How writers and authors can start blogs, reach more readers and sell more books in Kenya

Writers in Kenya are some of the people with great ideas to share with their fellow citizens – given the fact that they are already familiar with the process of putting ideas down on paper and sharing them with others – to inspire, educate, provoke thought, teach, edify or rebuke.

Most Kenyan authors, the well-known ones, have books with their name on the covers.

Some of them are published by the mainstream book publishers in the country.

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Others have gone the self-publishing route, taking care of the cost of formatting their books, hiring an editor and proof-reader, buying ISBN codes, finding a book printer, marketing and selling their own books on the internet and offline.

Some have also embraced digital distribution of their books by publishing ebooks that they sell on other third party websites including their own blogs.

In this part of the how to start a blog in Kenya series, we look at how writers in Kenya can embrace the internet, increase their online presence via their own blogs and earn a living from their works – making sales of their books, ebooks, consulting and speaking via their own sites.

First, let’s deal with some of the questions Kenyan writers ask when it comes to blogging.

Should I just focus only on writing my books and get a publishing contract with the big local book publishers

Some authors see blogging as a distraction from writing their first, second or even fiftieth book. And some regard self-publishing of books with the same mindset.

As such it’s easy to focus on just writing a book and then working hard to secure a contract with one of the big book publishers in Kenya.

It’s been a dream of many writers to get a deal with the book publishers. To have a deal with them. To have them around helping in distributing copies of their books. To have them deal with buyers and collecting money for them.

And this method has worked for some authors so well, even with the low royalties most book publishers give writers in Kenya and around the world.

One truth most people don’t want to hear is the fact that getting a deal with these big publishers at times don’t turn out as expected.

There are writers with the backing of some of these big publishing companies in Kenya who are unhappy with the royalties they get.

Their books don’t sell much.

And when it comes to sales, some publishers don’t push some titles hard.

Selling rights to your works also becomes a problem when you want to do things that deviate from what you agreed on with your publisher.

Getting a deal with the big publishers is good – especially if your novel or novella or short story is selected to be used as a set text in secondary schools / colleges or universities…or you are commissioned to write a revision text book.

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So, as much as just writing and waiting to clinch a deal with the big publishers is enticing, you should, as a writer with access to the internet, be open to other avenues and ideas that can help you get your work in more hands.

In this post for example, I’m proposing starting and using your own blog to promote your work, especially if you publish more non-fiction than fiction works.

Meaning you should be open to the idea of writing articles, publishing them on your blog, promoting them and getting email subscribers (from the readers that come to your blog from search engines, messaging apps and social networking websites) that you can then sell printed and digital copies of your book, consulting / coaching, audio files, videos, online courses among other things.

If this is something that speaks to you, I highly recommend you read the article Reasons to start a blog.

You will find lots of ideas that you can put into great use when creating your own blog on WordPress or any other platform you choose to power your site.

Where will I get the time to both write books and publish articles in the blog I start

If you already know the advantages of blogging, you will find the time to blog.

At the beginning you may need to put in a lot of time by the way because most of the time will be spent on creating content for your blog and promoting the content.

You can do this with just one to two hours a day Monday to Friday – and scale up (or down) the hours you spend working on your blog as times goes by.

Check this interview to learn how you can just publish 3 to 4 articles a week on your chosen blog niche to get the momentum going.

You can also find the time to both write your books and blog posts by rising early in the morning, watching less TV or simply squeezing a few minutes here and there throughout the day to write and spruce up your posts before you publish them on your blog.

Come up with the titles for you articles, outline them and then write. This makes writing articles easier for many writers. It could also work well for you.

Just be careful, organized and ensure that as you embrace blogging you will do your best not to let your blog stop you from writing and publishing your books. Also set deadlines for the articles and books you are working on.

Learn how setting deadlines can help you achieve your writing goals much faster.

If I write many blog posts and publish them on my blog, where will I get more great ideas for my books

Blogging is great and many times you will be compelled to give away your best content for free.

The more posts you’ll write and publish the more it will seem like you are giving away everything for free.

And then wonder if your blog is just depleting your ideas bank – a euphemism for thinking that the more content your blog gets the fewer the number of great books you publish will get.

So, on the surface it looks like having a blog can help you promote your books. But on the flip-side it looks like your blog, and all the content in it, is a death sentence of sorts for future titles you hope to release.

But don’t worry.

Many writers have pulled this off. They have blogged and still continued to release great books.

Here’s the thing. The ideas bank when nurtured well never runs out of great ideas. There will be plenty of ideas to go around. Some for your blog and some for your books.

Besides blogs just work as a net…to draw in readers and give them whatever they want (a solution to their problem, instructions, expert tips, laughter, stories). Your posts work as teasers that get your blog visitors engaged with your work more.

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Some of these readers will be satisfied just reading your posts – and leave – while some of them will go an extra step and buy your books.

The ones that just read your blog posts also serve you well even if they never buy your books.

They still read and leave feedback – which is essential to you as a writer. Some of them will share your articles online with their friends and family – drawing in more eyeballs and potential readers your way.

So, both the blog and books you publish work to draw people to you – to your work – regardless of whether they pay for a copy of your novel, memoir, collection of short stories / poems or just read your free content.

But the level of engagement your blog gets once someone lands on your site goes a long way in helping both you the author and your readers.

In fact, the more blog posts you write the more ideas you’ll come up with for future book releases.

These ideas will come from the feedback you get from readers, content you come across when doing your research or the occasional great idea that strikes when you are reading your own material.

How can a blog help me in my career as a writer / author in Kenya

Some of the advantages, I’ve already mentioned in the previous section above and also in this article.

A blog, if you decide to write consistently, will help you improve the quality of your writing.

The more writing you put out of your head / heart the more you’ll find that you come up with a handful of gems.

Besides this, your typing speed will improve.

Also you’ll learn how to engage more with readers online & offline on your blog, social networks and messaging apps.

Your knowledge of sales will get better and you won’t be afraid to ask for the sale whenever appropriate.

Your blog will also help you seek out fellow writers and network with them.

With your growing network, you’ll be able to share ideas, critique each other’s work or promote each other’s work.

Your blog will also be a place where you can share your story, your journey, your triumphs and struggles all in one place accessible with any device in the possession of anyone with internet access – some who will become potential readers over months and years of you consistently working on both your blog, books and ebooks.

You can even use advertising (for example Facebook ads and Google Adwords) to drive Kenyans, in masses, to your dedicated landing pages on your blog where you can ask for their email addresses and phone number so you can send them periodic updates – and once in a while send them to the shopping cart section of your blog to purchase your books or online courses and pay via Safaricom M-PESA, Airtel Money, Orange Money, Equitel, VISA, MasterCard or American Express credit and debit cards.

You can also, on your WordPress powered blog, chat live with the people who visit your blog, get to know them and build stronger writer-reader relationships.

Can I use a combination of blogging and self-publishing to build a successful career without help from traditional publishers

It’s up to you.

Some writers in Kenya have discovered they do a better job selling their own books than the publishers ever do, however tiring this may be.

Whether you want to be a part of this group of authors who have decided to self-publish books (in print and digital format) is a personal choice.

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You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of going this route then decide if self-publishing is for you or not.

If you decide to self-publish, use blogging to produce and publish articles on your chosen niche topic.

Then monetize the content by creating and selling print or digital ebooks on your blog (and Kenya’s, and Amazon Kindle) that offer much needed solutions to the people that make up the niche you are targeting as a writer with your blog content.

You can also work with a traditional publisher but self-publish some of your works and use your blog to promote them all. After all, most publishers, don’t publish that many titles every year.

Besides rejection slips, sometimes you have to wait for months before your accepted manuscript / typescript gets published and released to the market. Your decision, though, shouldn’t be based on these – or even piracy.

Know what works for you, for your situation, then take the necessary steps to spread word about your books.

To start your blog, choose a topic you want to blog about and determine how frequently you want to blog

Blogs take time to grow, especially if you’ll be relying more on organic search traffic and not advertising to get people to your blog.

So, it’s wise to have a plan and a way to implement it.

Settle on a niche.

Determine how many times a week you want to publish new articles on your blog.

Come up with a list of possible blog titles and get to work writing in-depth posts for your readers.

Register a domain name, get web hosting, install WordPress and start publishing content on your blog

There are many web hosting companies in Kenya (that double up as domain registrars) where you can register a .com or domain name for your blog for a yearly fee and get a web hosting plan (where your site’s files will be stored).

If you need help with any of these, learn how can help you register a domain name, get web hosting, install WordPress for you and have your blog ready for the content you write and the readers that will be coming to read it.

Once your new blog is up and running, it’s now just a matter of writing, publishing content to it and promoting the content to get more people to notice what you have to offer.

You can then entice these people with freebies and send them regular updates (so that they keep coming back to your blog to check your recent articles and books) once they join your email list.

If you are a writer in Kenya and want to start a blog to promote your work, I encourage you to do so.

But only if you are willing to put in the work to create great content consistently for your blog. Content that will keep accruing in value over time.

If you won’t be putting consistent content on your blog and promoting the content for at least 8 months, I highly discourage you from starting a blog. It will just drain your energy and leave you frustrated. And you really don’t want to be a frustrated writer.

If you are ready to put in the work, then your blog can be another platform (one you own) where you share your ideas, promote your work and meet awesome people.

Again, take some time to read the article: Reasons to start a blog.

If you have any questions, stories, experiences, successes, or tips you’d like to share with me and other writers, do so in the comments section below.

If you have questions on how you can start your own blog to promote your books and ebooks use the comments section to ask.

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