Nuria Store Founder Abdullahi Bulle poses for a picture at his book store located at Bazaar Building on February 7, 2023. Nuria Store has over 1,000 self-published titles. 

| Francis Nderitu

Self-publishing. Who is really making the money?

What you need to know:

  • Is self-publishing a craze that will soon fizzle out because it's not economically viable?
  • Nation Lifestyle spoke to young authors and the founder of Nuria Store in Nairobi which has over 1,000 self-published titles in a podcast linked to this article.

There is an increase in the number of young authors self-publishing in Kenya. But are the books being bought? Is self-publishing a craze that will soon fizzle out because it's not economically viable?

Are bookshops stocking the self-published books? Are these young authors making money from selling self-published books or is it just to tick a box that at a certain age I wrote a book?

Nation Lifestyle spoke to young authors and the founder of Nuria Store in Nairobi which has over 1,000 self-published titles in a podcast linked to this article.

Kenya’s young authors with big dreams. Can they find success in self-publishing?

Alex Livingstone, 24, a teacher at St Rita Girls High School in Chuka


Alex Livingstone Maingi Ndungi carrying some of his publications. The teacher says he writes to convey a message not as a career.  

Photo credit: Pool

My literary odyssey began with "Simu ya Ajabu na Hadithi Nyingine," a Swahili anthology that I co-edited with Brian Oigara. The anthology paints a vivid tapestry of tales. It marked my entry into the world of publishing.
Thereafter, I wrote guides for two textbooks: "Chozi la Heri" and "Mapambazuko ya Machweo na Hadithi Nyingine." These books allowed me to delve deeper into the world of storytelling and develop the characters in the book.
However, writing is not without challenges. The craft demands time, unwavering commitment, and creativity, which sometimes can be elusive. Writing itself is also a solitary endeavour.
There is also self-doubt. There were times that I questioned whether my stories were worth sharing with the world.
Balancing the demanding role of a teacher with my passion for writing was yet another challenge. I would write in the evening before I sleep or when I get breaks from teaching.
While writing, sometimes you lose creativity or find it hard to get a perfect ending to the story. When this happens, I let my thoughts wander, and soon, the short story morphs into a thrilling novel.
When I started looking for publishers, I encountered delays, some were unresponsive, challenges that tested my resolve. How you face obstacles defines your final story.

But I finally managed to publish books that inspire, guide, and encourage readers. They also provide an escape, transporting readers to the realms of fantasy and wonder.
As a young author, I look up to Ken Walibora, Abdilatif Abdalla, Said A. Mohammed, Euphrase Kezilahabi, and Kithaka wa Mberia. Their works informed my writing style.
To stay motivated, I set deadlines, seize every writing opportunity, and expand my knowledge through voracious reading.

I get my ideas from observing human behaviour and drawing inspiration from music and movies.
I explore a myriad of themes, from crime and justice to politics, love triangles, religion, family dynamics, conflict, and the enigmatic mysteries that define life.
For young authors, I offer these words of wisdom: Writing is a journey that demands commitment and patience. It is a path best navigated with soft steps, one word at a time. Write not solely for a career but to convey your message—the career will find its way to you.

Antynet Ford, 25, Journalist


Antynet Ford is the author of Uncertainty of Love.

Photo credit: Pool

My debut book, "Uncertainty of Love", has been published recently, marking a significant milestone in my writing career. I began writing in 2017.
I was 18 years old when I sought solace in writing. It started with me pouring out my thoughts whenever I found myself alone at my uncle's house in Webuye, Bungoma County on an exercise book. Nothing fancy. I had just finished high school.
When I joined college, the writing took a backseat. It was not until 2021 that I felt an overwhelming urge to write again.
My book is a personal narrative of my quest to find true love, even as I struggled with self-love.
I write about my experiences, relationship trials, lessons learned, and aspirations for marriage. My inspiration to write this book was born from my struggles to heal from heartbreak and the mistakes I made in subsequent relationships.

I battled depression in silence and writing became my outlet. However, the writing process was not without its challenges. There was a time when I experienced a mental breakdown. I was unsure of where to go, what to write, or whom to turn to.
I saw a counselling psychologist but the therapy did not immediately alleviate my distress. I spent days in tears.
It was not until the end of 2022 that I mustered the strength to regain control of my life. At the beginning of 2023, I resumed writing but I still questioned whether I should lay bare my struggles for the world to see.
As a reserved person, I feared being judged.

I overcame this self-doubt by sharing on my WhatsApp, and opening up to friends that I was writing a book. They encouraged me and this gave me the courage to press on.
Juggling work responsibilities and writing demanded I learn how to manage my time well.
I often found myself typing from 1 am to 4am.
Fatigue would set in, but the relief I found in writing pushed me to keep doing it. During lunch breaks at work and weekends, I would dedicate time to pen a few pages.

My writing style has been influenced by a desire to reveal a side of myself that others may not know. My literary influences include Mark Manson, particularly his books "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k" and "Who Will Cry When You Die?" by Robin Sharma guided me to reassess my priorities, focus on what truly matters, and reevaluate societal pressures.
To fellow young writers, my advice is simple: Keep pushing and set aside time to write, even if it is just a paragraph. Once you have completed your work, seek a reputable book publisher to help you publish and print your book. Avoid shortcuts, put in the effort, and follow the proper channels.

Ijeiza Halima Kimani, 27, Freelance editor and author


Halima Ijeiza is the author of Bakora ya Ushirikina.

Photo credit: Pool

I have written Kiswahili children's books, "Kito cha Ushairi," "Siri Kali na Hadithi Nyingine," "Harufu ya Jehanamu na Hadithi Nyingine" and "Bakora ya Ushirikina na Hadithi Nyingine."'
The stories not only teach Swahili but also encourage young learners to engage with their communities and the world around them.
The biggest challenge I faced was the notorious writer's block.
To overcome this, I started creating summaries of the intended content, acting as a guiding compass to keep me on track.
Sometimes, late at night, an idea would pop up disrupting my sleep. I could type them on my phone so that I do not forget and transfer them to my computer in the morning. Also, setting daily word count targets helped me build discipline.
Like many young writers, I experienced self-doubt. The possibility of ever being published seemed impossible.

While I faced rejections and numerous back-and-forths with editors, I self-published my books through a network of friends and referrals.
I found my literary influences and favourite authors in Adam Shafi and Kenga Mumbo.
I like exploring themes related to youth empowerment and family in my writing. To aspiring young writers, my advice is simple: Never give up. Writing and publishing are challenging, but the results are worth it.

Justus Ngode, 30, a teacher


Justus Ngode is the author of Mastering the Art of Singleness.

Photo credit: Pool

My book, "Mastering the Treasure of Singleness" is all about helping young people discover the hidden treasures of singlehood. Singlehood is not a mere waiting period but a time to discover your life's purpose. I believe that we are designed to find our true calling before entering a committed relationship like marriage.
The book also guides on how to disconnect from relationships that have no purpose.
When I began writing, I did not have a laptop or desktop. But ideas and thoughts kept flowing. I then realised that resources follow the vision. I  bought a book and a pen and started writing, believing that I would get a computer along the way.
Yes, there was a moment when I doubted whether I could gather enough content for a serious book, as I did not want it to be just a booklet. To overcome this self-doubt, I turned to prayer and extensive reading.
It took me six years to complete the writing and editing. I published the book in the seventh year. I began writing while I was in my fourth year of university. I had classes to attend and other responsibilities, like being a leader in the Christian Union.

By graduation, I had written most of the book.
I draw inspiration from authors like Dr. Myles Munroe, Bishop Dag Heward Mills, Bishop Dr. David Oyedepo, and Papa Kenneth Hagin. Their works have greatly influenced my writing style.
If you are passionate about writing, just start.
Thankfully, I did not encounter any significant challenges or rejections during the publishing process.
My publisher reviewed the book and gave it a clean bill of health. I hope readers will realise that the stage of singlehood can be a time for growth, maturity, and the discovery of one's purpose.
Being a young author has shifted my perspective on life. I have become a role model. People look up to me, and I need to live up to the standards I have written about in my book.

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