All posts by Alfonso Colasuonno

The Literary Game’s New Affiliate Marketing Program

Honest Book Reviews from The Literary Game

Here’s a question for you: Do you have six thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket right now?

I didn’t think so. Truthfully, neither do I.

The problem is, if you’ve completed your manuscript and are looking to either self-publish it or start pitching agents, you’re going to need it.

Why?

Because a developmental editor costs anywhere from $7.50 to $20 per page (250 words).

Imagine if you have a manuscript for a 90,000 word novel (an average word count). That translates to around 360 pages. At a bare minimum, you’re looking at spending $2,700, although fair rates can reach as high as $7,200.

Until recently, you had three ways to go if you didn’t want to pony up the money to hire a developmental editor:

  1. Skip hiring an editor altogether in a cost-cutting move and proceed forward. This will likely lead to rejections from agents who request your manuscript. You may have a great concept, but you’re only wasting their time and your own if you send them an unfinished product. And if you choose to self-publish, good luck building on an initial reputation for poor quality writing.
  2. Pass your manuscript over to friends to act as beta readers. I hope your friends are trained writers or editors. Also, in most cases, friends want to build your self-esteem. They’ll tell you your manuscript is excellent. It’s not. Not yet, at least. Being as close to the work as they are, writers are terrible at catching their own mistakes. That’s why we need editors.
  3. Hire an editor on the cheap. I’ve done this before and learned my lesson. My co-author Vakasha Brenman and I hired an editor to edit The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn for only $750. Her edits were next to useless. Sure, she caught some misplaced commas and gave one or two suggestions (both of which were historically inaccurate and rejected by me and my co-author). Ultimately, we had thrown our money down the drain. Vakasha and I had to spend another year revising The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn ourselves, before we had saved enough money to hire a qualified developmental editor. The results speak for themselves: We landed our first choice for a publisher and I was able to promote The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn on the top-ranked nighttime radio program.

Obviously, none of the above options are solutions if you’re serious about your career as a creative writer who is trying to break into the literary game.

At the same time, few of us have thousands of dollars to hire someone who can actually get your manuscript in proper shape to move forward in your career. If you do, great. Go for it. But most of us do not have that kind of money.

It’s simple to see. There’s a hole in the market, one that I believe any astute writer can see. I’m confident that I have a solution to this hole in the market.

I’ve created a book review service that audits your manuscript, listing every problem and proposed solutions. There’s no actual editing involved. That’s your job. However, after using this service, you’ll know the exact weaknesses that currently hinder your manuscript and how to address them.

The best part is this service only costs $50 USD per 10,000 words. For most us, that means the service costs under $500.

I absolutely do NOT recommend this service to anyone who isn’t confident in their “chops” as a writer. If you have some great ideas, but you’re not an experienced writer, you’ll probably end up needing to hire a developmental editor or maybe a ghostwriter to take your vision forward and execute these edits.

However, for those writers who are skilled and just need that extra pair of trained eyes, this service is a perfect fit.

Of course, since this service is new, and my blog is small, I need some help to get the word out to help writers. That’s where you come in.

If you know some writers who could benefit from this service, I’ll extend a 20% commission to you for every successful referral. Email me using the contact form below for more details and to get started.

In success,
Alfonso

HOW CAN I CHOOSE THE RIGHT PUBLISHER?

When Vakasha Brenman and I set out to write The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn, all we knew was that we had a calling to share the truth of the unicorn’s story with readers.

Here are some things we didn’t know when we started out on this journey together:

  1. How long the project would take.

Vakasha recently passed away in May. In the 4+ years that I knew her, she must have joked about the first time I met her at least 200 times. In that now ignominious moment, I told her we’d be able to write the book in a month.

It took us a year and a half.

She never let me live that one down. And I love her for it. When a friend gets egg on their face, you got to rub that yolk on ’em good and long.

2. How to mesh our different work styles together.

I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf. Truthfully, it used to be (and to a lesser extent still is) hard for me to ask for help from others. In the past, this has made cooperative work difficult for me.

Vakasha was my polar opposite professionally. As a documentary and stage producer, she thrived on that level of close collaboration.

The first few weeks of working together were awkward. Communication between us was a challenge. Then Vakasha sat me down and told me she couldn’t work like this. The early drafts were nowhere near where they needed to be and it was odd for both of us to work together in the same house, yet treat each other like strangers.

After that day, we worked out a new style. Vakasha and I each did our part on our own when appropriate, but both of us focused closely on bouncing ideas off each other and making much of the writing process a collective effort. It was a lot more fun to do things that way and it led Vakasha and I to becoming extremely close friends. It also led to what we believe to be the best book on unicorns ever written. Of course, you should judge for yourself by picking up a copy.

3. How to find a publisher for our book.

When Vakasha and I agreed to work together at the end of 2015, I had already been around the block more than once as a writer. I had published more than 50 short stories and poems in at least 20 different literary magazines at the time. But this was different. This was a full-length book. And it was in a totally new space for me, writing in the spiritual and esoteric genres. I had a lifelong interest in topics of a paranormal, supernatural, and mystical nature, but there had never been the right avenue to pair that fascination with my writing ability. That changed when I met Vakasha and she shared her idea for a book.

We worked diligently on The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn for around 18 months, but then came the difficult part: what next? How would we find the right publisher? Could we even find a publisher?

As a former publisher myself with Beautiful Losers Magazine and a few other literary ventures, I understood that there was a big difference between getting poetry and short fiction published in literary journals and finding the right publisher for a book. Most literary magazines that focus on short fiction and poetry are online-only passion projects. Also, the vast majority of litmags don’t make any money, nor is that their intent; they are purely labors of love.

Obviously, when it comes to publishing books, such an approach isn’t feasible. For one thing, printing books costs money. Even the most barebones publisher will be looking (at the very least) to recoup the cost of printing an initial run. Naturally, there are many other expenses that must be considered, and so a publisher will certainly factor in the projected sales potential of a book into their decision to publish it or not.

That’s not to say that the quality of a book doesn’t matter, or an author’s platform, or the timeliness of a topic, or so many other factors that weigh into a decision to publish. But it does mean that getting a book published is far more difficult than getting a poem or a piece of short fiction published. It just is. There’s no way around it.

My first instinct was to ask a family friend who is a New York Times-bestselling author to see if he could open up doors for us. The problem was that he had already fronted a screenplay of mine to his literary agent. That agent, unfortunately, judged that the script wasn’t marketable enough to sell or take me on. Persistence is key, so I tried again with my family friend, but it was to no avail.

With my best contact burned out, Vakasha and I were in a tough spot. We had worked so hard on this wonderful book, but now had to start either cold pitching agents to represent us or self-publish. While self-publishing is a good avenue for some authors and for some books, we didn’t feel it was the right fit for The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn. And when it came to cold pitching agents, I had already tried that with a to-date unreleased YA manuscript that Vakasha had co-written with her friend Tim Steffen, and struck out after pitching more than 30 agents. I thought her and Tim’s book was as spectacular as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, yet none of these agents were interested in the concept.

It may sound strange to those gripped in a materialistic view of the world, and my spiritual beliefs are not a focus of this blog, but we felt that the unicorn was guiding our book, making sure that it would open up the right doors to get us to the finish line. We were right. It did, even in these difficult circumstances.

Vakasha remembered that her close friend Michael Mann had been a leading figure in the British publishing scene for decades. We searched through her Rolodex to find his number. When we finally found it, the number was no longer in service.

We were back to square one.

One thing I learned from my partnership, friendship, and mentorship with Vakasha is the importance of PERSISTENCE. The odds may be against you when you try to find a publisher, or do anything in life that seems challenging and in which most people fail; however, you need to give it your all and try. You may not always achieve your goal if you try, but you’re guaranteed to fail if you don’t try.

And so we tried. Vakasha called a number of mutual friends. A week or two later, she received a call from Michael. One of these mutual friends had told Michael that Vakasha wished to speak with him.

In short measure, Vakasha shared our manuscript with Michael. He enjoyed it immensely, recommending it for publication to John Hunt Publishing.

From speaking with Michael, researching John Hunt Publishing, and seeing how they work with authors, we felt excited to work with them and hoped we’d be offered a contract. Sure enough, after multiple team members reviewed it, The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn was judged a good fit for publication.

Since then, it’s been a wonderful experience working with John Hunt Publishing. Their team members have helped us whenever we had a query about the publishing process, questions about negotiating art rights, and all the other aspects of publishing a book that were new to us. They’ve worked with suppliers in the UK and US and different industry catalogs to ensure our book has excellent placement. And they connected us to G L Davies, an amazing publicist who landed me an incredible number of bookings with wonderful radio and podcast hosts, including on the nationally-syndicated radio program Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. In fact, you can listen to my interview with Coast to Coast on Monday morning (September 7th) at 3:00 AM Eastern time / 12:00 AM Pacific time in the U.S.

It has been an amazing experience for me working with such a supportive publisher as John Hunt Publishing, but what about you? How do you find the right publisher for your book? What are the considerations you need to look for? Here’s a quick checklist:

  1. Do they publish books in your genre?

O-Books, one of John Hunt Publishing‘s imprints, specializes in books within the spiritual genre, especially when paired with personal development. Our book is a summary of the magical mythical unicorn across time periods, spiritual traditions, and cultures with a focus on how the unicorn can help you on your path. It’s a perfect match. If Vakasha or I had pitched O-Books on a book outside those parameters, it’s almost certain that they’d reject it. Many publishers specialize in certain genres. Make sure the publishers you’re targeting are a good fit in that respect.

2. How much input do you want from your publisher?

You wrote your book to the best of your ability. How comfortable are you with major changes to it at a publisher’s request? Find out if your publisher trusts their authors’ vision, like John Hunt Publishing does, or is likely to recommend numerous changes, some of which may not exactly be in line with what you wish to present to your readers.

3. How active are they in placement and publicity?

John Hunt Publishing has been fantastic for us in both respects. However, some publishers, because of limited financial resources or a more hands-off approach, take a far less active role. You may have to hire your own publicist or do the work yourself (look forward to a future post on that soon). As always, do your research before pitching a publisher or signing any contract.

4. Do you prefer a tech-forward experience or do you want a more traditional approach?

COVID-19 highlighted the dangers of a traditional, sit-down approach to publishing where authors are bogged down in countless meetings. John Hunt Publishing does a great job of keeping everything online, so that when you need support or team members need to touch base, it’s all done in a safe and easy way. This allows them to publish authors from around the globe, not just in their native UK. I think it’s great, but understand there are different ways of dealing with the business end for writers, so choose to pitch a publisher with a compatible approach.

These are a few factors to start with. Vakasha and I were fortunate in finding the perfect publisher for The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn. I wish you the best of luck in finding the ideal publisher for your book!

If you need a little help getting your manuscript into shape before pitching publishers, try our book review service. It’s far more affordable than hiring a developmental editor and will allow you to become aware of all the potential weaknesses in your book so that you can address these issues on your own. For more information, click here.

What Is The Most Effective Way To Market A Book?

Here’s a question for you: How long did it take you to write your book?

Did you spend a few months on it? Maybe you spent a few months just on the first draft. Maybe it took you a few years and fifteen to twenty drafts until you sent it your publisher or moved forward with KDP.

It probably didn’t take you a few hours. It probably didn’t take you a few days. It probably didn’t take you a week. If it did, please do reach out, I’d love to know your secret.

You have invested an ENORMOUS amount of time into your book. Why? Because you have a creative vision. And you want to share your creative vision with the world.

Of course, most authors could hardly claim that they are able to share their creative vision with the world. In fact, the average self-published digital-only book sells just 250 copies in its lifetime. As for traditionally-published books, they tend to sell approximately 3,000 copies in their lifetime, with only around 250 to 300 of those sales coming in the first year.

Does that sound scary?

It can be, if you’re banking on 300,000 copies sold and your book being featured on Oprah’s Book Club. While it would be crazy to tell you that you’ll have a bestseller on your hands if you try this method (although that is within the realm of possibility), I can tell you that it will produce better results for you than doing nothing. It also tends to be far more effective than most other marketing strategies.

Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Get Interviewed On Podcasts, Radio, YouTube, TV, and Blogs

If you’re on a traditional publisher, you’re likely to be in a great position; most connect their authors to publicists.

My forthcoming co-authored book, The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn, has been helped immensely by G.L. Davies, my rockstar of a publicist at John Hunt Publishing. G.L. was able to get me an appearance this September on a nationally syndicated radio program in the U.S. that reaches over one million listeners. That’s not even mentioning the many other impactful bookings he has landed for me and many other authors affiliated with John Hunt Publishing.

pexels-photo-3502498

Now if you’re self-published, you already know that the buck stops with you.

There are two options that self-published authors (or traditionally-published authors without publicists) can take.

Agencies like Anthony Mora Communications (who I highly recommend working with) or other PR firms can deliver big results for you, but the price may at first seem way too high for many authors.

I ask you to think a little deeper.

Let’s say you spend $4,500 per month for four months of partnership with a public relations firm like Anthony Mora’s. That’s $18,000. That’s not exactly a $4 cup of coffee. Most authors who don’t have trust funds or offshore bank accounts would initially balk at such a figure.

However, what if they were able to get you 4,500 copies sold?

You’d break even with a $4 royalty from Amazon per book sold.

With a talented and reputable PR firm like Anthony Mora Communications that can get you major media attention, that $18,000 is well worth it and quite likely to be recouped. It’s very likely that you will not only break even, but far surpass your initial spend.

If you write nonfiction within a topic connected to your business or freelance work (or even if you write fiction or your book has nothing to do with your side hustles), the added attention will also have a good chance of rocketing those sales numbers up as well.

But let’s say you don’t have that kind of money to invest, even on a month-by-month basis. You can still do it on your own.

Granted, it’s a far more time-consuming process. Your results will also be less impressive because you don’t have the same kind of connections or social savvy that a top-notch PR firm offers, but you can still get spots.

What I’d recommend in that case is to target smaller blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and online radio programs in the beginning and then keep scaling up. If you’re within the same niche, you’re likely to get booked.

Why?

Because most content creators are desperately in need of content.

The Literary Game itself can be a place to get some free promotion.

We are currently accepting guest post submissions and interview queries. If your guest post pitch is on topic for our audience, it’s likely to get accepted (and if it’s off-topic but genuinely interesting, you have a good chance too).

Also, if you’re an author with an interesting backstory, you’re likely to get your interview request approved. You can email me if you need the extra promotion.

Here’s a tip: I love honesty.

You don’t need to lie and write in your email that The Literary Game changed your life or that I’m your favorite author. Just be upfront about your situation. I respect the hustle. Actually, it’s the thing I respect more than anything else in this life.

Ready to get started? Awesome! Give it a go.

For those authors who either don’t have a publicist supplied by their publisher or can’t hire a publicist because of financial reasons, be on the lookout for our upcoming post on how to cold pitch radio show producers, podcast hosts, YouTubers, and bloggers for interview spots. It’s a busy time with the forthcoming release of The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn, but I hope to have that one ready within a few weeks.

In the meantime, please share any questions you may have in the comments section.

Good luck!

-Alfonso

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Alexander Nderitu: African eBook Pioneer and Self-Publishing Expert

Introduction

Hey friends. I recently had the opportunity to interview Kenyan author, editor, and self-publishing expert Alexander Nderitu. He shared his perspective on a number of topics related to the literary game. Read on for the full transcript of our conversation.

Interview with Alexander Nderitu

Alexander Nderitu at a publishing summit

 

  1. You were Africa’s first e-novelist. What made you have the foresight to embrace eBooks when readers throughout the entire world still strongly favored print? 

It wasn’t really foresight, it was a convergence of factors; a perfect storm. It was the beginning of this century and the Internet was just starting to take hold in Africa. Back then we people used to go to cyber cafés to check if they had Yahoo! Mail the way you go to a post office! I had studied IT in college and relocated to Nairobi to find a job –and pursue my dream of being a writer. I already had a manuscript for a crime novel, titled When the Whirlwind Passes.  I checked the Yellow Pages for contacts of publishers, but there were just about five of them and I recognized them as school textbook manufacturers. They occasionally released a novel but their target demographic was, and still is, schoolchildren. Having grown up reading the likes of Frederick Forsyth, Ian Fleming, John le Carré, Agatha Christie, Jeffery Archer, Mary Higgins Clarke, and Robert Ludlum, I doubted the textbook people would be interested in my fast-paced crime novel inspired by a real-life high-society murder case in Italy. From UK writing magazines I had subscribed to, I learned about the then emerging e-book trend. There seemed to be a lot of excitement around it. Every other ad in the magazine was offering “e-book conversion services” or e-book software and devices. Novelist Stephen King experimentally wrote a series of short stories, titled Riding the Bullet, specifically designed for the e-book market.  An e-novel titled The Angels of Russia was nominated for the Booker Prize which was a first for a virtual book. I began to wonder why no one in Africa – where it’s harder to get published than the West – was experimenting with e-publishing. And then I realized that they weren’t aware of the technology and weren’t technologists like me.  I decided to pave the way. I converted my manuscript to e-book format and uploaded it on several platforms including eBookMall.com. I then promoted it myself, which is an important component of self-publishing. In November 2002, When the Whirlwind Passes was favorably reviewed in the Daily Nation’s Saturday magazine. The reviewer, Wayua Muli, ended the piece by saying, “If you can access the book, please do. It will be worth the energy.”

  1. How did you feel when a man as controversial as David Icke quoted your poem The Moon is Made of Green Cheese?

I didn’t mind it at all. I like David Icke. He’s a freethinker and so am I. I recently watched his documentary, Renegade. In it, Alice Walker, another freethinker and writer, praises him highly. I think some of Icke’s theories are outrageous but on the other hand, he’s been almost prophetic about some world events. I am an official of PEN International’s Kenya Centre and we believe in freedom of speech worldwide. Incidentally, the poem of mine that he shared on his website is not even controversial – it’s a love poem! I’ve been writing for a while so my poems have been published in numerous places including the East African Standard, the World Poetry Almanac, and the World Poetry Yearbook. Another of my love poems, Someone in Africa Loves You, was published on Commonwealth Poetry Postcards in the UK. It has since been translated into several languages. The most recent version is in Dholuo, courtesy of poet Griffins Ndhine. David Risher, co-founder of the Worldreader organization, once read out my poem Rhythm of Life, about Kenya’s famous marathon runners, at the opening of a Worldreader Summit in Nairobi. I was very flattered. I feel honoured every time someone shares or publishes my poetry.

  1. What do you think are some of the most significant challenges Kenyan authors face today?

If we were doing this interview in Kiswahili, I would have said: “Changa moto chungu nzima! Maswala kibao!” We face so many challenges. The most significant one is lack of finances. It takes a long time to write a book. A lot goes into it. There’s pre-writing, writing, and post-writing. So how do you pay the rent and provide your upkeep when you’re spending hundreds or thousands of hours on a project with no quick returns? Where will the self-publishing money come from? Besides that, we have a poor reading culture in the country, compared to the so-called 1st and 2nd World nations. We also have few trade books publishers, literary agents, book fairs, libraries, distribution channels, prizes, scholarships, fellowships, writer’s associations, and little gov’t support. Publishers say book piracy costs them millions of shillings every year, but most aspiring authors can’t even get published in the first place – they have nothing to be pirated!

  1. You’re the Deputy Secretary-General of the Kenyan branch of PEN. What are some of the benefits authors receive when they join PEN?

First off, PEN International is the oldest and largest literary movement in the world. It mainly focuses on freedom of speech and the promotion of literature across borders. It’s also well known for coming to the defence of what they refer to as “Writers at Risk.” These are usually scribes and journos being harassed by repressive regimes and other dark forces. Locally, we have organized creative writing and human rights workshops, promoted individual writers via the media, organized book launches, connected writers with overseas travel opportunities, and participated in literary events and discourse.

  1. What made you decide to help authors self-publish their writing? 

That’s a great question because this was never on my bucket list, but it’s now what I do for a living! Because I am too prolific to pursue local mainstream publishers, I often self-publish my own work, both online and offline. Over the years, some authors asked me to help them self-publish their own books due to the glacial speed of the mainstream and their preference for “curriculum material.” Initially, I used to turn them down or recommend other people because I felt that working on other people’s books would mean shelving my own career. About three years ago I had a change of heart, especially when I recommended a potential client to another self-publishing consultant and he let the author down badly. I started doing the self-publishing services myself and realized that I actually enjoyed it and, properly organized, it can be quite profitable. I have an illustrator, proofreaders, and associate editors to help me out.

  1. What do you believe are some of the major benefits of self-publishing?

It’s almost impossible for a first-time author to get mainstream published in this country. And even if one’s manuscript is accepted, it will take more than a year for it to appear in print. With self-publishing the author takes charge of the process and can get everything done much quicker. The author also retains full copyright ownership and responsibility for their work. It’s also more collaborative. The client gets to review the content as it is polished and weigh in on the cover, formatting and so on. Publishing houses deal with many books and issues at once. They don’t have time to keep e-mailing back and forth with individual authors. One major publisher I was on a panel with at Daystar University revealed that they usually contact their authors just once per year – when it’s time for the royalty payment. Self-publishing is more hands-on and cozy.

  1. What’s a better option for a new author: choosing to self-publish or seeking traditional publishing opportunities? Why?

First, I’d like to make it clear that this is by no means an indictment of mainstream publishing. I don’t call it “traditional publishing” because self-publishing is actually older, but that’s a story for another day. Whether to seek a publisher or go it alone is a personal choice that is informed by one’s own objective, resources, and options. For example, if you’ve written a YA novel that is targeted at school children and you’re hoping that it will one day become a “set book” or be considered for a Jomo Kenyatta Prize, then your best option is a mainstream publisher. That’s their domain. They serve the school market and their biggest client is the gov’t. It’s not a happy marriage, but again that’s a story for another day! However, if you have written a book of fiction or non-fiction that you feel is unlikely to be touched by major publishers then you may as well commit your own resources and invest in your own dream. Examples of why your book may not get past the “readers’”at publishing houses include adult themes, narrow target market, crude language, taboo topics, vernacular language, and author name holding no weight. Think of an ordinary 60-year-old businessman who has lived a normal but enriching life. He feels he wants to tell his life story and share the lessons he learnt along the way, for the benefit of the younger generation. If that man were to cobble together his memoir and send it off to publishers in East Africa for consideration, he would most likely die before the manuscript was even accepted, let alone published. I remember a mzee calling in to Kameme FM Book Club some years ago and whining that he had been looking for publisher for 20 years now!

  1. You also help authors market their books. If an author wants to work with you, what should they expect in terms of marketing efforts? 

I have been in the book business for a long time and I have made many contacts and learnt many lessons. I use the contacts and expertise I have gathered to help or advise my clients. For example, I can coach them on “author branding,” help them get publicity, recommend them to festival organizers, create online and offline advertising campaigns, throw a book launch, and so on. You have to understand that there are very many books in the world as a whole. I don’t see the point of manufacturing a new book and then keeping quiet about it. One time, the PEN Kenya president and I were at a university function and a member of the faculty there approached us with copies of a novel she had self-published but never promoted. Even her colleagues didn’t know she was an author! That’s terrible.

  1. Are you available to help authors self-publish and market their books regardless of the author’s geographic location? 

Oh, yes! One of the manuscripts I am working on now was authored by a lady in West Africa and she was recommended to me by a client in South Africa. The world is flat, thanks to technology. The physical location is no hindrance at all. And as the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed, many meetings can be held remotely.

  1. What were some of the biggest success stories you’ve seen as a self-publishing consultant?

Last year, I was invited to Turkana County where I conducted a literary workshop that gave birth to the first Turkana Creative Writers’ Association and the development of several books that are currently in the pipeline. One of the books is a very important and heavily researched non-fiction book authored by Titus Ekiru. It’s about the culture and history of the Turkana people and we will release it later in the year. I also helped banker and motivational speaker Oltesh Thobias bring his first book, From Campus to the Boardroom, to life and now we are working on another one. He’s already doing some online videos to promote the upcoming book. There are many clients’ projects that I am excited about. One thing that has surprised me is the diversity of the genres. I am working on everything from motivational books to YA literature to medical research methodology! And I haven’t even been doing this for long!

  1. How much do your services cost and can authors pick and choose which services they’d like to purchase?

Costs vary. For example, the COVID-19-induced recession has caused clients to understandably negotiate downwards. But the ideal cost is around Kshs 100,000, without including the printing costs. And yes, the quotation is like an à la carte menu. Some people choose to design their own covers or forego printing and just have an e-book. It’s all up to them. Regarding the cost of a book, I can recall watching an official of a major publishing house on TV explaining why publishers are so hesitant to take risks on every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a manuscript. He said that to develop one book properly – from beginning to end – costs about Kshs 1 million. I concur, although I’d say its slightly higher now due to inflation. If a client has that kind of a budget, they can expect an international-standard job, complete with a book launch and national distribution.

  1. What advice would you give to a new author who feels overwhelmed by the immense competition in the self-publishing world? 

I wouldn’t say there’s much competition in the self-publishing world. Very few people in this part of the world have books under their belt. I run a Facebook group for writers that has 1.5k members but I’ve noticed that the majority of them are either writers bloggers or aspiring. Producing a book is not as easy as some might think. However, as I wrote in an article for Agbowó magazine, I have always felt that authors – especially self-published ones – need to do more to promote their own works. Books don’t sell themselves.

  1. Any personal projects you’re currently working on?

Yes, as always. One of them is not literary; it has to do with talent development in general. Another one that we will announce when the world regains a semblance of normality will showcase fresh literary voices in the entire East African region. For example, do you know any writers under 40 years old from South Sudan? What about Rwanda and Burundi? We’re going to make a difference. My partners include Joanna Cockerline, an award-winning writer and educator from Canada, and Munira Hussein, a sensational Kenyan poet. We are open to linking up with more partners, be they publishers, universities, book sellers, festival organizers, critics or other literature stakeholders. I think this project will be especially useful for university literature students. Anyone who wishes to come on board can contact me via my website: www.AlexanderNderitu.com

  1. Do you have any parting words for our audience?

Publishers are not the enemy. Editors are not the enemy. Literary critics are not the enemy. The enemies of writers include procrastination, stubbornness, plagiarism, lack of discipline, lack of business sense, and lack of tenacity. Nothing good comes easily, even if you switch careers. If you want to know who’s really keeping you from writing, look in the mirror. That’s the culprit!

Alexander Nderitu’s Biography

Alexander Nderitu is a Kenyan poet, playwright and novelist. His first book, ‘When the Whirlwind Passes’ has the distinction of being Africa’s first digital novel. Some of his writings have been translated into Swedish, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, and Swahili. In 2014, his poem ‘Someone in Africa Loves You‘ represented Kenyan literature on Poetry Postcards distributed during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. His fiction is available worldwide via the Worldreader app and devices. In 2017, he was named by ‘Business Daily‘ newspaper as one of Kenya’s ‘Top 40 Under 40 Men’. Nderitu is also the Deputy Secretary-General of Kenyan PEN and the Kenyan Editor of the international theatre news portal, TheTheatreTimes.com.

Interested in Being Interviewed?

The Literary Game is looking to interview authors. If you’d like to be interviewed, simply send us an email with a cover letter telling us a bit about your writing and background. We’ll get in touch if there’s a fit.

Specifically, we’re looking to feature writers who satisfy one or more of the following criteria:

  • Writers who have overcome significant hardship to achieve success.
  • Writers who have a unique life story.
  • Writers who have controversial or unorthodox opinions about writing and publishing.
  • Writers who have made a difference in the world.
  • English-language writers based in Africa, Asia, The Middle East, Eastern Europe, Italy, and Latin America.

Apply today by clicking here.

Can Current Events Advance Your Writing Career?

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2020: A Unique Year

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that 2020 has been a tumultuous year. Here in the United States, we’ve had the world’s worst outbreak of COVID-19, a major economic downturn that has left nearly 50 percent of Americans unemployed, and a national reckoning on race relations after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. And we’re only six months into the year…

Still, even with all that’s going on in the world, as writers we must continue to write and we must also continue to do whatever we can to advance our writing careers.

Shawn Hudson and Just Us

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For years, I’ve been sharing my advice on the finer points of the literary game with my friend Shawn Hudson. Shawn and I first met when I was the faculty advisor to Monroe College’s Poetry Club back in 2013. Shawn’s raw, gritty poetic style caught my attention. When I first heard his poem Project Windows, I knew he was a formidable talent. Despite the fact that I left Monroe shortly after we met, Shawn and I never lost touch.

Not all writers have a core ethos to why they write, but Shawn definitely does. He seeks to use his writing as a springboard to expose some of the hardships the Black and LGBTQ communities face in the United States and work to overcome these barriers to true equality and justice. To those ends, Shawn penned an excellent novel, Just Us, which centers on a fictional corrupt police department. Shawn later adapted Just Us into a screenplay.

The last time Shawn and I spoke, I told him now is the time for him to go full blast on pitching his screenplay. With Hollywood now giving serious attention to working with talent from underrepresented communities and with the Black Lives Matter movement informing the public on the often deadly outcomes faced by unarmed Black people stopped by police, now is Shawn’s best opportunity to get his screenplay considered by major studios.

That’s not to say that if things go back to “normal,” Shawn doesn’t have a chance to sell his screenplay. Of course that’s a possibility. But why not take opportunities as they present themselves? After all, selling your screenplay is not an easy task.

How Applicable Is This Advice To Me?

OK, that’s all well and good, but what if my writing doesn’t tackle issues of racial justice? What if I don’t write screenplays? What if I’m just a novelist? Does this still apply to me?

Absolutely!

If you’re a novelist who wrote a book about a pandemic, go ahead and pitch agents now!

If you’re a short story writer who wrote a piece of historical fiction about the Great Depression, go ahead and pitch the most competitive literary magazines now!

If you’re a poet who wrote a chapbook of poems about invasions from outer space…well, let’s see what the next six months have in store!

A Simple 3-Step Process

OK, now how can I turn this theoretical knowledge into a practical approach? It’s simple. Just follow these three steps:

  1. Pay attention to the news. If you haven’t already made a habit of following the news, do it.
  2. Find a link between current events and your writing. As you’re reading your favorite periodical or watching your favorite newscast, jot down some notes if anything you read or see is relevant to your previously unpublished/unsold material.
  3. Pitch pitch pitch! Once you’ve identified a link between your writing and something in the news cycle, pitch appropriate venues. As an extra tip, approach publishers or studios that have an explicit interest in this topic as part of their core identity or who have put out similar material in the past.

The Takeaway

If you haven’t yet been able to advance your literary career yet, you might just need to wait until the news cycle catches up with your dusty manuscript or screenplay. Once it does, seize that opportunity!

Questions?

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Do you have any questions about how to apply this approach or any other topic related to the literary game? Shoot me an email and I’ll do my best to help you.

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An Interview with Haroun Risa: Author and Humanitarian

Introduction

Hey friends. I recently had the opportunity to interview Kenyan author, actor, and screenwriter Haroun Risa. We discussed his novel series Mombasa Raha, My Foot, the alarmingly high frequency of human trafficking and sex tourism in the coastal regions of Kenya, and much more. Check it out below.

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Interview with Haroun Risa

Q: There are many topics authors could choose to write about; why did you decide to tackle the issues of sexual tourism and human trafficking in Kenya?

A: The issue of human trafficking and sex tourism is something that I haven’t seen anyone make a fictional story in order to raise awareness against an issue that has affected communities across the Kenyan coast. So I said to myself that I should highlight a real-life issue that has been there and continues to.

Q: How would you assess the response from the Kenyan government to sexual tourism and human trafficking?

A: The Kenyan government is yet to assess the problem because the tourists are bringing massive revenue to Kenya, so that explains why some issues like this are blatantly overlooked.

Q: Could international organizations like UNICEF do more to address these serious problems?

A: International organizations can be able to do a lot, if they actually team up with the local people doing something to stop the human trafficking from going on even more.

Q: Are there “tip-offs” that could help government officials, law enforcement, and everyday community members better identify people suspected of engaging in predatory sexual behavior?

A: Poverty is what really identifies the people involved, because their children are sold off mostly by the guardians to the traffickers for profit.

Q. What steps did you have to take to form a partnership with HAART Kenya?

A: In order to get to know the people involved, I had to invite a representative from HAART Kenya to my first novel book launch so that she would speak more about what the organization has done so far.

Q: How much research did you undertake before/while writing Mombasa Raha, My Foot?

A: I had to do a good deal of research on the topic for the sake of accuracy, and also I included a bit of what I went through.

Q: Despite the ordeals they face, your characters possess a remarkable dignity. Was that a conscious choice you decided to make while writing Mombasa Raha, My Foot?

A: It was a conscious choice, because I’m also planning on making the film adaptation of the novels, so the characters have to possess a degree of dignity.

Q: You’re not only an author of fiction, but also an actor and screenwriter. Which do you find most fulfilling: novel writing, screenwriting, or acting? Why?

A: Novel writing has made me feel content with my talents, but acting also gives me some satisfaction because, in the end, I’m still fulfilling my dreams.

Q: Mombasa Raha, My Foot is very cinematic in structure, with a fast pace and many quick scene “cuts.” How much do you think your experience as an actor and screenwriter has influenced your approach to writing novels?

A: It has influenced a lot, based on my acting experience I’m able to know how to develop characters who can captivate an audience upon reading.

Q: What would you say are some of the unique challenges and opportunities Kenyan authors face?

A: Printing good quality copies of their novels at an affordable price. This is among the main reasons why printing manuscripts is challenging at times.

Q: What are some of your biggest influences as a writer?

A: My own life experience, for starters, which has resulted in me making brilliant characters and story development that suited my topic and novels that followed.

Q: What type of feedback have you received from your readers?

A: Most have been talking to me about making the film adaptation of the novels, and even when buying the paperback of the first novel, they normally have a good feeling of “actually holding a novel.”

Q: How long does it take you to write a book?

A: Normally around eight months to a year, depending on the number of pages and story development.

Q: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

A: Not that tied up, but pretty busy with story development and structure because once I’ve started I normally go up to three chapters.

Q: Aside from your literary and film-related pursuits, you’re interested in palm reading. How did you become fascinated by palmistry?

A: A South African palm reader gave me a detailed reading of my palms, and a good number of what someone goes through appears clearly on their palms. This made me more interested in the art of palm reading.

Q: Do you have any parting words for our audience?

A: It is truly important to never give up on whatever talent or dream you may want accomplished.

Purchase Your Copies of the Mombasa Raha, My Foot Novel Series

The first FIVE books in the Mombasa Raha, My Foot novel series are now available on Amazon. You can purchase all five Kindle editions for $49.95 USD. Grab your five novels through this link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085NJZG3X

Haroun Risa’s Biography

Haroun Risa is an actor, author, and scriptwriter from Nairobi, Kenya who has been featured on both local and international film and TV productions, including the feature film 18 Hours alongside the acclaimed Netflix production, Sense8.

His interests range from palm reading to traveling, filmmaking, meditation, world music, reading novels, documentaries, journalism, acting, dancing, motorsports, soccer, basketball, and writing.

Haroun Risa is using the Mombasa Raha, My Foot series to raise awareness against human trafficking and sex tourism in Kenya, joining hands with HAART Kenya, the NGO in Kenya known for fighting both cross-border and mainland trafficking.

He has also gotten into the agroforestry world and has been part of Emesera Forest Tree Nurseries Ltd., an organization known for advocating for the planting of the fibrous-root, clonal variety of the eucalyptus tree, among other beneficial agroforestry projects.

Haroun Risa’s Social Media

You can find Haroun Risa on major social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to catch a glimpse of his blog posts alongside the snippets of productions he has been featured in or interviews from various TV shows.

Help Haroun spread the word by using the hashtag #mombasarahamyfoot on social media.

Interested in Being Interviewed?

The Literary Game is looking to interview authors. If you’d like to be interviewed, simply send us an email with a cover letter telling us a bit about your writing and background. We’ll get in touch if there’s a fit.

Specifically, we’re looking to feature writers who satisfy one or more of the following criteria:

  • Writers who have overcome significant hardship to achieve success.
  • Writers who have a unique life story.
  • Writers who have controversial or unorthodox opinions about writing and publishing.
  • Writers who have made a difference in the world.
  • English-language writers based in Africa, Asia, The Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

Apply today by clicking here.

I Want To Write, But I Don’t Know How To Start

Introduction

Many of you, I’m sure, have started to write.

Some of you have achieved a bit of recognition. Maybe you’ve had some short stories or poems published in a few literary magazines. Maybe you’ve self-published a book and sold a good number of copies.

Sorry, this post isn’t for you guys. This post is for those who want to write, but haven’t embarked down that path yet.

Because they don’t know where the hell to start.

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Where to Begin

KISS. It’s an acronym a future writer would do well to heed.

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And no, you don’t need to become a knight in Satan’s service.

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Keep it simple, stupid.

What does that mean? Here are a few examples of rookie mistakes that you’ll want to avoid.

Don’t Write That Novel…Yet

Have you tried to write a novel? Did you get a few thousand words in and then not know where to go from there. Frustrating, isn’t it?

If you’re just getting into writing, don’t attempt something as monumental as a novel.

Especially if you don’t have an idea that makes you want to practically burst with excitement.

Instead, start with short stories. Master the narrative arc. Get familiar with setting, dialogue, internal monologue, and character development.

So yeah, that epic 150,000 word novel. You may want to put that on hold.

Unlimited Freedom Isn’t Always A Good Thing

You can literally write about anything. That’s great, right?

Wrong.

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Beginners often find that they can’t think of a compelling idea. That’s where writing prompts come in.

If you’re a beginner, writing prompts can be a nice tool to help focus, allowing you to focus on writing, not on generating ideas.

The New York Times produced a list of 500 writing prompts. To read it, click here.

Setting Goals

Realize that you’re not going to become an overnight sensation. At least not in the course of your first night writing.

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When you’re just starting out on your writing career, you may find it helpful to set little goals for yourself. Once you achieve your goals, you’ll find that your confidence increases. Your increased confidence will spur you on to write more and write better.

Here are a few goals you may want to consider targeting:

1. Writing 1000 words per day for a month.
2. Completing three short stories.
3. Crafting three works of creative nonfiction.
4. Submitting your writing to ten literary magazines.
5. Achieving your first acceptance in a literary magazine.
6. Learning how to use Duotrope to find literary magazines that publish writing similar in style and content to your own writing.
7. Receiving your first sincere compliment (close friends, romantic partners, and family don’t count).

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Conclusion

If you’re new to writing, there are four main things that you want to do:

1. Keep it simple, stupid.
2. Start with short stories.
3. Utilize writing prompts.
4. Set appropriate goals.

How About You?

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For the more established writers who read this post anyway, what methods did you use when you started writing? Did you find them helpful, or were they more of a cautionary tale? Share your thoughts in the comments!

My 50 Favorite Novels

Introduction

I thought I’d have a little fun today and compile a list of my 50 favorite novels.

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First off, the rules.

I didn’t include any short stories, short story collections, poetry collections, screenplays, plays, nonfiction (creative or otherwise), or graphic novels. Every book on this list is a novel (well, there is one novella).

Also, this is a list of my 50 favorite novels, not a list of the 50 best novels in terms of literary merit. Nostalgia, my own personal taste, and the fact that I’ve only read a smidgen of the novels that have been written limit this to a very arbitrary list.

Without further ado, the list!

My 50 Favorite Novels

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  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  2. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  3. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  6. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  7. Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
  8. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
  9. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
  10. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  11. Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale by Chuck Kinder
  12. Skagboys by Irvine Welsh
  13. Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
  14. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  15. Native Son by Richard Wright
  16. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
  17. Women by Charles Bukowski
  18. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  19. 1984 by George Orwell
  20. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  21. The Plague by Albert Camus
  22. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  23. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  24. The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
  25. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  26. The Group by Mary McCarthy
  27. Drop City by T.C. Boyle
  28. The Taqwacores by Michael Muhammad Knight
  29. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  30. Junky by William S. Burroughs
  31. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
  32. Thank You For Smoking by Christopher Buckley
  33. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  34. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
  35. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  36. NW by Zadie Smith
  37. The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini
  38. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  39. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  40. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  41. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  42. The Fall by Albert Camus
  43. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  44. The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis
  45. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  46. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  47. Plainsong by Kent Haruf
  48. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
  49. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  50. Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Feedback

Now, here’s where I turn it back to you with a few questions:

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How many of these novels have you read?

Do you hate any of the books on this list? Why?

What’s on your list of 50 favorite books?

Comments and feedback are always appreciated!

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

The Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Writing

Introduction

I didn’t start writing until I was twenty.

I don’t mean I didn’t start taking writing seriously until I was twenty, I mean I didn’t write anything that wasn’t for a school assignment until I was twenty.

No short stories.

No poems.

No novels.

No nonfiction.

OK, scratch that last one. I did write about thirty pages of a memoir on my old IBM Aptiva. I have no idea where that partial manuscript is, and that’s probably for the best.

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When I transferred to Beloit College, I decided to become a Creative Writing major because it seemed like fun, and it was, but back then I had many, many, MANY misconceptions about what being a writer meant.

Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew About Writing As A Twenty-Year-Old Absolute Beginner

1. Writing is rewriting.

You just finished your novel. Great. Now the fun really begins.

2. Rewriting is not a quick process.

God may have created the Earth in six days; however, you will not complete your manuscript in anywhere near that time frame.

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3. Working with an editor isn’t optional, but necessary.

My short stories wouldn’t have been published without the assistance of Rairigh Drum, who was my developmental editor. My screenplays wouldn’t have attracted the attention of a New York Times best-selling author and a screenwriter who has worked with Spielberg without the assistance of a developmental editor. My nonfiction book wouldn’t have…you get the point.

4. Writing well isn’t enough, you need to think like an entrepreneur to get noticed.

Is it ugly? Yeah, maybe, but the days of the pure writer who refuses to attend to the business end of things is over. Those writers are doomed to obscurity.

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5. Success doesn’t come overnight.

Trust the process. If you know that you’re good, go out and prove it. Stay the course, and don’t lose your confidence if you don’t rapidly advance.

6. Networking with other writers (and, if possible, with editors, publishers, and agents) can open up many doors.

Remember that saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, it’s both. Don’t be isolated.

7. Most publishers will have zero interest in your writing and will reject it, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have talent.

Publishers and agents receive an incredibly large amount of submissions. They also usually have very strict criteria about what types of work they publish/represent. Receiving rejections is inevitable. I’ve had over 60 short stories and poems published and scout publications carefully, and still only have an acceptance rate of about 25-30%.

8. You can’t half ass your way to quality writing; you have to whole ass it.

If you’re planning on going through the motions, just put down your pen and give it up.

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9. Not all writers are miserable people, and you don’t have to be miserable to write.

Although I won’t lie, sometimes it helps. 😉

10. You don’t have to drink to excess to write well, but sometimes it can be fun.

Nostrovia!

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Conclusion

“He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory.” – Lao Tzu

Don’t make mistakes based on incorrect perspectives about being a writer.

Make writing a consistent habit, work with an editor that you can trust, network, realize this is a process, and try to keep a sense of humor. If you do all that, and you have some talent, you’ll be more than fine.

What Do You Wish You Knew When You Started Writing?

Leave a comment below!

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Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

How To Keep Writing When Everything Around You Is A Mess

Introduction

I’ve said it, and pretty much anyone who writes about writing says it, you need to write daily. 1000 words. An hour. As many words as you can fit on the page in as much time as you can possibly spare.

Yeah, that’s all well and good in a perfect world.

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But your world isn’t perfect, is it? Neither’s mine. Who can really say that they don’t have any major challenges in their life?

So, how do you keep writing when it feels like the world’s crumbling at your feet; or, if your life isn’t so bad, how do you keep writing when your life could use a tune-up?

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Solutions

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Fix Your Shit

If you’re unable to write because of too many crazy things going on in your life, then don’t write. Solve your problems first. Besides, you can’t write 1000 words a day if your computer…and your grandparents’ typewriter…are confiscated by repo men.

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Phone A Friend

When life’s at its worst, know that misery loves company. Get on your phone and dial a buddy. You can ring the wisecracking one to get you out of your slump, or the understanding one if you need a shoulder to cry on, but ring someone to get out of your own head and elevate your mood. Then, after they’ve served their purpose, hang up and write!

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Power Through

If your problems aren’t going away anytime soon, then just say “screw it” and go ahead and write. Put your feelings on the page if it’s a confessional work, or write from a fictional concept to take a brief reprieve from your stressors. Being productive can sometimes be the best cure for mental anguish.

Seek Professional Help

I’m not a psychiatrist. I don’t even play one on TV. If things are really bad, get yourself to a trained professional who can help you get back on track. Who knows, your psychiatrist may even know an agent. If that won’t get you to start writing again, I don’t know what will.

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Conclusion

We’re all unique. Each of us responds to adversity in different ways. Find the way that best handles your situation and go with it.

How About You?

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What method do you use to keep writing when life becomes overwhelming? Share it with our readers in the comments section.

As always, I’m Alfonso, and I’m fighting the good fight with you!