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 www.isbn.ac.ke

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 p4akenya@gmail.com and they’ll give you a breakdown of the services they offer.

Why it took me so long to write this

I am seated on the floor in this house I’ve rented somewhere in Mbita town. I am listening to King of Kings by Hillsong and sipping coffee, hoping to diffuse some warmth in me, given that it rained all night through to 9am today.

If you’ve read my most recent posts, you may be able to tell that I am stalling, and bear with me because speaking of this hurts me more than I thought it would.

I am finally going to sell copies of my latest book, Sifuna, in Kenya this coming November.

I worked on this and got it down to 115 pages (I’m not so great at writing more than 200 pages).

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About the book: It’s been 22 years since his Father was assassinated. Baoya, now in his mid-thirties decides to vie for a Senatorial position in the upcoming elections in his county. His decision and plan of action is backed by his childhood friend Sifuna. Baoya’s led a peaceful life and his actions spur a media frenzy on speculations as to what led to his Father’s assassination.

Challenged by the desire to find the truth behind this intrusion into his life and the desire to maintain the sense of calm he’s had in his life, Baoya finds himself being swept downstream…will he find the answers he seeks and if so, at what cost?


So, you may be wondering where I am going with this, and I can talk of why it took me so long to write this:

  1. I have been afraid that this book would not influence anyone who read it. It may sound a bit far-fetched, because I started writing this late last year and with every edition, I kept editing and changing the narrative arc so much so that at some point I set it aside and cried. It wasn’t right.
  2. Taking up a new job, relocating to a new town and just making time for this book has been a challenge.
  3. I’m scared of negative reviews. Now, here I am getting people to buy a book and then they’ll feel like they wasted their money on it- that hurts and this point should probably be number one. I’d love to give people value for their money. As a Reader too, I get it, I do not always react the same way to all books- and some books have grown on me, just because I read them at different points in my life, so if people love or hate this book, it is not a direct hit at me as a human being- it’s just the work. Question is, how do I separate myself from my work?
  4. I wasn’t sure where I was going with this book and after sending it out to fellow writers whose works I’ve read and loved, I finally got feedback and could figure out how to focus my writing.
  5. Finances. I self-publish and every time I’d want to work on this, some pressing matters would arise and I’d focus my finances on those- not my writing.
  6. At the beginning of the year, I promised myself that I would write and publish at least three books and the weight of fulfilling that promise has been like a dark cloud hanging over my head- trying to steer me in a different direction. 

All these “what ifs?” held me back and even as I write this, I am still afraid, the only difference today is that a part of me is done holding onto this story and wants to release it to the world. This part is forever asking me “so what?” and pushing me to just put it out there, and as such set my mind free so I can start writing something else.

So why did it take me so long to write this? Fear.

I am learning that it’s good to be afraid, and it’s even better to just step out into the world and say “why not?”