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Growth of Publishing in Uganda

Friday, January 20th, 2023


It is more evident that the African literary scene has expanded massively over the past few years. The notable African Books of the Year list was launched in 2018 to highlight the most impactful books in a given year to show the world how richly and expansively African literary culture is growing, and to introduce readers to new books, particularly books from under-represented parts of the continent. The year 2022 highlighted 100 notable African books with one book from author Okot p’Bitek from Uganda. Are we doing enough as Ugandans to create?

There is no friend as loyal as a book.

Ernest Hemingway

If you have read any African book, you are possibly conversant with the fact that many African storytellers re-live African experiences through their pages, Uganda is no exception. But with the rise of African literature, Uganda doesn’t appear to be at the top even with the various copyright protections. As of this year, Uganda has ratified and acceded to four key copyright treaties – the Berne Convention, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances. These four treaties combined provide creatives with the rights needed to protect and benefit from their works. 

Creators have exclusive rights to publish, reproduce, perform, broadcast, and communicate the work to the public. With the expansion and use of the internet, their work can be shared globally with no limitation except the risk of piracy. What opportunities are currently available for Ugandan creatives? 

  • The first option writers have is to self-publishing. Ideally, a writer would be expected to pitch their manuscript to a publishing house to get published which is not the case with self-publishing. With everything shifting towards digital, Amazon is your best bet at self-publishing. While selling an ebook on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, an author licences the right to sell an ebook to Amazon. This means Amazon and only Amazon have the right to sell the digital version of the book. An author cannot sell the ebook version of their book elsewhere, not even on their website. The book can however be sold in other formats.
  •  In Uganda, Worship Harvest ministries alone have produced about 594 authors from the year 2017. Finding the right publisher may be tricky but it is not an impossible search. A few options would include Mixa Publishing Limited, Mk Publishers, New Vision, Sooo Many Stories, and Legacy Pearl Africa. 
  • Now of course one would have to pen down a spectacular novel first, but with the talent and creativity within our continent, there are no limits to what a writer can create. African stories and poetry collection books are endless. Given the rise in mental health concerns and a rise in productivity, self-help books are not books that would remain on the shelf for very long. One of the best avenues to get those ideas flowing out of you would be to join a writing retreat/workshop. These workshops help prepare you for the journey ahead and assist a writer with mapping out the storyline. We’d suggest that writers sign up for these opportunities as quickly as they come in case they are conflicted with the pressure that comes with producing literary work. 

It is easy to say that with over 100 African books published in the last year, there is room for Ugandan authors and creatives to shine as they seize every opportunity that comes their way. 

How do I publish a book in Uganda?

Publishers who require the issuance of ISBN should contact the National Library of Uganda division at the National Library of Uganda offices at Buganda Road. A new publisher should apply for your own ISBN publisher prefix and plan to identify and circulate your books properly in the industry supply chain.