A young Kenyan author’s experiences, writing and selling books

BY VICTOR ADAR There’s a lot of good things going for a young man who was once looked down upon after failing form four exams. Author of The Betrayed Nation, which is a drama of gambling with politics and violence, and currently riding on the latest book, The Raila Conspiracy, Babior Newton is one guy profiting from what many young people would find a great discomfort venturing into. Hearing his name would make you think that the creative author is some guy from South Sudan, or some fellow running funny cloth line from Lagos to Nairobi. But that is not the case. Newton is a Kenyan citizen, who schooled in Usenge High School, and cut his teeth as a writer from East Africa School of Media. Teachers would say he is dull witted and amount to nothing serious in life – he is not one of those who gave snappy answers to questions like other students, and always hesitated. But he is now living his dream selling books. But today, playing the ignorance that many Kenyans have on books to his advantage, he started an online bookstore called Scholarfeed Book Inc (www.scholarfeed.co.ke) to get a piece of the pie. He is keen on buying scholarly materials, and selling the same to Amazon, kindle and Universities abroad. Like Amazon, the author is telling the joys of doing the actual selling of books – both hard copy and digital version – through the online portal. “We sell books,” he says. “We buy only Kenyan content and sell to top universities in US and America. I am an author and I am so passionate about books that when people told me that Kenyans don’t read I decided to do my research. I realised that I can target online users.” Started last year, Scholarfeed was just an idea that was looking wild for many people. Babior would buy books from the market, and from authors at a bargain price then post them on his website. Spending around Sh500 on each title, and the lowest price he charges buyers when they order from online ranging from Sh2, 300 to Sh2, 500, things are looking up for a guy who started off with a measly capital of Sh5, 000. His target is 500 books per title with the lowest number being 50 copies. The left-handed man feels bad about “that old thinking” that young men are broke and cannot pay certain amounts of money a time when a tidy sum of money flows in his account. “Some authors wonder how I will pay them Sh120, 000 for 500 books. When I pay them in cash is when they believe I can afford. They come everyday,” he says. Some of the tittles flying off his online store include Patrick Lumumba’s Stolen Moments, Jeff Koinange’s, Through My African Eyes, and Say it as it is by Moses Kuria. His company has grown to also offer print on demand services as a way to help boost sales. “I am just a middle man connecting the buyers and the sellers. I buy history, research, social and political books. And the books must be in the Kenyan context, published in Kenya. This week (mid last month) I have sold eight tittles. So you can do the math to find out how much the venture generates in a week,” he says. What he is currently working on is a Biography of Anthony Weiner, a former American politician from New York City. Actually, he is expected to travel to New York for 2017 world book Expo – Jahvits centre, New York in June 2 this year – an opportunity that will perfect his American connections with the former congressman. After the book tour he will have a chance to tour Oxford University in United Kingdom and in United States of America. Growing up in Orando, a small village in Kisumu County, Newton became the youngest kid to have ever recorded his abuse case at the age of 10 in the children department of Kisumu. He says the struggle was real so much that he almost became a street urchin. Memories of how a renowned art fanatic Mose Kidi would house, and take him to Usenge high school in Nyanza are still fresh on his mind, perhaps an experience which made him look at life through a new set of eyes. After four years he finished High school and failed. Although that took him by surprise, he was encouraged by stories about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs life Biographies; school dropouts who achieved their dreams. He quotes Albert Einstein: “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge fish on its ability to climb tree, it will leave its all life believing that it is stupid. I used to get low grades in mathematics and teachers believed that I was stupid and couldn’t pass even eye test.” Upon the realization that having good grades is not what makes people genius, he re-invented himself, set his own rules and went for his dreams. Online business, he says, is like Agrarian revolution never to be ignored. People visit his website, send inquiries, and in about five to six hours of placing an order, it is a done deal. Copies are sent straight away through courier. Then payment is done, usually in a window of two weeks for foreign customers. Although business is brisk, he feels that bookshops are now facing a big test, and that the next few years to come e-commerce will be the in thing. What happens with new ideas, he says, is that people with old ideas don’t understand new ways of doing things and some see it as a disruptive innovation and a threat to the status quo. Newton says that how to learn the ropes rests with what you are passionate about: “Turn your passion into business. If you are passionate about something then turn it into business. It is worth, you just have to be in touch with what is new. Like in my case I have to know of which book is new in town.”

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