• They are not short-cuts to quick riches and fame. Excellence must be cultivated.
•This occasion occurs after two years under the auspices of the Kenya Publishers Association, which organiZes the annual book fair event also.
The 22nd Nairobi International Book Fair was held a fortnight ago at the new Sarit Convention Centre. This year was the occasion for the awarding of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, too.
This occasion occurs after two years under the auspices of the Kenya Publishers Association, which organises the annual book fair event also.
Among others, one of the key winners was Kinyanjui Kombani, who was awarded the Wahome Mutahi Literary Award 2019 for his newest offering, Of Pawns and Players. This is a timely book that puts the wily world of betting in the limelight. This year’s judges included Dr Tom Odhiambo of University of Nairobi and the Vice-Chancellor of Kenyatta University Prof Paul Wainaina.
The Book Fair celebrated 22 years of annual continuity in style with many exhibitions, presentations, readings and book signing events that added sight and sound to this year’s extravaganza. The theme this year was: "Read. Apply. Freedom".
A key highlight of the event was the space offered to writers and authors who are in the business of self-publishing, a new dynamic in the changing world of publishing in the new age.
In fact, on September 28, a seminar on 'Self-publishing in Kenya today' occurred in the Seminar Hall. It was organised by the Christian Literature Communications-Kenya chapter, an ardent supporter of the nascent self-publishing sector in the book industry.
The seminar featured the internationally distinguished Mark Seabrook, who gave insights to upcoming writers on how to maximise e-book platforms. Another speaker and veteran book marketer, Alois Wanjala, gave the public an overview of bookselling trends in the country and tips on how authors can sell more on e-commerce platforms like www.jumia.co.ke.
CLC-Kenya is interested in print on demand, self-publishing, author collaborations among other timely issues. It is also interested in the cultivation of a reading culture across the country by way of teens programmes and regular sessions for the training of self-publishing authors or authors-to-be.
The organisation had two well-visited stands (number 104 and 105) besides the seminar. They organised at the MAAI hall. Speaking to the Star, CCL-K national director Mercy Muthoni said this year’s festival was organised better in comparison to previous years but still called for more improvement.
“We could aim to get 50,000 people to attend the book fair next year," she said. "The Education and Culture ministries can partner further with KPA to get the numbers up. Book fair is a great contribution to our community — a reading nation is an empowered nation from any angle you look at it.”
CLC-Kenya believes writers should be interactive. It seized the opportunity of the fair to line up several Kenyan writers affiliated to them throughout the event. They included the eloquent Grace Waithira, who writes for preschool children and is decorated educationist of many years. Other authors included Joyce Gikunju, James Karundu and Vincent Ogutu, who write on entrepreneurship, life skills and are popular motivational speakers in their own right.
CLC-Kenya started in 2007 and is under the umbrella of CLC International, a Mission Organisation. Its origins date back to the establishment of a Christian bookshop by Ken and Bessie Adams in Colchester England in 1941. To date, it has its international headquarters in England and is spread in about 50 countries worldwide.
Muthoni shared that as a faith-based book organisation, they seek to use literature to empower communities. Her outfit is interested in offering support to Kenyan authors to produce excellently published books for Kenya and beyond. This is being done through the facilitation of self-publishing, authors’ collaboration (club) and print-on-demand programme.
They are also campaigning positively and progressively to popularise print-on-demand programmes. It is their belief that it will revitalise the book economy and revolutionise as well as simplify publishing for many Kenyans, who are interested in pursuing a writing career.
She believes that as a country, we must make serious efforts towards editorial excellence. "Poorly published books greatly affect the messages we are writing about today. This compromises our efforts to contribute to world literature. Our Kenyan books need to be relevant all over Africa and beyond, not just at the level of content but form too," she said.
Her advice to those with the ambition of becoming writers is that self-publishing and e-book world are not short-cuts to quick riches and fame. Excellence must be cultivated, and some of the programmes CLC-Kenya is pursuing can be both instructive and inspirational in the pursuit of excellence and cultivation of a healthy reading and writing culture in Kenya.
Dr Makokha teaches Literature and Theatre at Kenyatta University