Self Publishing: Lessons I’m learning and things I hope to achieve

I have been writing for two decades now.

My first attempt at self-publishing led to the production of a short story, Dear Yellow, on Smashwords in November 2011. I have published 30 ebooks on Smashwords since then. Of the titles published on Smashwords, the most reviewed are: 21 Days, Pieces, Made for You, and Say You Love Me.

In 2014 and early 2015, I got onto Amazon and by then it was CreateSpace that called out to me and I tried my hand at it and went for publishing books for sale on Amazon. My author page now looks pretty much like this:

One of the greatest challenges working and writing then publishing on Amazon was that I could not reach out to more Kenyans and persuade them to buy the books online, because first it meant using a debit or credit card and second, if they wanted paperback copies the cost of shipping was ten times more than the book. As a Writer, though Amazon offered me the books at an author’s price, I also had to factor in shipping costs and this had me ship books only in the fall- so readers here could only get copies once a year! It was exhausting!

Sometime in 2018, a Writer friend, Elly shared her experience self-publishing in Kenya, and I reached out to a couple of publishers and finally got feedback from Publish 4 All here in Kenya.

So, in 2019 I worked with them and published Sifuna, then followed it with Zuri: The Chronicler of Enzi and In the Quiet.

  • From 2011, to date, I am learning that it takes a lot of work to write, and not just jot down words but to align them into a story and a memorable one as such.
  • I am also learning that self-publishing means you put in the work, if you do not work on a quality cover, or format your book into the right size and ensure all contents fit the frame, then it’s nerve wrecking and means you go back and forth with the printers until you get it right and all this comes at a cost because in Kenya we import paper, so any paper waster is money wasted.
  • Today, I appreciate the efforts put in by the Kenya Copyright Board to ensure provision of copyright certification for content produced. Elly gives a step by step account of how to copyright your work in Kenya-> here
  • It’s also easier and faster buying an ISBN from the Kenya National Library Services at

I hope to keep writing and publish more books for as long as I’ve got breath in me and for this year, it’s been a daunting task to complete a book I had wanted to publish in August.

  • I would love to be vastly read and to also see more young girls and women writing books, both fiction and non-fiction in Kenya.
  • One more thing I hope to achieve is designing good book covers. I am currently taking lessons on basic graphic design and learning how expensive good software is! So, I hope I can learn how to create book covers and in the future buy the software and use it.

Until then, if you’re interested in print on demand services, email Publish 4 All at and they’ll give you a breakdown of the services they offer.

A Hundred Little Things

For as long as I can remember, I have been responding to the name Benjamin.

A lot of people say that my mother loved her Bible lessons more than she did her own culture. So, inasmuch as I was born at midday instead of according me the name Ochieng’ she declared me Benjamin and added in my father’s last name Ooko so people could know who I belonged to. This seemed to please Reverend Father Augustus but never my father or his people and sometimes when I think back to everything that I have experienced, it seems that lighting started striking me the moment she gave me that name.

My Father, Ooko, what of him? Well, on the day I got tired of staying enclosed in my mother’s stomach, he was deep inside Nya Lela, his new wife who reminded the thing between his legs of how stiff it still could be. I remember all the men singing praises of Nya Lela as the only woman whose breasts remained firm even after bringing forth four children with my father, one after the other, you would think it was like eating and dispelling ground nuts.

As word would have it, my father saw me when I started making use of my feet.

There are things that to this date do not seem like truth but if you’d have been born in that home, under the rule of Senior Chief Ooko, then you too would believe me. When my mother told me about this, I laughed, sometimes when she would want to cry about the way he ignored her, she would go into her kitchen and carelessly adjust the logs that she fed the fire.

Excerpt from A Hundred Little Things- which is long overdue for publication!

Writing Goals

If there’s one thing I learned this year with writing is that I have to be purposeful about it.

When you are consistent it is easy to track your progress, to know what works for you and what does not.

I’ve had to maintain my writing hours waking up at 2am and writing till 4am, sometimes I switch it up and write between 4am and 6am, anything to get in those two hours of writing time.

Cup Filled With Coffee Near Book

However, if you can be good then you can do better and keep improving as you go and I’m trying new things to see to this. So, here we go, these are my writing goals which I hope to upgrade into habits:

  1. Write something that scares me. I love being comfortable in my writing and this was a challenge from a friend, she writes erotica, and she looked at me and asked “have you ever written a sex scene?” I almost relocated to another universe! Then we started talking about how sex is depicted in romance novels versus the reality of it and once that was done, she asked me to write outside of what I know and I’m good at.  So, going forward, all the things that freak me out- the little insecurity nuggets, I’m writing about them- exploring them and getting better at mastering them.
  2. Write a new genre: I have written romance, African literary fiction and a bit of mystery and it’d be great to try something new once in a while to get a feel of the genres.
  3. Write about what I read. This is not to be taken as a review, however, there are times when I read books and they make me feel some type of way or have me asking questions and I rarely note these down…or if I do, I never look back at them or explore them. I’m buying a notebook for this to build up on my readership experience.
  4. Write for word counts. I know…I took part in NanoWrimo, but why wait until the eleventh month of the year to write for word counts? So, I’m looking forward to adding this to my writing time so that I do not get back to bed at 4am without hitting or surpassing a word count target.
  5. Meet and engage with other Writers. Look, I should be doing this already or write about having done this and the truth is, I have not committed to it. So, I’m already talking to a few friends here and there- working on an event in the coming year, hoping lots of people will get to attend it and learn a thing or two, it’s my way of putting myself out there as a Writer. I want to do it!

So there you have it, those are my writing goals from this moment and I look forward to updating you on my progress!

Have a lovely weekend!

Why do you write and other questions I can’t answer with a straight face

It’s a Tuesday and I am preparing my third cup of tea as I write this. No, I just poured water into an electric kettle and switched it on- the tea will come as a result of dipping a teabag into the hot water for a few seconds and adding sugar to it.

I’m a Writer. I write.

I have my days and in saying so I mean days when I am excited about writing and can write continuously and then those days when the sight of a blank page makes me want to curse my ancestors.

It’s been three weeks since I published and received copies of my latest work, Sifuna, and with this there have been questions that I’ll admit I never answered with a straight face, not because they were neither funny nor annoying, rather, they were questions I didn’t expect to hear.

First things first, have you seen the cover I designed for Sifuna?


I’ve received positive reviews so far and I am glad that I got to print copies here in Kenya and with this it’s easier to order copies and ensure readers in the country get first access. I’m yet to liaise with bookstores to expand distribution and this thought takes me right into the questions I’ve been asked so far:

Why Sifuna?

Em…I like the symbolism in the name Sifuna. It’s a name given to a male child among the Luhya community, and it means “harvest.”

Which bookstore has copies of your book?

None so far.

Why? How do you expect readers to get your book?

I am more open to having readers contact me to get a book, like you did, is there a bookstore you would recommend that I could approach and engage in discussion on marketing and distribution of my book?

How much is a copy?

Kshs 700, this includes delivery charges via Easy Coach courier services.

Why do you write?

I wish I had a definite answer, it would satisfy you, when I’m specific however, with writing, nothing is cast in stone, except for the fact that writers write and that’s it. Sometimes I do it for the power, because hey, I can kill a character using words, embedding them in a story or I could draft my Ex like a drunk, piece of chair, a urinal…in a story, who knows? It’s very satisfying, that kind of power, it’s like being high…does that answer your question?

When’s your next book coming out?

Whenever it is ready.

What will it be about? This one is political and stuff, what of the next?

I don’t know, it will be what it is…a story, and whoever reads it can choose to assign it to the genre they feel is most appropriate for them.

Wow! You must be rich! How much money have you made so far?

I’m rich, I mean, I sat down and wrote over forty thousand words- trimmed it to what you have in Sifuna, so yes, I am a notch above today.

What advice would you give to an aspiring Writer?

The difference between an aspiring writer and a writer is action. Write and write and read as widely as you can.

Do you think Kenyans love to read?

It’s 2019, are we still asking this question? Okay…no worries, let me try and put it this way, I’m a Kenyan and I love to read…so when you choose to ask about “Kenyans” that leaves more than forty million plus people and yes, Kenyans love to read the question is what do they love to read and how do they consume the content they read? Now, those are questions that can keep us here for years.

I just finished reading Sifuna- and Baoya’s a fool, like how did you even think of someone like him? How can someone be so naive?

Great! I’m glad you finished reading Sifuna. Well, you talk of two things being a fool and being naive. The two may share a fence but they are not the same. Baoya’s naivety creates room for Sifuna’s callousness to announce itself…and there are people like both Baoya and Sifuna, have you looked around?

I’ve had two cups of tea already, I’ll go to bed now and start brooding over the next story.

Have a wonderful week!

PS: I’m into 40,000 words for NanoWrimo this week and my mind’s a mess.



To set or not to set goals

Jambo! Chances are you have heard the phrase “Happy new year!” more than you’ve heard “how are you?” So,I am not going to add to that list, but it’s great that you are reading this. It is even greater that my assumption is stronger, and that you’ll make it to the end of this post.

So, 2017, uh?

Time flies so fast, wasn’t it just the millennium yesterday? How old is Facebook again? And last year wasn’t it just SnapChat’s year? And of course who can forget the epic showdown on democracy? If you’re American and you’re reading this no disrespect or harm here, but voting in Trump just had me speechless! Let’s agree to totally disagree that it was the highlight of last year. Forget that,it’s a new year and like most people I am struggling with the decision of either setting or not setting goals. 

First, I rarely meet the goals I set every year. Secondly, it is boring to set goals because life always springs up new stuff on me along the way. So, to set or not to set goals, that is the question!

I thought about it and realized that there is a lot for me to do and why not settle in the middle. I can set some goals in certain aspects of my life and leave the other aspects as open as I can. For example, I’d love to read at least 100 books this year and review them on Goodreads. I can set that.

I’d also love to publish another African series.I have set a timeline of February for the first draft. I can definitely work on that and also source for a cover creator by March. I can work with these timelines to produce content but if there is one area I am unable to tap into, it has got to be my studies, work, and fitness.

So, to set or not to set goals, I am learning that choices are personal and whatever I choose I have to take responsibility for seeing it through and accepting the consequences. So, until then, here are a few titles I’m reading today because it’s back to work tomorrow.

How about mass printing in Kenya?

Kenya is the home of literary giants.
Aspiring writers are often challenged not only to produce quality manuscripts but also to learn and build up on what their predecessors have put out. I recently started working on improving relationships with the writers I know here in Kenya to get us talking about writing in Kenya and publishing and how to change it for the better.
So, I got in touch with Elly and I’m pleased to introduce you to her. Hello world, meet Elly.

  At days’ end, on my way home, a boy and girl from a nearby primary school walk home too.  The boy has a cast on his arm, so the girl walking beside him is carrying his book bag.  There’s a story here, a delicious story, as the girl laughs at what the boy says, then they walk in comfortable silence.  I imagine them growing up together, falling in love (or not) maybe falling in love with others.  The two going through struggles together, maybe reaching a point in their lives where they don’t know each other anymore, and wish they could go back to the old days and…the story continues in my head. 
Of late, it has been a blessing to know I’m not alone in this wonderful sense of imagination. I feel privileged to know people with the same sense of creativity that constantly hangs over me daily, like finding kindred spirits.

Kenyan writers have increased these past few years.  Their work is fresh and entertaining it is often sad that the only place to fully read their stories is online: on a blog, or an e-book.

In a not so distant past, I ran a bookstore in a small town outside Nairobi.  A young man walked in with his poetry books one day.  He had traveled from Uganda, and gone selling his poetry in every bookstore he found.  His books were inexpensive, only Kshs. 80.  I bought them, paying him for twenty books at one go.  We sold those books for Kshs. 150 within the month.  He had moved on to Tanzania by then, and he’d sold off his stock by then, but his brand of marketing stuck with me.
Print a large quantity of books, cheaply, sell fast.
So, I want to will a pulp fiction publishing house into existence in Kenya.  A publishing house that will choose to publish fiction at affordable prices, so that the everyday Kenyan can afford it.  Yes, I realize that the bottom line is important in business, however, no one wants to constantly buy a fiction book for Kshs. 800, that is the truth.  We’re all on the streets buying foreign fiction books for Kshs. 100, or even Kshs. 50.

If you can find a way to print fiction on cheap low-quality paper, and make your stories epic and exciting enough to capture the masses, I think we could be in business.

This is my quest.  Writing has always been easy, creativity quite available, however, the business side of printing in Kenya is an amazing challenge, especially if you’re looking toward selling affordable fiction. Finding a printer who can help print pulp fiction…in great big quantities, will make Kenyan fiction a bonafide trade/business.  One without elitist circles, or prestigious airs, simply fiction with one goal—to entertain.  This type of mass printing will nurture Kenyan writers, give value to our constant creative thoughts, create new job avenues, increase readership and inspire more Kenyan fiction into the world.

About Elly:


Elly is a gem when it comes to romance. She loves gardening and knows a thing or two about delicious treats. Hint: Cakes! She is currently writing the Koya Series.

Visit her blog: Love in Nairobi or send her a tweet @ellykamari254

To read her novellas, visit her smashwords page: Elly Kamari