Copyright News
By. Kinyanjui Kombani
receive hundreds of queries from
writers on what it takes to get pub-
lished in Kenya. ‘What is the process
like?’ ‘Do I have to pay the publish-
er?’ And more frequently, ‘to self-pub-
lish or not?’ In this article, I will attempt
to answer some of these questions. I
don’t have an answer for the last ques-
tion, so I will talk about the pros and
cons of the publishing options available
and let writers make the choice.
First, it helps to know the publishing
1. Review (to know if the work is fit
for publishing)
2. Editing
3. Proofreading
4. Typesetting
5. Design
6. Printing
7. Marketing
8. Distribution/Sales
Do note that there are many more
things that happen in between.
If you want to publish, you have two
broad options: You can engage a tra-
ditional publisher to do it for you,
or you can publish it yourself (also
known as Self-Publishing). You can
also do a blend of the two i.e. get the
traditional publisher to do all that
work at a fee.
When you go for a traditional
publisher, it means you have
allowed them to do all the
work for you, and then
net the costs off the book
sales. They will give you
royalties (which range from
7% to 20% depending on
varying factors. The
of work-
ing with a
publisher is
1. They will
do every-
thing for
you, leav-
ing you free to
work on creating more work. They
know the industry and processes,
and also know the market well.
2. They take all the risk - Yes, there
is a huge risk that your book won’t
sell a single copy.
3. They have the resources to do the
editing for you, which is important
because by letting an independent
person edit your work, you ensure
(This is important for me because
I think in mother tongue, and it
appears in my writing. My manu-
script has to go through a number
of edits before the mother tongue is
cleared out!)
What are the disadvantages of going
the traditional publishing route?
1. Returns are significantly lower.
When you self-publish you get
100% of the revenue (note I said
revenue, not profit). As mentioned
earlier, the publisher will deduct
their expenses from the book sales.
About 30-35% of the cover price
goes to the bookseller, the rest is
split between all the other pro-
cesses. Royalties to the author are
generally from 7% to about 10%.
Very few authors get over 10%.
2. You lose control over content. Pub-
lishers will try to fit your work
with their house style. This can be
3. You lose control over
the process. The book will
most likely be queued as per
the publisher’s workload and
budget. You also have to go
with their calendar & market-
ing plan.
Your choice of which
option to go with
depends on the
resources at your
disposal (time
and money).
ing is a busi-
ness venture
– you take
care of all
the processes. You control everything,
and also take ownership of the risk.
Just like any other business venture,
it has mixed fortunes. I’ve seen people
sell 2,000 copies in a week, and oth-
ers 1 copy in a month. I’ve seen people
with thousands of copies of books in
their store with no bookshop willing
to stock them.
There is a third option where you can
enlist the services of a publisher, for a
fee. Do agree on the terms upfront so
that everything is clear – especially on
the revenue and cost sharing model.
Another way is to publish the book
online. Writers like Alexander Nderitu
have perfected e-publishing.
Some points to note when you are look-
ing to be published by a traditional
1. It is best to research which publish-
er does the genre of work that you
do. This will significantly reduce
the chances of rejection.
2. Take time to check their publishing
guidelines - most will have them
online. In terms of format, most
will ask for typed manuscripts,
double spaced, Times New Roman
size 12.
3. Don’t send handwritten manu-
scripts. Do not. A publisher
receives about 10 unsolicited man-
uscripts per week. Don’t give them
an excuse to trash yours.
4. Have a lot of reviews done before
you send your work out. I have a
team of people who read my manu-
scripts and help me tighten them
before they go to the publisher.
This helps to reduce the chances of
being rejected and also helps refine
my writing. My team of reviewers
also bring in new perspectives.
Kinyanjui Kombani – Kinyanjui.kom-
Kinyanjui Kombani ‘The Banker who
writes’ is an award winning creative
writer, banker, and business strate-
gist. He has published over 14 works
(novels and children’s stories).
A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Published in Kenya