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!

 

 

 

Fire by Dora Okeyo

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Fire

by Dora Okeyo

A boy is born in the land of Leo. As the sound of the cattle horn is heard, everyone in the Kingdom celebrates the birth of not only a boy, but the Crown Prince. His name is Ustawi.

The hands that hold him foretell a prosperous future, but just like every dream has it’s valleys, so has Ustawi’s birth. One man has seen the evil that’s to befall the kingdom under the boy’s reign, his name is Ukweli. He is the Seer.

Fire begins the story of the Prince’s life and as you read through a story rich in culture and customs you can only ask yourself, can the Seer fight the gods? Can he avert the impending doom that’s to come?

Currently reading this book, a review to come soon.

Check it out, Fire is available on Amazon’s Kindle as an e-book and as a paperback book on Amazon

Find more books by Dora here.

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→

7 Things to Know when Self-Publishing on Smashwords in Kenya

About Smashwords.com

smashwordsSmashwords is a global ebook distributor serving authors, publishers, readers and major ebook retailers. Smashwords is ideal for publishing novels, personal memoirs, poetry chapbooks, short and long-form fiction, and non-fiction. If you’ve written it, we want to help you share it and sell it!  We distribute books to Apple iBooks (51 countries), Barnes & Noble, Kobo (which powers the bookstores of multiple other retailers such as FNAC in France and WH Smith in the U.K.), Flipkart, Oyster, txtr, Baker & Taylor (Blio.com and the Axis360 library platform), and others.

 Smashwords.com is an e-book self publishing site.  Smashwords distributes e-books to a wide network of online retailers, mobile app platforms and affiliates.  They have 3 catalogs:

1. Premium  Catalog – Every author aspires to get their e-book in the premium catalog in smashwords.  This means that your e-book is distributed to major global online retailers.  These are:

  •  Apple – Ibook stores available in 51 Countries
  •  Barnes & Nobles – US and UK market
  •  Kobo Bookseller
  •  Page Foundry – (Inktera.com, Versant.Com as well as Android e-book store apps for Cricket wireless & Asus)
  • Baker & Taylor Blio
  • Txtr
  • Flipkart
  • Oyster
  • Scribd
  • Amazon – (Limited distribution for books that reach over $2,000 in sales)

To get books in the premium catalog, your e-book needs to have a quality book cover image, a proper copyright notice, and an ISBN no.  The author should also format their book according to the Smashwords Style Guide.  Smashwords have a program that runs your document and if any errors are found then the book doesn’t pass to the premium catalog.  Some of the errors include, having multiple font sizes, inconsistent line spacing, lines overlapping one another, multiple successive paragraph returns to arrange text…etc…All these can be fixed if  you go through the Guide.

2. Standard Catalog – This is the Smashwords catalog.  Your e-book should satisfy the copyright and content requirements found in the Smashwords terms of service.  Your book is available on this catalog the moment you upload and publish it to the site.

3. ATOM/OPDS Catalog – This catalog is for all major mobile app platforms.  Your book is available to millions reading on their phones. Sample distributors include Stanza on the iPhone and Aldiko on the Android mobile device platform

How to get started:

Firstly, Register for an account with Smashwords.Com.  Go through the set up process, as well as the payment registration.  This means you need a Paypal account too if you’re planning on selling the books.  If you don’t want to sell the books and only want to share them, then finish your Smashwords registration.  There are 3 Smashwords Accounts

– An Author Account – This is for an author self-publishing his/her books

– A Publisher Account/ A literary Agent Account – Use this if you’re representing multiple authors/ own a publishing house, You’re a literary agent…e.t.c

7 Things to Know Before Publishing on Smashwords in Kenya

1. A Finished Story –  Polish your story, until you’re satisfied it can be read by others.  Download the Smashwords smashwords bookStyle Guide and make sure your document is formatted according to the instructions in the book.  This is really important as your .doc is then turned into different types of e-book formats.  If it’s formatted wrong from the start, your book won’ t make it to the Premium Catalog.

2. A Title for your story – Make it unique, and eye-catching.

3. A Book Cover – Smashwords needs a good quality cover, usually a cover with a 1,600 width and 2,560 height.  The minimum width should be 1,400.  Make a pleasing cover.

– A Description of your story – This is the synopsis of your story.  That short paragraph behind a book that makes you want to read it.  Write one that fits your story.

4. Smashwords Categories – Smashwords classifies their books in the following categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Essay, Plays, Screenplays.  These categories are then broken down into different genres.  So if you’ve written Fiction, you should go ahead and choose a category of fiction, that is, Romance, Mystery, Thriller, e.t.c.

5. E-Book Formats – This is the part you have to understand in order to get your book into the premium catalog.  It’s also the reason why you need to download the Smashwords Style Guide. Smashwords allows you to turn your book into different formats.  They are:

  • E-pub – Widely used by readers on Apple Ibookstore, Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Nobles and Aldiko.  It’s the most popular format, and if your .doc fails to pass through the Smashwords check, you get autovetters because it failed the e-pub check. The Smashwords guide can help you sort out autovetter errors. If you have issues, check the Smashwords FAQs and you’ll find your answers.
  • Sony Reader – LRF Format
  • Kindle’s .Mobi
  • Palm Doc (PDB) – Used by readers on palm pilot devices, Windows Mobile Pocket PC/Smartphones, Symbian OS, Palm OS.
  • PDF Format
  • RTF Format – Rich Text Format
  • Plain Text 

You can choose all formats, or choose certain formats.  The file you upload should be a Word Document with a .doc extension.  Trust me, this makes it easy for you.

6. ISBN No. – To get your book in the Premium Catalog, you need an ISBN.  Now, Smashwords offers FREE ISBN Nos. You can assign a  Smashwords ISBN no. to your book.  If your book previously  has an ISBN, Smashwords allows you to assign it to your book.

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Write a Book, Publish It

7. Pricing and Sampling – So, you’re in Kenya, you’re wondering how to deal with pricing your e-book.  After all, Smashwords only does Dollars.  Yikes!  Two years ago, this was a challenge, but Paypal and Equity Bank recently made a deal that is making life easier for all of us online business people. ^_^ So, whatever the content of your book, if you can market it, then by all means price it and make extra money.  The minimum price you can set in Smashwords is .99 cents.  (Edited) If you manage sales of more than $10 a month, Smashwords pays the money into your Paypal account at the end of the month.  As for you accessing your money in Kenya, Paypal works with Equity Bank…read more here.

READ the Smashwords FAQs for any other questions you might have.

If you have all of the above, you’re definitely ready to hit Publish after agreeing to the Smashwords publishing agreement.

This is one avenue you can pursue if you’re thinking about writing books.  The best part is that once you publish the book, and leave it to circulate in the different online stores that Smashwords ships to for years.  Don’t unpublish it because then the book loses momentum. You can publish Fiction or Non-Fiction books.  Don’t forget to market the books offline and online.

Examples of Kenyan Books on Smashwords:

1.Yellow 

2. Kenya as Outsourcing Destination

3. I Dream of You