An Authors’ Pain Over Photocopying of His Books
By. Kinyanjui Kombani
I was having the time of my life. Two hundred students were hanging
on to every word I was saying. Dozens of questions were ying in my
direction. I was in a writers’ Nirvana.
It is every writer’s dream to have such an engaged crowd asking
questions and generally relating with the book. In all my travels, I
had never seen such an engaged audience. All the blood, sweat and
tears shed writing the book, hawking the manuscript to publishers,
waiting for it to be published, and waiting for royalties- were now
being paid o, I imagined.
en someone asked a question, and to help illustrate my answer,
I asked for a copy of my book. To my shock, someone produced a
photocopied version of the same. I was shocked.
And, that was my introduction to the world of piracy and
photocopying. I had heard about it happening to other writers.
I knew that thousands of books were being produced by rogue
printers in downtown Nairobi. But I never, for once thought that it
would happen to me.
Why was I hurt?
It had been een years since I started writing professionally, and
thirteen since my manuscript was accepted. I had only just started
earning from my talent.
When my manuscript was accepted for publication, I believed that I
had crossed the poverty line. I was a writer! Published writer! I even
went to a local showroom to see what cars they had – I have always
wanted a big car, and my current dream car was a Landcruiser VX.
When I learnt that my books were going to be taught in universities,
the dream was becoming a reality.
But now, the photocopy craze that has hit universities is another nail
in the con for writers. A lot of students, not knowing that it costs
almost the same to photocopy a book as it would cost one to buy,
are avoiding the bookshops at the detriment of writers. It is a social
Luckily, we are doing something about it. e Kenya Copyright
Board has been conducting a series of workshops around the
country to make people aware of the legal rights of writers, and in
conjunction with the Anti-Counterfeit Agency, conducting raids on
So, in the near future, hopefully, writers will thrive in a society that
pays them for their talent, and one that allows them.
Aside from the problems the writing industry is facing, there are
many benets of geing published. Writing has opened many
opportunities for me to build networks. I have, as the phrase goes,
dined with kings, literally.
I have had the opportunity to have 14 books published, seven as solo
eorts and seven as collaborations with other writers. Two of my
novels have been study texts in universities, and two of the children
books have been approved by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum
Development. Under review for publication is a novel, a set of
childrens stories and a young adult ction story. In the meantime, I
am writing another novel – yes, as my mentor David Mulwa says, I
have to ‘keep writing’!
Having done a few dozen thousand copies, I can aest to the
benets of being a writer. In addition to allowing to make an impact
in the world, writing makes you a subject maer expert.
Writing opens doors for other income generating opportunities.
ere are increasing requests from prominent people for writers to
help them pen their autobiographies. ere are also coaching and
mentoring opportunities to upcoming writers, and the ever-present
appearance fees for speaking.
Apart from books royalties, I have been able to earn more by selling
books aer negotiating an author’s discount (25-35% depending
on the publisher). Aer building a good author prole, people will
look for you to review their work at a fee, or even help rewrite it.
Other platforms include blogging and now podcasting, both of
which aract other sources of revenue such as advertising. So yes,
writers can earn from their art.
If I was asked to start afresh and choose what I want to become,
I would still choose writing. It completes me. And my advice to
budding writers? Keep writing!
Kinyanjui Kombani is an author