Writing is not a Rosy Business, but there is Hope in the Future
Interview with Pauline Kea, publisher of 20 Swahili
Q: How many books have you published and how are
they doing in the market?
A: I have published 20 titles. ese include co- authored works.
e books are doing well in the market especially Kigogo- tamthilia
which is a set book.
Q: What has been your experience writing these
books and what were your expectations?
A: Writing in Kenya is not a mainstream career. You cannot put
bread on the table just by writing. I have to write while doing my
regular job- teaching.
My expectations were I grow very fast as a writer which has not been
However, there is still hope. e industry is growing. e writing
arena is opening up. More publishing rms are willing to publish
thus growing/ young authors.
Q: Have your expectations been met?
A: My expectations have not been met.
Writing in Kenya is very challenging; e market for Kiswahili
books is limited to the academic space. is is because books have to
be recommended into the Orange book to be read in public schools.
Some genres like ushairi are not popular. e market is very small,
so publishers are not enthusiastic to publish them.
On the other hand, taxation on books is big, so the prices are high.
is limits the buyers’ abilities, especially parents who have to pay
school fees as well.
e reading culture among Kenyans is poor. People read for exams.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge
facing the publishing industry in Kenya today?
A: e biggest challenge in my opinion is pirating.
Q: Is publishing a good business for authors where
they can exploit their Intellectual Property rights to
earn a living
A: Writing is not a good business for authors. Some publisher do
not market books well- so the sales are low. Pirating hits hard when
a book sells well. Some publishers also do not pay royalties.
Q: What is your opinion about piracy in publishing in
the country? How big a challenge is the vice?
A: Pirating is a big challenge to the writing fraternity. It is killing the
industry. It discourages authors and publishers. We are spending a
lot of money ghting piracy. e government is losing revenue in
the form of VAT.
Because of piracy, readers are geing a raw deal. ey get books of
poor quality which have the wrong information.
e removal of VAT would go a long way in curbing piracy.
Publishers will be able to enjoy reasonable publishing costs and,
therefore, compete fairly in the market with pirates in terms of
prices. People will choose to buy genuine copies at fair prices.
e punishment for book pirating oences needs to be made
unbearable, in terms of penalties, especially in the court of law.
Q: What are the opportunities in being an author in
A: Writers in Kenya are struggling to remain relevant. With all the
problems that face the industry, growing is hard. Writing is not as
rewarding as other ventures so young people are not excited to get
into it.
Q: As a creative, what would be your advise to other
creatives who may want to venture into writing of
A: My advice to creative writers, especially the young ones, is that
they need to write without thinking of the monetary gains. Who
knows, in future writing could be rewarding. ey also need to be
Author, Pauline Kea