Mystery Publishers announces book prize for independent authors

Mr Vincent De Paul (left) and Mr Joseph Wambo

Mr Vincent De Paul (left) and Mr Joseph Wambo of the State Department for Public Service display a copy of Mr De Paul’s book, The Fundamentals of Strategic Writing, at Alliance Française in Nairobi on July 30, 2022.

Photo credit: Anthony Njagi | Nation Media Group

Mystery Publishers, a Kenyan pan-African independent publisher who focuses on African writers in speculative and pop fiction, has launched a books prize for Kenyan self-publishing authors.

Mr Vincent De Paul, the publishing manager, said the book prize dubbed The Afrika Redefined Indie Book Prize, is an annual prize and is open to self-published authors from Kenya resident in the country, on the continent or in the diaspora.

‘’We are looking for professionally published books (whether a book is well presented—cover, pictures, [if relevant], and layout) following industry standards,” Mr De Paul said.

The new writers’ prize was announced at Alliance Française in Nairobi during the launch of a book by Mr De Paul titled The Fundamentals of Strategic Writing.

Mr Vincent De Paul displays a copy of his book

Mr Vincent De Paul displays a copy of his book, The Fundamentals of Strategic Writing, during its launch at Alliance Française in Nairobi on July 30, 2022.

Photo credit: Anthony Njagi | Nation Media Group

Given a wide berth

Mr De Paul noted that when it comes to recognising literary works, self-published authors and their books are given a wide berth while the gatekeepers ensure that works that do not go through them are ignored.

However, independent publishing platforms like Amazon, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital have revolutionised the publishing industry worldwide. With just a few clicks, a book is published.

Nonetheless, Mr De Paul says, these independently published books are not taken seriously, and rightly so – some authors publish for vanity, with wanton disregard for quality. Thus, all book awards and prizes state that self-published books are not eligible.

So, who will recognise these self-published books which have flooded the market recently?

Not all self-published books are of poor quality, Mr De Paul insists. Some authors do their due diligence, engage professional publishing service providers, and end up with even better books than traditionally published books.

It is against this backdrop that Mystery Publishers launched an independent books prize for Kenyan self-publishing authors.

Books submission

Authors may submit either an e-book or five print copies of their book. The submitted books should be in English and not more than three years old since publication. Traditionally published books are not eligible, while e-books should not be a gift to download from Amazon.

This is because the gift goes to just one person.

Because of the judging process, the e-book may need to be read by multiple people.

The publisher states that the books submitted should tell an extraordinary story about the present or future Africa (Afro-currency and Afro-futurism).

Authors submitting their books will be required to pay a submission fee of Sh2,000 for print books and Sh1,000 for e-books.

Eligible authors

The 2022 prize, the publisher announced, will only be open to books and authors published by Mystery Publishers and is targeting books published in 2019, 2020, and 2021. The prize will be open to other Kenyan authors from 2023, targeting books published in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Mr Joseph Wambo, Assistant Director for Human Resource Management and Development in the State Department of Public Service.

After the launch, a panel discussion comprising Dr Stephen Macharia, the head of the Writing Centre at Strathmore University and Ms Jerusha Kananu, an author and theatre expert, analysed Mr De Paul’s book. In attendance was John Sibi-Okumu, who wrote the book’s foreword and other educationalists from different universities.

“The selected books will then be forwarded to a judges’ panel comprising beta readers, editors, authors and publishers. They will be given book score sheets to complete for every book received.

“In general terms, the most important aspects they will be looking for are whether a book is well written (including structure and style) and Afro-currency and Afro-futurism in the themes,” Mr De Paul informed the audience.

Public voting

The judges will then submit a list of the books they nominate for the prize, which will be taken through public voting where readers will vote for the book with the most extraordinary story.

The winning book will be announced at an award ceremony at Alliance Française in Nairobi and the winner will be awarded the prize money.

The winner and first and second runners-up will have their books distributed by Mystery Publishers and will be awarded partial scholarships to select courses at Mystery Creative Writing Training Institute.

As the book market in Kenya grows and many a writer takes control of their books’ publishing, there is hope for regularising the self-publishing industry in Kenya.