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Abridge– This is the shortening of the contents of a document or text while retaining the message intended. An example of a long sentence that could use abridge  is: 

 When Annie finished talking, she stood and walked out.

After applying a bridge : When Annie finished talking, she walked out.

Author queries– These are the questions and comments written to the author by an editor in a manuscript. The editor may want clarification on issues like dates or citations in the manuscript. They may also make suggestions that can be incorporated in the text.

Back matter– Material that you find at the end of the book like notes, end notes or glossary.

Bastard title– This is the first page of a book and it includes the main title of the book.

Bibliography– This is the list of sources used or consulted so as to come up with a text. It can be cultural objects, books or articles.

Caps– Used as a short form for capital letters.

Citation-This is a quotation from a book that a writer uses in their work. It can be a phrase or a sentence that one takes from a different piece of writing to support his or her views. 

Clean up– This is where an author’s response to the edited copy is incorporated into the final hard copy

Copy– This is a manuscript that is about to be typeset.

Censor– This is removing sensitive content from a document so as not to offend the reader.

Compress– This is the reduction of a document by removing unnecessary data for the purpose of using less space.

Condense– This is to cut down or reduce the content of your article or book. 

Cut down- This is to shorten a lengthy document by restructuring or removing redundant information.

Copyright- These are the exclusive rights that an author has to his or her work for a specific length of time.

Corrections– These are the changes made in a manuscript by the author or editor.

Cross reference-This is a reference that mentions information from another part of the same document (also called x-ref).

Dead copy– A manuscript that has been edited and is ready to be printed.

Development editing– This kind of editing focuses on the plot of the story and the general structure of the book. Here the editor can make suggestions like introducing a new character in a story or changing scenes and chapters.

Delete– This means to completely erase part of a book or an article.

Emend– This is to correct a text through editing. Here alterations are made to the original writing to improve its flow or clarity.

Endnote– This is an explanatory note or citation at the end of a chapter or book that directs a reader to a specific place.

Erase- Just like delete, this is to completely do away with a part of a text or a book.

Excise– To cut off parts of a book considered offensive. Unlike watering down that focuses on making something less offensive, this completely removes that part.

Editing– This is the revision of a document and making suggestions about a document. It includes but not limited to correcting grammatical mistakes of the text, checking the flow of the story, deleting unnecessary content, and improving the general structure of the text.

Editor– This is the person responsible for editing the text hence deciding what is to be published and what is not.

Head– This is a title indicating the beginning of a section of a document or a book.

Index– This is normally an alphabetized table of contents at the end of a book.

Kerning– This is the adjusting of the space between characters by ensuring letters are properly spaced so as to have a good layout.

Letter spacing-Just like the name suggests, this is the spacing between the letters of a word.

Line editing-This is the editing of a copy by ensuring that sentences in a book are as clear as they can be, and that there is also logic and flow of the story.

Mark up– This is correcting a text by writing notes or instructions on a piece of text before it’s published or printed.

Pad out-This is adding unnecessary information to make something appear longer.

Manuscript– This is a document that is about to be edited. Basically this is the copy that is submitted to the editor so that they can go through it.

Proofreading– This is usually done mostly at the last stages of editing. While editing is more detailed, proofreading focuses on correcting grammatical mistakes, correcting punctuation or spelling errors.

Page proofs- pages of a book laid out in the way they will appear once printed. 

Peer-review process– this is the process where one’s work is evaluated by someone who has more experience on the subject in question.

Query– This is a question from an editor to an author asking for clarification on part of a text.

Redact– Making changes to a document so as to improve presentation before its published.

Research editor– This is the person who collects and verifies facts before printing is done.

Sanitize– To remove offensive information or unpleasant that may cause security risk.

Score out– This is drawing line through written words.

Side bar– a short article that contains extra information that is related to major story or complements the major story.

Sub edit– Correcting mistakes in an article that someone else has written before publishing.

Typesetting-This is the arrangement of text in preparation for printing.

Typo-(in full typographical error) this is a mistake or a grammatical error made in a typed a document.

Update– to add the most modern information to a book.

Water down– This is making a statement less offensive. During editing, an editor may feel that a word or statement has been used by an author in a way that may offend the reader. They hence look for a better word that isn’t offensive.

Write in– Adding words or numbers to a document that are missing. This is done by an editor where they feel that relevant content may be missing in a text.

Printing is reproducing words or images on paper or other printable form materials such as card, fabric etc.

But sometimes, printing is confused with the term publishing. How do they differ? In publishing, publishers want to own the intellectual property of the book while printing requires you to just print and bind your book.

If you are reading this post, you’ve definitely thought of printing your own book or how the process of pressing ink against paper actually works. To understand it, you will need to be familiar with basic glossary terms of printing terminologies.

Here is a list of our most useful ones to make you look like a pro;

Artwork—all materials needed to prepare for the final print production. They include physical materials like images, graphics, texts and other digital components.

Batch production—this a cost-effective way of printing lots of work on a large sheet of paper. All jobs on the sheet enable the cost set-up to be split.

Bible paper—a thin opaque but strong paper, used in bibles and books.

Binding—it’s simply holding of pages together to achieve finished product. 

Bleed—this is the ink coverage on a page when image extends up to or past the edge of a printed paper.

Bulk—thickness of the paper in relation to its weight.

Case-binding—is the binding of book cases using hard board covers.

Carbonless paper—paper chemically treated to transfer impression from first page to subsequent pages.

Center spread—two pages facing each other in the center of a book/publication.

Colophon—an identifying symbol for a printer’s/publisher

Colour correction—this is changing of colour or manipulation of colour on an image using a computer.

Colours—digital printing uses Red, blue and Green colour (RGB) while the physical print jobs uses cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) in their design. However, offset printers can use pantone colours to achieve specific colour swatch.

Crossover—this is carrying of an image or line art to an adjacent page of a folded or bound work.

Design Embossing & Debossing—embossing is putting your desired design onto paper to create a raised effect while debossing is indenting the design.

Digital printing—this kind of printing does not use printing plates but rather rely on electronic data for printing. It is cost-effective and mostly used in small-sized jobs.

Die-cut—this is when a specific shape is cut out of a printed sheet.

Folds—folds give your print job an option to be presented in different ways with its striking elements such as concertina and French.

Foiling—is the addition of a metallic foil to the surface of your print job material to add a fashionable touch.

Finish—this is how paper quality looks on the surface.

GSM—Grams per Square Metre. It is the measurement for the paper of your print job

Image quality—the resolution of an image is usually measured in dots per inch (dpi). Website images have low dpi compared to that of print range from a minimum of 300 dpi to even 600 to ensure high quality end outlook.

Image ownership—always use your own images to avoid infringing or copying someone’s else. 

Lamination—is the addition of a protective thin layer to the print job, either gloss or matt, for durability. It’s used mostly in high ink coverage jobs to prevent ink rubbing against the sheet or darker colours remaining at the edge of sheet after cutting.

Offset lithography printing—this is the most preferred method of commercial printing that involves ink transfer from a printing plate that passes through a rubber blanket to a sheet of paper.

PP—simply means number of Printed Pages

Proofing—this is simply ensuring your printed work comes out with no mistakes. There are three kinds to it. Hard, soft and wet proofing. Proofing for hardcopy (ink-jet printing) is more on layout than color accuracy; wet proofing is running a few sheets and doing set-ups for your print job production. It’s usually for very expensive and huge-sized jobs whereas soft proofing is going through a soft copy on your computer like a pdf. This is the most common proofing but not everything that appears on screen comes out printed 100%.

Trim—when producing the final size in a design, a line will be cut through the bleed zone to ensure continuous edge.

Now you are ready to print your item confidently and get the precise end results you desire.

Books are categorized by genres, genres are identified by the themes in a plot of a certain book. Each genre is characterized by specific content, style, form, settings, viewpoint, tone, mood etc. 

Some books may contain one or more genres in the plot, they could either be fictional or non-fictional and within these genres there are sub genres.

The purpose of different genres is to fulfill a reader’s expectations. In this article we get to focus on the most common ones.

Action Adventure– its plot is usually accompanied by exciting action sequences, and physical action. 

The actions are mostly dangerous and challenging, like fights, shoot-outs or intense chases. 

The plot could be about; spying, criminal activities, adventure military related missions or any other action that seems daring and cautious. There are always villains, victims and heroes.

The action genre reader gets to be intrigued with how characters do their best to complete a mission. They experience thrills without personal risk.

Examples; The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Red Phoenix by Larry Bond.

Adventure– the plot is usually an exciting epic journey as a result of chance that involves risks, obstacles or a quest to discover a treasure. 

The reader gets to feel like he or she is on an exciting adventure. 

Examples; The Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, The Adventure of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.

Anthology- it’s a compiled worka collection of different genres in excerpts or part of a full story or short stories, poems, essays, plays or songs . Could be by different authors or by same author and they often revolve around a common theme. 

The reader gets to enjoy an access to a wide range of literary works on a given theme in one book.

Examples; The Poets Lareate Anthology by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt, Cabana Anthology by Martina Mondadori Satogo, Ghostly Writes Anthology 2018 by Ghostly Writers

Biographies and autobiographies

A biography is atrue story of a real person’s life that is written by someone else, the subject person could be dead or alive whereas in an autobiography the author writes his/her own true story on life and experiences. 

Most biographies are of significant people.

The reader are able to know the experiences and achievements of some great people and get to learn from them.

Examples; Einsten: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Growing up by Russell Baker.

Cookbooks- it gives step by step instructions on preparation of meals and cooking. It also suggests a variety of ingredients to be used in specific recipes and diverse ways of cooking. This genre is related to diet books, food and drinks book and nutrition books.

The reader acquires knowledge on a variety of recipes, how to cook different dishes and different methods.

Examples; How to be a domestic goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking by Nigella Lawson, I’m just here for food: Food + Heat = Cooking by Alton Brown.

Christian fiction- this genre inspires people from a Christian’s point of view. The themes are mainly forgiveness, overcoming tough situations, having grace, restoration, and the triumph of good over evil. It encourages Christians to always have faith when confronted by tough situations and challenges and suggests to Christians to turn to prayers and religious systems for support and guidance.

The reader gets to embrace positivity in life.

Examples; Danger in the Shadows by Dee Henderson, The Protector by Dee Henderson, This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti.

Classics- this genre is of books that are accepted as being exemplary, great works of literature throughout the ages. They are mostly older books that retain their fame. Not to be confused with classical literature which refers to the great masterpieces of ancient civilizations like Greek.

Classics are widely taught in schools due to the literary imagination they possess.

The reader gets to read a book that has stood the test of time because of its significance.

Examples; To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

Comic book– this genre is basically told through sequential art, a continuous narrative from start to end or a collection of shorter stories based on a sequence of drawn pictures or designs which are illustrated by very few words either on top or bottom of the pictures or in speech balloons or rectangular panels.

The reader gets to enjoy stories even horrific ones in a beautiful, embellished and cartoonified art.

Examples; Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Saga by Brian K Vaughn, The Walking Dead: Compendium One by Robert Kirkman.

Crime Fiction- deals with crimes and criminals. It revolves around the investigation and detection of the crime and criminalsIt could be detective, whodunit fiction, a murder mystery, courtroom drama, legal thrillers, police procedural, medical or forensic thriller.

With this genre, the reader gets to feel involved in crime solving.

Examples; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Rector of Veilbye by Steen Steenson Blicher, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer.

Drama– It revolves around families and relations with conflicts and the resolutions to these conflicts. They are mainly painful or tragic, the characters express their emotions through dialogue and action. 

Common themes here are alcoholism, drug abuse or addiction, immorality, racism, religion, corruption, violence, power, sexuality etc.

The reader’s different emotions gets to be awakened as he learns of different personalities, backgrounds and how the real world actually is.

Examples; Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Antigone by Sophocles, The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

Fantasy– this genre is set in a fictional world inspired by real world myth and folklore. It revolves around a story with elements that are impossible, for example; talking or extinct animals like dragons or dinosaurs, it also contain magical powers. 

Its realms are either somehow alike to ours or very different from ours. 

The plot insists on heroism against superficially impossible odds with battles that seem impressive and crucial between the forces of good and evil. 

The reader gets to be immersed in a world of magic and spells and so wonders through imaginations.

Examples; A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey.

Folklore and Folktale– tales, myths, legends, songs and proverbs with a message that was handed down orally by real people before they were ever written down.

The message passed on was either a lesson or a moral.

They are of several types; Fables, Mythology, Tall tale, Legend, Fairytale etc. 

Some explain how the world and humans came to be in their present form usually pertaining to the actions of the gods. Some are a stories of a specific figure who is a hero or legends and some have magical elements with characters that include fairies, giants or elves.

Animals or plants may be personified as humans in some of the sub genres.

The reader gets to be entertained with old age stories, understand his roots, culture, history and insights into other people way of life.

Examples; The Lion and The Mouse and The Fox and The Grapes by Aesop, Dona Flor: A Tall Tale about a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart by Pat Mora, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinderella retold and illustrated by Ruth Sanderson.

Horror– this genre induces a feeling of dread, fear and disgust in both the characters and the reader. 

Focuses on the unseen, the unknown, and the strange, its purpose being to explore and expose humanity’s darkest fears.

The reader gets totingle with terror.

Examples; Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, It by Stephen king.

Humor– this book genre is about humorous events, people or jokes, it makes people laugh.

It’s categorized by different tones, different audiences and situations. Ranges from being hyperbolic, witty dialogue to dark humor and sarcastic critiques on faults of the society. It’s entertaining.

The reader gets to laugh amusingly.

Examples; Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, Naked by David Sedaris, I was told there’d be Cake by Sloane Crosley.

Literary realism-this genre portrays ordinary daily experiences as they are in real life and does not exaggerate a story but tells it as truthful as it is. Here are a few of its types, 

Magical- paints a realistic view of the modern world accompanied by magical elements like telepathy. For example, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Social- based on the living conditions and lives of the working class and the poor. For example, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Socialist- exalts the struggles of the proletariat. For example, Cement by Fyodor Gladkov.

Naturalism- revolves around Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and naturalism. For example; A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner.

The reader gets to see representation of familiar things as they are in another point of view.

Memoir– means memory in French, so basically an author writes about his or her memories based on his/her own observation on a specific memorable event(s) in his/her life.

The reader gets to gain insight on how another person deals with challenges and how he /she overcomes it.

ExamplesDon’t You Know There’s a War On? by James Stevenson, Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father.

Poetry-evokes meaning through rhythmic verses, the verses are meant to stimulate thoughts and imaginations that creates emotional responses. It could be lyric, narrative or dramatic poetry.

The reader gets to process visual descriptions, express emotions and feelings. Some poems are therapeutic.

Examples; Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, my Lat Duchess by Robert Browning.

Reference Books- this genre contains more relevant information on a certain subject. It elaborates more on any subject anyone would be interested in.

A reader gets to learn more and expounded on a specific subject.

Examples; Flight: 100 years of Aviation by R.G Grant, Sex Lover’s Book of Lists by Ron Louis.

Romance- love story is the central focus. It stresses on romantic love and relationships that doesn’t run smoothly but with intention of a happy ending. 

The types of romance books varies with age groups and intended audience.

It could be paranormal, erotica, historical, contemporary, regency, romantic suspense, gothic etc.

The reader’s heart flutters as a two people in love find their happy ever after for the risks they took in pursuit of true love.

Examples; Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins, Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin, Fifty shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James.

Satire– it aims to ridicule and shame abuses, shortcomings, idiocies or evils by making fun of a person or an institution, like the government, some individuals, society or corporations so that they can make an improvement. 

Examples; A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen.

Science fiction– focuses on scientific ideas and advanced technological concepts, its story blends the revolutionary technology with scientific facts.

Could revolve around alien invasion, apocalyptic, biopunk, black science, Christian science, eco fiction, gothic science, military science, fantasy, space opera, speculative evolution, trans realism etc.

It is usually set in the future, the past or on other planets.

The reader’s mind gets stimulated with imaginative and futuristic concepts of advanced science and technology.

Examples; The Blazing World, by Margaret Cavendish, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Solaris by Stanislaw Lem.

Self-help– acts as a guide on achieving things. It aims to help a person who is going through something, solve it without relying on others.

Examples; How to win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Om Chanting and Meditation by Amit Ray.

Through books we get to acquire wide sense of knowledge on different areas, we improve our writing, reading and thinking skills and these different book genres gives us a sense of belonging to where we fit, and a sense of awareness and guidance as well as entertainment.  

Research Articles

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.


According to, 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, sales of personal development books in Britain surged beyond record levels in 2019 and 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!

For many emerging authors, one of the most challenging questions has been, how do I turn what I love into something that I can earn from? 

Writing is a passion and like all other passions, the successful monetization of this art form requires a specific kind of knowledge and tenacity. Kenya has a relatively low supply of locally published books with the exemption of those that are selected as set books in school course work. This numbers, while they might seem disheartening to an author looking to earn from his work, do not necessarily mean that there is no market for local books in the country. 

More and more Kenyans are picking up novels and the street bookshops that are found in almost every street in major towns have become even more popular. Given, therefore, that there is a well-established reading culture, then the next step becomes how does one get their books into the hands of these readers. 

Many authors have stated bluntly however, that it is close to impossible to get rich or to make a lot of money while depending on book sales alone. Whichever way the author might choose to make his book available to the public, the returns are usually not significant enough to live on. 

Most authors have therefore found it necessary to have other regular jobs and write during their free time. The best advice that an emerging author can receive is not to publish a book with the expectation of making a lot of money off it. Only a selected few (about 0.01%) manage to break it big in the publishing industry but this is not to say that it is a fruitless endeavor.

There are basically two choices available to an author who wants to publish his/her book and these are; either to approach established publishers and sell their manuscript or to decide and publish the book on their own.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional forms of publishing although less popular in the current age, still provide the option for writers to earn from their craft. Established publishers such as LonghornMcMillian and others usually accept manuscripts from authors and publish them. The author is paid in royalties and may also be given a monetary sum for the manuscript itself depending on the conditions of the publishers.

Most established publishers however require certain specifics and accept manuscripts that fit certain stipulated conditions. An author has to deliver top quality work to be published. The advantage of using established publishers is that they cover the publishing costs for the author and also help to market and distribute the novel. Most Kenyan publishing houses are however considered to have a preference for materials that can be incorporated into the school curriculum. 

Traditional publishing is considered by many experienced and established authors as having relatively low returns as compared to the other options. This is because most publishing companies rarely pay more than 10% of the total sales as royalties to the author. This is on top of a small figure as an advance. Only celebrities are usually guaranteed exorbitant figures for the advance as the publishing company will anticipate that their book will sell more because it is marketable. For the normal writer however, the advance pay is usually not more than Ksh. 400,000 ($4,000) as witnessed and that is the highest case.

Many publishing companies offer a small figure in advance for the normal, first time author because they do not anticipate that the book will sell so much that they will be able to return their investment and even make a profit. On top of this, the marketing costs usually fall on the shoulders of the author as well except in special circumstances such as when publishing a second book after a first successful one.

The following is a comparison between the pros and cons of choosing the traditional way of publishing. 


  1. Editing, proofreading, and cover design services are provided by the publisher. Most notable publishers will have top editors and proofreaders and this will make the book finer and more presentable to the market.
  2. Distribution costs are also catered for by the publisher. The book will be printed in bulk and transported to various bookshops in the country.
  3. Time saving as the most work will be done by the publishers, giving the author more time to work on other projects.
  4. Most literature prizes and awards are given to traditionally published books as compared to the ones that are self-published.


  1. Lack of creative control. When a publisher accepts a manuscript, they basically own all the rights to it as per the contract. The author cannot make changes without consulting and even things such as cover design as so on are taken away from him/her. 
  2. Less profitable. As discussed above, the royalties paid by publishing companies are barely enough to last an author throughout the year. This money will also be paid over a long period of time after the initial advance. Most publishers either pay yearly or after every six months which means that a waiting period of about 7 to 13 months is very much the reality.
  3. Traditional publishers also do not help the author market his/her book except in the rare situation where the book is expected to have a lot of sales. Authors spread word of their books alone mostly through social media. 


This is an emerging trend in the publishing industry for both hard and soft copies of books and novels. An author looking to self-publish a hard copy of his work is usually required to find independent publishers who will use their printing services to produce copies of the book. The author here covers all the associated costs such as editing, the cover page design and marketing/advertising costs as well. Authors are therefore required to provide a complete copy of the manuscript for printing. Examples of independent publishers in Kenya includes Storymoja and The Writer’s Guild.

Independent printing press usually provide an author with a quote pricing a specific number of books at a given amount. After the printing is completed the author then looks for the market to which he/she will sell their work. A way through which this can be done is through approaching different bookshops to stock the finished work. Many bookshops usually pay for books after they are sold however and as such the author may need to wait a while before receiving payments. 

For those with relatively less influence and resources, the other available option of marketing and distributing their work is through word of mouth and delivering to individual customers. Many established authors such as Ng’ang’a Mbugua have lauded this method as the most effective in making sales and bringing in returns. This is because the money comes in almost immediately and it is cheaper than other rigorous methods. 

The author can also use social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to spread word amongst their followers and friends.  Self-publishing authors are encouraged to start blogs which will enable them to have an already established audience that will be more receptive to buying the author’s books. 

Social media has been instrumental in revolutionizing the way that authors spread word about their works. The added advantage that it is mostly a free marketing platform has helped many authors reach their audience. 

The cost of self-publishing a hard copy book usually depends on the publisher and other factors such as paper quality etc. The Writers Guild of Kenya, however, provides a rough estimate for editing at Ksh. 1.3 per word. An author may, however, decide to use another editor of their choice. For cover design and layout, the cost is usually not more than Ksh. 50,000 depending on the number of pages. 

Self-Publishing E-Books

Another option available for Kenyan authors today is to self-publish their books in digital or soft copy format. This version of books known as e-books have become very popular in the world today because of technological advancements that have enabled books to be typed, stored and distributed in electronic format. 

E-books introduces the author to international markets as well as the domestic ones. Needless to say, with the enlarged market comes more demand for quality work as there is a lot of competition. An author looking to publish his/her book in electronic format has two options. Either to open their own website/platform and sale the book directly from there or to approach an established international eBook publishing platform such as Smash wordsAmazon’s Kindle or Create Space also by amazon. Publishing eBooks through these platforms enables the book to be distributed worldwide on the various platforms where readers buy electronically. 

The development of money exchange services such as PayPal makes sure that the author receives their money in the local currency even if the pricing on the above platforms is usually in dollars and other major currencies. Banks such as Equity and others provide a way to withdraw the funds directly from PayPal to your bank account. Safaricom users have the option of linking Mpesa to their PayPal accounts and getting the money straight into their phones.

For the author that decides to start their own eBook platform to publish and sell their works, all that is needed is the knowledge of starting a reliable website where users can buy directly from it. This will give the author more control over his creative work and the money also goes to the account directly. Here is an example of a Kenyan author who successfully used this method.

As with all other self-publishing options, the marketing and promotion of the book relies squarely on the author’s shoulders. He/she has the responsibly of informing the public on where to access their work through any of the marketing strategies that we have already mentioned.

Self-Publishing of eBooks has been considered to be more lucrative as the costs incurred are not as high as having to physically print and distribute copies of books. The author gets more returns depending on how well they are able to market and sell their product. 

Lastly, Kenyan authors should know that they are not limited to publishing only full-length novels and books. There is also money to be made from submitting short stories and poems to online literary magazines such as Kwani. This platform also advertises other platforms that call for such submissions and pay the winning pieces handsomely. They will also publish the story or poem in their online journals that could also be made into a physical magazine. 

Authors are advised to keep checking such sites for different calls of submissions that happen all year round. Commonwealth Writers is a website that often lists such submissions.

Above all, it is important to note that in Kenya more and more writers are choosing the self-publishing option due to the fact that many traditional publishers focus more on the school market, marketing only the government approved curriculum books. The creative author is therefore forced to go the self-publishing way which is much more lucrative. 

Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Danielle Steel, Binyavanga Wainaina and Enid Blyton, Grace Ogot and Nora Roberts. Even though it is a juxtaposition of Kenyan and international authors, the one thing all these people have in common is that they are all successful writers, some more successful than others and that is a painful reality we all have to live with even though both are in the same field. 

According to woldometer, the median age of people in Kenya is 20.1 years with 27% of the Kenyan population living in urban areas. Electricity, Internet and availability of resources are some of the benefits that come with living in an urban area. 

In this case availability of resources would be access to reading material whether fiction/non-fiction or hardcopy and softcopy. There are different factors that come into play when discussing reading culture among Kenyans. Reading culture is most definitely defined by financial stability, time management, age, gender, sex and most commonly spiritual beliefs especially since Kenya is a highly religious country. 

Kenyans and literature

There is a popular notion or rather popular hypothesis among Kenyans that they do not read after school. Think about it, all the set books, all the history, geography, poetry books, all in the effort to get that university attainable grade. 

After that it all goes downhill unless one is a passionate and avid reader. Reading requires the discipline of being constant even when no one is forcing you too and many Kenyans sadly lack said discipline. A significant section of the youth in Kenya today last willingly read book or novel when they were in high school being that they had to if they wanted to pass.

Picture this, someone has just come home for the weekend and decides to unwind by watching a movie. The word “cease and desist” comes up in the conversation and the viewer wants to know what it means. Will the viewer go to his trusty encyclopedia or dictionary on his bookshelf or pop out his smartphone and Google it? 

That’s one of the major problems we have in todays’ society and not just in Kenya alone, information is everywhere. You can find whatever you want from social media, television through the help of experts. And if all this is possible you would think why would anyone want to flip through the yellow pages? those are a thing of the past…everything has been made easier for us that no one wants to put in the effort anymore.

Literature and cinematography

A deep dive into the world of cinematography in Kenya will lead one to what Kenyans really crave when it comes to satisfying their book cravings. A lot of Kenyans when it comes to reading do not exhibit much enthusiasm as compared to watching a movie or series. 

If one put two option on a weighing scale, Game of Thrones the final season and City of Girls, there will be a clear tipping of said scale even though both are literal works of fiction that came out in the year 2019. So, what is the cause of this? Have books become less interesting, have authors lost their touch or is it that people tend to lean on an easier method of receiving information…has technology turned our sense of imagination into mush?

The good news is that authors have not lost their touch, it’s just that everything is becoming digitized. Even the books that continue to fly off the shelves almost always turn into movies. I think it is safe to say a huge percentage of entertainment today heavily relies on writers, they are the backbone of that economy. Game of thrones started out as just a book in 1996, The Hunger Games started out as books in 2008 as well as the highly successful Maze Runner trilogy published in 2009. Who is to say that the one you are about to write will not join the same league?

Reading preferences

A quick analysis of literal works, whether motion picture or print, which captivate audiences will reveal a common factor…escape. People want to escape their reality, they want a distraction from their daily routine and read about someone else for a change, what they are doing, what they did or what they are going to do. 

This goes hand in hand with why people go and watch movies. If someone is an accountant will they go watch a movie on an accountant who gets married and continues to go to his daily job as an accountant or will they go watch a movie about an accountant who gets kidnapped by terrorists and has to save his life by hacking into the president’s bank account? It will definitely be the latter…they would want to see what happens whether out of curiosity or to escape boredom.

Ngugi’s River between transported us to the land of Kameno and Makuyu, Jackson Biko, famously known as Bikozulu consistently invigorates our minds through his unique storytelling capabilities while Marjorie Oludhe has won many awards for her poetic penmanship.

Into the Kenyan market

The Kenyan market is saturated with self- help books, educational books, autobiographies, get rich quick schemes because that is what runs the country. Politics is a big money-making machine in the country while the entertainment sector is left with little to no funding and it is up to the youth to find creative ideas to fund their passions. According to, most of the bestselling books in Kenya of the year 2019 are all fiction.

Others even though are based on true events like SMALL COUNTRY by Gael Faye, which is a story on the Rwandan genocide, it is based on fictional characters of 10-year-old Gabriel and his French father. This is however not inclusive of the street vendors on the streets of Nairobi who make their living off of selling novels. However, being an avid book reader myself it is not hard to see that there is a shameful lack of Kenyan content among these street book shops.

Is it because Kenyan books are highly expensive or that Kenyan content isn’t pulling enough money for these street vendors to be able to survive? This is one of the many reasons Kenyans are finding it harder and harder to willingly sit down and read a book. This intertwined with the fact that we are still a developing country that is yet to majorly improve its literacy level especially among the elderly. Who wants to sit down and read an autobiography of a successful politician talking about his time in office as a way of unwinding? Even though said biographies have their target audience what about the vast market of people who don’t want to read about politics or business or chemistry made easy? How will they be compensated; how will they unwind?


Kenyans have the potential to be just as creative as Hollywood when it comes to putting out amazing content especially in print because all one needs is a pen and paper, no graphics, no sound…just a writer and their imagination which is very affordable to say the least. Kenyans can read for leisure; they just lack the available local content and that sadly leads to outsourcing of material or loss or morale overall. It is up to the authors to be willing to step up and be ready to use their imagination. It doesn’t have to be magical or whimsical just out of the ordinary because as a country it is certainly obvious that we need a way to escape.


“I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss- you can’t do it alone.” John Cheever. 

It is pointless to write without an audience in mind, without thinking about the people you’re writing to and for, without understanding what they like or do not like. It is pointless. Readers give authors a feeling of satisfaction. Just writing is not enough. 

Writing and having people enjoy your work is the ultimate goal. It is an unexplainable feeling. The more people enjoy it, the better. For authors, this should be among the guiding principles: the reader.

Understandably, the reading culture, more so in Kenya, is demanding. However, authors have played a role in downgrading that. The good news is, the die is not cast yet.  Authors have the ability to reverse it and improve the reading culture in the long run. What can authors do to improve the reading culture for good? What can they avoid?

Here, we look at four aspects that authors need to have in mind every time they get down to writing and, eventually, publishing. The elements include the design of the book cover, identifying and evaluating the audience, the book volume and writing style used, and embracing eBooks.

Book Cover and title

A common adage goes that ‘do not judge a book by its cover.’ For authors, that should not be the case literally. A good book is as good as the cover. A book cover should not be good. It should be great. That should always be therule when designing book covers as well as coming up with a great title. 

A great book cover is just like a good reception at an office. It can dictate whether a person will settle for the book or not. It is the author’s responsibility, together with the publisher, to come up with a good cover that will not only help sell the book but also make it easy for readers to settle on the book. 

Jo Linsdell, a best-selling author and illustrator, argues that a cover is always the first sales pitch of every book. It is the face of the whole book. Some people will opt to settle on a particular book based on just the cover. She adds that a book cover should be striking enough to capture the attention of the readers at first sight. If not, there is a likelihood that the reader will settle for a different book with a more exciting cover.

The title of the book, alongside the cover, matters a lot. It is the first piece of literature that your readers get to see. Undoubtedly, it will inform their decision on whether to read or not to read. It should be as enjoyable as possible lest you risk pushing readers away.

In the end, how does this affect the reading culture? If, as an author, you get the book cover right, chances of having more readers, thus changing the reading culture, are high. You will have played a role in attracting and retaining a reader throughout a book. Also, this practice comes in handy in the business facet of the book. The chances of attracting higher sales are very high. To improve the reading culture, authors need to make sure that the ‘packaging’ of their book is perfect. By doing so, they attract readers.

Target Audience

Before embarking on the writing journey, it is always good practice to know, from the word go, whom you are targeting. Whom are you writing the book for, and why? How will they relate to the topic of choice? These are some of the questions that every author should have at the back of their mind. 

They help dictate the writing style that you will employ. Identifying the target audience helps the author focus on a specific topic as well as in maximizing sales later on. With a concise target audience, you will be able to tailor the book in a way that the readers will be able to identify with it. 

Nancy L. Erickson, an author, popularly known as The Book Professor, outlines that any author who thinks that his or her book is for everyone is setting himself/herself up for failure. She adds that regardless of the quality of the content, not every reader will like and want to read it. When authors curate the right material for the right audience, there is a likelihood that it will have an impact on the reading culture, a ripple-effect type of effect. 

Always have in mind that readers, most times are not the same as authors. Therefore, as an author, you need to learn how to fit in their shoes and not the other way round, whereby you require the readers to fit themselves in the content you write. 

Book volume and writing style

Reading habits have changed over time. The concentration span has reduced drastically over time. It is another aspect that authors should have in mind every time they think of publishing. It has a direct impact on the book volume as well as the style you and the publisher choose. 

Nowadays, people rarely read big books as they used to a couple of years back. Authors need to reconsider the volume of the book, and, with the help of the publisher, the style to adapt to ensure they enhance a positive reading culture. By taking note of the volume of the book, you seek to address the reading trending characterized by people wanting to read relatively less bulky books. 

Embrace eBooks

Technological advancements have sent waves in almost, if not all, industries including ours. Authors should ignore technology at their peril. Any business that ignores technological advancements slowly commits its business death. Most people are always glued on their mobile devices or their computers. As a result, the authors should consider eBook versions of their books.

Incorporating an eBook version will see you cater to the readers who prefer to use their devices as opposed to reading hardcopy books. It will promote a reading culture; in that you will have tapped on the people who spend much time on their devices and prefer to read from there.

The thought of seeing a book you authored on the front shelf of a book store can be thrilling or running into a stranger who’ll remark, “Isn’t this you at the back cover of this book? It’s one of my favorites…” 

It will be cool, right?

But is that what really happens to first-time published authors? Most authors give up right after their first book. Why is it so? Most writers make grave mistakes as first-time authors that sets them back in limbo or even end up ruining their writing journey entirely.

But what if these mistakes could be avoided all together and make you a successful writer?

Maybe you are planning to publish your first book or you have already published and got stuck not knowing what you did wrong or what step you should take next. Not to worry, this article is for you. It will guide you on how you can achieve success on your first book like the rest of successful authors.

Writing without a purpose?

An author’s purpose is their reason for writing. An author must have a specific intention for writing.

Purposes vary, it may range from informing, analyzing, persuading, entertaining, arguing or a combination of some of this. One should be clear in their writing in that the message should speak to the readers in an authentic and genuine way. 

For any author to truly connect through a book, it is important to develop a mind-set to either educate, mentor, inspire, teach, ridicule, help, entertain or serve the targeted audience. The intention must be clear.

Writing for the wrong reasons 

The authors need to understand that the readers’ wants or interests come first before theirs.

Most failed authors care about making money out of writing more than involving themselves in producing quality content for their readers. Whereas some are just too excited about being published and cannot wait to finish to be on covers of books and as a result end up writing poor quality work.

Authors need to understand most people prefer doing other things to reading. For someone to buy your book and decide to set everything aside to read it, they have to be really into it. The author’s need to take their time to brainstorm ideas that would make a reader hooked in the book. 

III. Specific or general subject? 

For your work to be catchy, you need to narrow your ideas to a topic from being a subject. A subject is a broad concept, so choose a specific problem from it to make a topic.

An author might really love an idea and would like to pass it on to others but gets too excited to gather more information and analysis on a specific topic that will interest the reader more by exploring irrelevant angles. This may end up being too much for one manuscript.

Your credibility as an author centers on creating trust with your readers and this is achieved by being specific.

Inappropriate steps before writing

The steps of most successful writers before writing involves;

(a) Choosing a specific topic to write about. What follows after choosing a topic is making that topic a question then trying to answer it and the answer an author will come up with should be the entire discussion of the book.

(b) Thorough Research on the topic first before writing. From all the possible answers a writer arrived at from the topic question, all the information, opinions, or even further questions they have about the topic should be noted down. This way, an author sees what the already know and what else they need to find out about their topic. An author should continue doing research throughout the entire writing process.

(c) Page layout and design. Authors should find a designer who is familiar with choosing the best font type and size that is standard for the genre they are working on. Additionally, the page layout and all the standards and conventions of book writing and publishing should be adhered to as well. 

(d) Making an outline of the first draft by listing the main points of each sub topic or topic. This will show the author whether their ideas are clearly organized and focus on answering the topic question. 

Poor organization of a book

Most writers do not spend time to create a logical flow of ideas, their work is random. Readers don’t have to find the connection between ideas, it is the author’s duty to make it flow.

A book should therefore have:

a) The introduction:this catches the readers’ attention by providing background information to the whole topic, and lets the reader know what to expect thereafter. It answers the question posed by the topic.

b) The bodythis contains paragraphs that support the answers to the question raised from the topic. It’s the discussion of the entire topic. Each paragraph in a body supports one point at a time with logical reasoning and evidence, so obviously the sentences in paragraphs connects to the one before and after it. 

c) The conclusionthis summarizes the book’s topic and main points discussed in the chapters and shows the reader the significance of the book’s findings at the end of it.

Low quality books, may comprise:

(a) A poorly designed book coverA book cover design really matters. It is a tool that helps an author sell books, so if it’s not of high-quality i.e. if it lacks intrigue, has bad font choice, flavorless design and dull colors, too many visual elements, too much text on the cover, bad quality images or inappropriate designs to the genre, readers will not settle on it despite the excellent story that’s inside.

(b) Spelling, punctuation, grammar mistakes. Authors whose work are well edited are better understood. Sentences formation and usage should be grammatically correct with the right punctuation marks. A good book undergoes several changes before it stands out. An author could be required to erase or add some words, sentences or even paragraphs. 

An author will be required to revise the book severally and keep editing and proof reading. A poorly edited work can kill a good story and good editing turns it from a good to a great read. 

(c) Book length. Some authors write books that are too lengthy and most of the information is repeated. Once you now whether you are writing a short story or a novel, you can let your ideas flow differently in each paragraph, avoid repetition.

(d) Plagiarism. It’s important to attribute quotes to the relevant sources used in your book. You sound unique when you are original, so use quotation marks for words which are not originally yours and use your own words as much as possible for the 99 per cent of the content.

VII. Inadequate Marketing

Once an author decides to write a book, they should have a target market in mind. The idea of marketing books to a wider audience should be thought of well. For an author to brand themselves and their work to the public, they should think of wider platforms like social media channels to engage readers for maximum impact, they can even sell on the internet and not in bookstores alone. A book launch is also a great marketing idea.

VIII. No specific audience

It is important that an author keeps the intended audience in mind. To catch the reader’s interest, the right audience comes first for books to be widely read. An author must be aware of things like age range of his readers, level of education, occupation, positions in life and sometimes the gender of the ideal reader.

Ineffective Book Publishing methods

Is the audience targeted into eBooks more or printed books more and vice versa? So authors can always explore more options and not limit themselves to one kind of publication. 

Shunned in public

All authors must know even the best authors get shunned. Before an author’s book becomes a success, it will get criticized a number of times, so be ready to be rejected severally. It’s nothing necessarily personal. Some great writers made a debut after their fifth or so books. An author should always remember to succeed, writing is a process not an event.

A successful author has a sense of direction and a purpose in their writing, take their time by having a schedule and doing thorough research. A good author is aware that the first draft is always messy and imperfect but they keep working on improving their mistakes by revising, editing and proofreading the work severally. They become good writers by practicing, writing and reading being a major part.