yay! Kshs. 50 only for our new Amari Recipe E-Booklet
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.
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.
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? Social Media is too hard.
Dream: I want to publish and be known for writing books.
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
This is a question you need to ask yourself the moment you write the last word on the last page of your work.
If your answer is yes, then seek aBeta Readerbefore you find anEditor. 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:
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.)
Join writing groups or critique circles. Be warned, you might go through a few groups to find the perfect fit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Re-editing – Kshs. 2, 000 (There were a few changes we needed to make)
ISBN – Kshs. 1,500
Copyright Costs – Kshs. 1,000
Cover – Kshs. 2,500 (included the ISBN bar code)
Printing – (Kshs. 180 x 50) = Kshs. 9,000
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. (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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.
With the book in hand, the rest is marketing in all shapes, forms and sizes.
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.
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
your life. In short, this question filled my head on a constant when I started.
Two things to remember :-
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.
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!
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.
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.
Your weaknessesare found by your editor, your first fan, the person who reads your work and makes suggestions. Listen to them, and find a solution.
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.
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.
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.
Platforms are a central placeto 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.
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.
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.
As with every plan, there are small goals in between the growth process. Some of those are:
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.
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.
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.
Start a podcast, and build a following.
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?
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?