Real Writers Don’t Starve

real writers

14th August, 2017

By Julius Masaba

The title of this article is borrowed from “Real Artists Don’t Starve”, a Facebook community – where am also a member. Participants are all artistic, fictitious, real life writers of all age groups.

There’s a reason why I chose that title; and it’s a real life scenario. Ever wondered how marketing a newly written real life book feels like? Well, you will be shocked. Never mind that it was written by a Ugandan chap, holed somewhere in the UK.

It’s not easy marketing a printed book the traditional way, very daunting; and I mean real hassle. I don’t know whether it’s the marketing strategy used but to my understanding, there should be one (marketing strategy) on how the book will make money.

Back to the story, a colleague also a workmate recently had to take on the event organiser role of some sort for the first time I guess. It was a family affair; his/their grandfather (a great grand one) was making 100 years of ‘eating’ 100 Christmas days.

Theirs is a huge family, enough to make a party of friends or relatives for this case; you may even fail to identify any invited guests. These guys can make up a crowd at their own event like wedding, kwanjula, graduation party etc without inviting any outsider, unless you’re a distinguished guest.

This colleague of mine, at the same time  my college alumni, was assigned the role of designing, printing invitation cards for the event and sending them out; and having  the book printed – oh did I tell you the book was about his grandfather?

Well, “Keeping the Faith: Autobiography of a 100 year old Ugandan” is the title of the book. You can get it online from Lulu at $14.99, follow the link


You can also get hard copies if you are in Kampala or any other part of the country, just contact Tom on +256 779 952 516/+256 0701 057 796 or I myself on +256 700 687 711.

That aside, am sure he was also in charge of organising for the shelters, seats etc. Truth be told, this dude had a plateful of responsibilities and other errands. If it were a contract job for events management; you would envy him for taking all the deals.

Now come D-Day, the same day the book was to be launched together with K.M Maswere Foundation, in the old man’s honour; all relatives were present save for a few who were abroad, from his wife to the in-laws to the lastborn great grandchild.

Old age must be prestigious. Imagine being 100 years and still going strong, still standing upright with a walking stick, having all your front teeth intact, still speaking good English, clear eye sight like an eagle’s. But I doubt the old man recognised all his very youngest grand children by name and appearance.

Anyway, my colleague made sure the required number of cards and books was printed and to be available during the event for people to buy atleast a copy. A few guests bought – a tune of UGX2m, after the old man himself autographing (signing) a few of them.

Unknown to my chap, was the task lying ahead – making sure all the books are sold. He thought the selling was to end at the event. Those were a few copies of the whole lot. The rest had to be ferried to an unknown location. They didn’t have a place to keep the books; some went to my colleague’s home (courtesy of his mother).

He didn’t have a coin to facilitate the sales and marketing of the book, no airtime, no nothing – just the books! I remember him telling us to buy a copy each, something which caused a big debate, with him saying that we’re lacking a good reading culture and are broke (indeed we were/I was broke so couldn’t afford a few Shillings).

But I asked him ‘why would I buy a book about your grandfather and how could it benefit me; what’s in that book’. His answer was not convincing.

The mistake: Not knowing the product you’re selling. A good marketer must know his product in and out.

In the still hot debate, and amid some criticisms, we also devised strategies that might work for him and sell the copies faster. One of them was that the book overly appealed to the old people – to me, I guess those 35 year olds and above. 70% of our office staff are below 35 years, same to our neighbours.

I bet none would buy the book that easily, other factors – reading culture and unaffordability remaining constant. But what strategies did we suggest for him to use in marketing the book and how might they be of help to you or someone you know? We took an advisory approach and here they’re;

Forced purchase: It’s not conventional marketing or selling, but it’s where you have to buy the product on condition because you’ve a stake in it or as an immediate buyer – that way, so as to show support buy example. You can’t make a product for others to use yet you’re not using it yourself!

My friend should have set a stern condition to every relative in attendance and in gainful employment to purchase a copy, whether they liked it or not. When it’s question of money whether spending or making it, everyone is speaks the same religion.

Personal relationship marketing: This strategy works well if you’ve relationships with people. This means going out there and talking to them at random or those you have known before, friends in your circles etc. It requires some input of time as you have to mingle, rub shoulders say over a drink.

If you’re  an 8am – 5pm employee, you need to do this kind after working hours – in a bar, at lunch, at a networking event, anywhere even in a taxi seated to this old maama or mzee :-). In other fields where customers buy frequently or are subscribers, it becomes client relationship management.

Institutional relationship marketing: By the time an old man clocks 100 years, he must have been to places, seen it all. Note that he’s a canon, teacher, choir master, senior citizen of the land. So, wouldn’t that be an opportunity to sell the book to the audiences or groups of people he has associated with for many years or where he has affiliation?

For example, place a few copies at the church where he prays from or where he was canon, a few copies to schools where he studied from or where he taught, a few books to his contemporaries (OBs and OGs in his era) who would most likely buy a copy at least.

The problem with our generation is that, that would be a tall order since most of us youngsters don’t pray from our village churches most times – given our town jobs. We’re not acquainted to the village church audiences and even associate less with the village folks.

As a marketer, you need to know that material culture affects the level of demand and the kind, quality of the product demanded and its features. Selling to the ‘old school’ is critical and you need to emphasize those old times, with black and white pictures, relative stories or scenarios etc.

Use local libraries: This is the old age method of selling any book by a writer or author. You drop a few copies at the library and give the owner a commission for the job. This could be the likes of Aristoc Booklex Uganda, Fountain Publishers, M.K Publishers etc. Most of the books need to have copyrights and ISBNs at least.

You need to enter into a formal agreement/contract. You could also supply a few copies to the roadside book vendors but these are too informal and the liability is high – they might run-off or disappear with your books.

Online strategy 1-Online libraries: This is like an ordinary book store but it’s on the web, call them online libraries or e-Libraries, stores like Lulu, Amazon, Good Reads etc. You have to subscribe or sign up. Currently our Principal’s book “Achieving Business Success in Uganda” is on the Lulu online store (which is a self-publishing site), selling for $11.71.

The old man’s book mentioned earlier is going for $14.99 on the same site/store/e-Library. Please grab yourself a copy! However, I have never established the effectiveness of online stores or e- Libraries and publishers. Maybe this will be a topic for another day after doing my thorough research.

Online strategy 2-Social media and blogs: Today, any business or businessman, professional etc which/who doesn’t harness social media as a marketing tool is heading for extinction or dooms day.

Digital marketing for an e-Book will need you to have accounts on Facebook (2.2m Ugandan, June 2016), Twitter, LinkedIn (tap into the professional tech-savvy old guys), Instagram (for photos/pictures of the book), Snapchat, WhatsApp etc.

Why social media? Because most millennials are living online, plus a few old chaps. Internet (with 13m Ugandan users) has increasingly replaced time for physical presence or face-to-face selling and marketing for certain products. You need a virtual sales force and efforts.

Write an article and embed a link about the book on WordPress or other blogs. Use teasers – a teaser is one or two paragraphs enticing the reader to look for details of the book or article. The links should direct prospective reader(s) to the book selling point or site, Lulu in this case.

At some point, my colleague who I now call a self styled marketer because of the circumstances, made the book cover his profile picture on WhatsApp and removed it after a few days. It was a good move though but it needed consistency because WhatsApp surely works if you’re selling something.

To me, he needs to do a lot more yet he is under a zero marketing budget. That’s the life of some marketers who work on shoestring budgets. Really, why would a real writer starve (though he didn’t write the book) with all the effort, time and little finances of his put into selling the book?

May be this will be a good lesson to you reading this, the next time you write your own book and need to promote or sell it, just  comment on this blog and leave a link to your book in the post  🙂 Why? Because this is going to be one of the most visited blogs a few months from now.

To be continued…….

NB: This article also appeared on Medium by the same author, click here.

About the Writer

Julius Masaba is a private investment researcher and business consultant. He also works with Ablestate, https://www.theablestate.com/ and a WordPress writer/blogger on startups, entrepreneurship, business and finance. He loves tech. Visit https://consultmasaba.com/.


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