13 May Why is Writers Guild Bookshop a big deal?
In 2014, a group of students in Kenyatta University saw a need to have a platform dedicated to growing writers and encouraging people to write their stories; for posterity. This gave birth to Writers Guild-Kenya as we know it today. Since then, we have trained writers, encouraged those who never thought they could write to write and collaborated with different partners to grow a vibrant community. Seven years later, the efforts have started paying off. As of 2021, our membership now stands at 3017 across the country. We have trained and encouraged 102 first time authors who are now published. Many of our members now run blogs and generally, there is a new meaning and appreciation of our stories through the pen. We are happy that we were right to start this journey and to put in all the efforts over the years.
In November 2020 we came across an incident that changed our view. We met frustrated self-published author who had published six books but lacked a platform to get them to readers. When we read the books, they were exciting and superbly written in an authentic language providing the best of our stories. We wondered how many of such authors were out there. We decided to find out what the problem really is by starting a project called Book Tour. Through the book tour, we visited places, interacted with authors and readers and tried to get to the bottom of this. Generally, in Kenya, self-publishing a growing concept and very few people, including most existing marketing and distribution channels, recognize it as a credible avenue to take one’s story out there. Yet more and more, people are increasingly appreciating their stories and decolonising the notion of inferiority of an African story.
For the next 4 months, we travelled from Capital Centre Mall to KICC, exhibited books, spoke with authors and readers and generally studied the environment for a possible solution. We tried to find out whether Kenyans don’t read or they love books but are starved of great authentic books/stories they can relate to. We found out that it is largely not the lack of interest, but the lack of variety and books with authentic stories that excite the soul
Then, we started our market research. We reached out to our partners in Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan and asked the same question(s). Then we realized that this is not a Kenyan problem per se, but an African problem. Then we remembered what Prof. Taban Lo Liyong said of East Africa in 1960s, that it is a literary desert, then we connected the dots and decided to take action.
We decided to water this East African “desert” with authentic stories and quality books that are currently stocked in houses (for lack of a distribution platform), or are stuck in our imaginations (for fear of frustration by the process). And this is why we decided to start The Writers Guild Bookshop in a meeting held at KICC after a Book Tour on 20th March, 2021. We then embarked on a drive to mobilize resources and start forthwith. We have since secured a premise at Hazina Towers, Ground Floor (Suite A2), done basic renovations and started the journey. We have a couple of books already and have opened our door(s) to everyone who is happy to walk with us in this dream.
What makes Writers Guild Bookshop unique?
1. We only have great books from Africa
2. Book Genius: We have a book specialist who guides you on the reading, writing and publishing of your own book anytime you visit.
3. Dial a Book: Even if we don’t have the book you need in our shelves, we can still look for it and bring it to you.
4. More than a bookstore, we are a calm home for genuine book lovers.
5. Everything in our store is meant to rekindle the love between you and books.
6. Authors’ Club: We have a vibrant authors community that challenges you to do more
From our initiatives and savings, we have raised half the budget to start off. We are inviting you to partner with us, to help us finish the renovations and kick off this “watering project”. We intend to develop an online store to be launched in the 2nd phase of the Project. Should you require the whole plan of this project, let us know and we will share it?
Join us in this journey and let’s give Africa a breath of fresh books! Welcome and sample our unique books from Africa.