• A portal has been created where creative writers upload their works, publishers view
There is no substantive data on the number of creative writers in Kenya, but there are thousands of Kenyans making a full or part-time living churning out creative works.
Writing is an appealing prospect for job seekers as it seems easy; almost everybody can read and write. Most online writing jobs require additional skills because of the specific requirements of each client. Creative writing is rather different from all that.
Loosely defined, creative writing is the art of writing stories and poetry. Think of novels, biographies, performance scripts and feature articles. Creative writing can produce both fiction and non-fiction stories.
“The challenge creative writers have in Kenya is that those lacking connections in the industry find it very difficult to get a breakthrough,” Allan Gitau, a Nairobi-based television scriptwriter, says.
The 30-year-old sees a bright future for local creative writers now that online TV streaming providers are looking for content across the world. “Companies such as Netflix want to attract customers by producing local content people can relate to,” he says. Other online TV providers include Amazon Prime and Showmax.
There is no shortage of creative writers in Kenya, but getting noticed by publishers and producers is an uphill task. Having worked in the industry, Gitau has first-hand experience of how frustrating it can be to get one's work to an audience. He has developed an online portal he hopes will connect aspiring writers with content-hungry producers.
Named Andika (https://andika.org/), the portal is expected to enhance the “discoverability” of aspiring writers. It has a section where creative writers upload their work after registering. There’s another section for producers and publishers to log in and find anything interesting posted by creative writers.
Andika is free to use for creative writers, but producers and publishers pay for the service. "At least a hundred writers have signed up and uploaded their works since the portal went live in January," Gitau says. He is optimistic more writers, producers and publishers will get onboard.
How can a creative writer turn his or her skills into a serious hustle? “You should know how to pitch and market yourself,” Gitau says. This means knowing how to sell one’s talent to prospective publishers. Andika has a programme through which established professionals, such as Catejan Boy, a screenwriter, are called upon to train upcoming writers on the tricks of the trade.
Another important step is to get one's work copyrighted to protect it from those who may use it without paying. "As a writer, you can copyright your work for free through the Kenya Copyright Board," Gitau says, adding that Andika requires that all creative works uploaded on the portal be copyrighted.
For now, it is hard to survive on creative writing as a full-time hustle in Kenya. Most creative writers, such as Gitau, have full-time jobs as marketers, teachers, accountants and small-scale business owners. Initiatives such as the Andika portal could change the fortunes of creative writers as the industry continues growing.