In Summary
  • Be ready to deal with reluctant publishers, to put in some leg work and to spend tons of your own money.
  • When you publish your book with a publishing house, they do all the heavy lifting. When you self-publish your book, you do all the heavy lifting yourself.

  • Everyone has a book inside them, no doubt. But if you are not willing to put your money into telling your story in the right way, then let that book remain inside of you.

One day, weeks, months or years from today, you will open a blank Word document on your laptop and you will begin to write. You will be writing a story about your life. Why? Because everyone has a book inside them. Every human being on this Earth has had — or will have — an experience worth eternalising in a book.

It could be a story about overcoming an addiction — alcohol, heroine, pornography. Or your 30 years in combat in the army’s front lines. Maybe your brutal decade in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. Or as a midwife in a public maternity hospital who birthed babies through different political regimes. Hell, maybe you just want to talk about facing Mount Kenya.

So you will bang away at your laptop. Some days you will bang furiously, as though the story is writing itself, other days you will struggle to find this magician they call a muse. You will lose hope on such days, you will doubt yourself and the ability of your story to change the world as you imagine it will. But you will muscle your way through the fog and mud. The burden to tell your story keeps you relentless.

The ready-to-publish draft will be ready in two years. It will have been a labour of love. You did not imagine writing a book could be this difficult. You send your manuscript to a publishing house for review. You bite your nails waiting on their response. They call you in for a meeting six months later.

You meet a junior from the publishing house in their musty boardroom. He holds your manuscript in his hands. Your palms are clammy. After some useless chatter about the weather, he tells you in a grandmotherly tone: “You have a wonderful story here, it has weight. But the execution falls short. You have a lot — a lot — of work to do in polishing up your writing. I’m sorry, we can’t take you on and publish your book.” He adds hastily when you slump: “Look, I’ve seen several people like you with brilliant stories hire a professional writer to write the book for them. Please consider it.”

You are as insecure and needy as the next writer is, so what you heard him say was: “My goodness, what a horrible book! It reads like a boring CV. You did the right thing bringing it here first because no one else should be punished to read it. Look, take your manuscript and fling it as far away as you can.”

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