Into the Kenyan market: Best-selling genres for authors

Even with the technological overload that has burdened our current generation to stay hooked on social networks and unplugged from our limitless devices, Kenyans have still not lost the sensation to read a book or two.

Over the years, Kenyan authors have made huge applaudable strides in terms of writing and publishing good content materials. However, the question still need asking is, has the focus been on genres that are popular and selling or are they just writing?

Most authors will go for what they are passionate about or hang on the ropes that seem comfortable enough for them to build their writing talents on, but what’s most important and practical to go on is the genre that is deemed most popular by the esteemed readers.

That’s the platform to build on if you want big bucks. More so, what is most popular with readers means more eyeballs from the publishers and less struggle for your manuscript to get published. 

You may be an excellent author but your work is not getting the traction you hoped for, that means fewer shillings in your pocket. But not to worry, here we break into the Kenyan publishing market on best performing genres so that you can pen down great content, insightful information and breathtaking stories for your readers.

Educational purposed

Majority of Kenyans aren’t the avid readers that go to a bookstore or visit Amazon to get a book to read for leisure or entertainment. They go there to fulfill a straight objective. Buy books with educational intent. It can be for a school requirement or to get information for their learning.

Furthermore, this non-fiction genre has an all-round audience. Be it a kindergarten pupil, a high school student or a researcher working on a PhD thesis, they all are going to depend on these educational manuscripts.

This is evident from books stocked in shelves of top book shops in the country such as Text Book Centre, Prestige Bookshop Kenya, Savanis Bookshops and more others

That is why it tops our list of best-selling genres. 

Some of authored books have been adopted by the ministry of education and incorporated into our school curriculum while others are being recommended by publishers for general school reads. Did I mention the big fat cheques it comes with?

Year in, year out.

From this, you can leverage your creative bent and tailor it to a book of educational drive that can be deemed worthy to learn from.

And with the inception of the new 2-6-6-3 school system that is slowly overwriting the old, new materials are going to be needed for a fresh look. This means an expanse in the already hot niche. Don’t let others beat you to it, start now and be among those who are going to be reaping big from it. 

Who better else to pen down and earn from this base of unending hungry readers than you?

Kenyan literature

The works of iconic authors like Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Binyavanga Wainana, Grace Ogot, Margaret Ogola and others have set the tenet of Kenyan literature high on the continent of Africa.

Their literary smiting has been felt both locally and beyond our borders.

But if you were to key in search parameters in Google of these top prolific authors in this genre, you’ll find most of what they wrote were published mostly in the 1960s and 80s yet they are still popular.

Some like Grace Ogot passed away in 2015 yet their work published last century still receives positive accreditation. Margarate Ogola’s The River and the Source which was published in 1994 and won various prizes was adopted a decade later into the high school English literature curriculum.

Reason?

According to Prestigebookshop.com, African fiction is top rated in its website with The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s wives, Lola Shoneyin’s book as its 2019 best-selling.

This genre is a work of classic fiction that never gets old, yet increasingly powerful.

Set on the backdrop of Kenya’s independence, Kenyan literature delves into life stories tracing back to our ancestral origins, colonization by the western power and the confrontation during the pre and post-independence times.

Most of the written work was birthed from oral literature and the social history of the authors’ surroundings.

Even though, the bar by and large, for what passes as quality literary works, has risen considerably, there is still big opportunity for upcoming writers to not only fame from but also cash abundantly.

Focus in this area largely remains on language, writing and publishing that is firmly anchored in the African tradition of storytelling, then we would have a prize-winning literature for the current and future generations to peddle on.

Personal developments

This is a nonfiction manuscript that most authors share their ideals or expertise that breaks down into many specific topics that act to the tune of self-help guides for people.

It touches on our professional life, spiritual level or personal to-do lists.

It can be a How-to book on management or starting a business, a relationship journey book by a love guru or, a provocative memoir like Becoming by Michelle Obama.

Such books though a little bit more expensive than the rest will not miss any bookstore countrywide or hawked by street book vendors. It carries proven ideas that non-fiction readers crave.

In a post by theguardian.com, sales of personal development books in Britain surged beyond record levels in 2019 and marketresearch.com predicts US sales to surpass $13.2 billion mark.

This clear indication of huge sales in developed countries translates to a big opportunity here in Kenya where we face uncertain times every day. People are going to need advice, uplifting and improvement books.

Its sub-genres include;

  • How-to 

Ø Entrepreneurial

Ø Well-being, health, etc.

  • Self-help definition

Ø Personal growth

Ø Finance

Ø Beauty, etc.

  • Inspiration and motivation

Ø Spiritual nourishment

Ø Memoirs, etc.

If you have a flair for helping people, then this should be your go to. People will always need to grow and find hope.

Inspiration to write such books have always come from two angles; a blend of personal narrative—observation, or author’s expertise in certain field which translates to hard-eyed wisdom.

Take your pick and start writing.

Fictional novels

This is another evergreen area that promises good fortune.

If you were to stroll down the busy streets of Nairobi, it wouldn’t take long to spot a street book vendor nesting near a corner with a stall piled with old books.

With close inspection, close to half of these books are fantasy novels of different categories from as low as Ksh.300.

They sell these books to mostly the youthful generations who roam the streets and don’t have the time to visit a bookstore but want to later unwind with a fictional read.

Curiously enough, most these books are not even authored by local authors. Names from famed overseas authors will appear in a number of these books. They are imported by local businessmen for their cheap throw away prices as they know there is a high demand base of fictional readers waiting.

This exposes another huge gap in the market. Where are the local authored fictional books?

We know this genre sells. Almost everyone since they started schooling in primary has read one or several fictional novels, but most of them were not authored by local authors.

Two sub-genres in fictional novels have proven to be in the top of the food chain are;

  • Romance

As Caroline Kagose, Communication lecturer at UoN puts it, ‘We ladies are absolute suckers for hopeless romantics’.

Statisticsshow more ladies from the youth bracket and up to be avid fictional readers with a more interest in romantic novels than their male counterparts.

So, if you think you have a wit for romance storytelling, then you have perennial readers waiting to fall in love with your stories.

  • Crime-action

John Kiriamiti’s My life in crime and Son of fate were once best-selling in Kenya as it weaved riveting stories that were inspired during his time and after in crime.

Back in high school, a whole class would wait in line for just one novel or pacesetter packed with crime-action stories. It offered an escape to another world.

Most readers have always related to the heroes and villains in one way or another and it shaped even how people turn out or perceive life as it is.

This genre is definitely in demand, even as most people turn to movies more, the plot and stories emerge from the authored books.

Fictional novels rely on creative imagination to create a phenomenal plot with multicultural cast with the author’s imagination being the limit.

Gradually, the reading culture is being embraced by Kenyans and globally at large. This means huge market for the above discussed genres that are top selling for you to put your writing skills to use.

And even as the old writers fade from the scene, new masterpieces are rising fast as new writers take the wheel behind pen and paper.

So, what’s next after finishing your book?

No matter your writing style or the genre you go for, there will always be an effective Kenyan publisher that will bring out your creative set of insightful words and intriguing tales to life and market.

Happy writing!

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