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How I achieved my dream to write a book

By Rosemary Ssenabulya

I have always dreamed of becoming an author. As a child, I enjoyed reading. I excelled in literature at Makerere University, but I dropped it after my first year and opted for Economics and Political Science. 

Much later in life, juggling work with motherhood meant that my dream of becoming a writer was paused. In 2012, five years before my retirement, I started planning for life after formal employment. I wanted to find ways of spending my time productively. Among the activities included in my retirement plan was writing. 

Three months to my retirement date in 2017, I started thinking about writing my dream book. I knew what I wanted to write about but did not know where to start or how. I shared my dilemma with a few colleagues and one of them introduced me to SuccessSpark Brand Ltd. Jackee Batanda, the proprietor, runs weekend book writing classes. She was excited to hear I wanted to write a book and invited me to sign up for the next book writing session conducted at her home in Kawuku. The other participant in the class that day was a girl in secondary school. By the end of day one we had grasped the basics of book writing and practical work where she tasked us to produce the first draft of chapter one of the book we intended to write and to develop a book map.


By the end of the training I was confident enough in my ability to write my book. Through Jackee I gained the following; book writing skills, valuable contacts of people who could guide me as I worked on the book, and introduction to the rigorous process I had to go through to write and publish the book.  By coincidence, a few days after the training I had an opportunity to be invited to a book launch by Joan Mugenzi who had just completed publishing her book, Corporate At a Crossroads: Knowing that Your Job isn't Eternal and Acting upon that Knowledge. This gave me more encouragement to proceed with my project.

One of the contacts Jackee availed me was that of Lawrence Namale, a book writing consultant. The book writing training was in January 2018. A few weeks after the training I sought an appointment with Lawrence. He was impressive and professional. Two weeks after our first meeting, I signed a contract to have him work with me on my book. We gave ourselves a time frame of six months to come up with the first draft and began writing in March.  We met once a week for two hours to share notes and the rest of the work was done online. Both of us conducted interviews with different people within and outside the country to enrich the book.  Some were physical, others were done online or by telephone.

By August 2018 we were ready with the first draft. The next stage of the book proved to be the most challenging. Getting qualified people to proofread and copy edit the manuscript was not easy. I approached several colleagues within and outside the country with little success. Finally, one colleague from Makerere University and another from the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise in Oslo took up the challenge. Their comments were especially useful and were incorporated in the final draft. I contracted Price Media, an advertising, marketing, and publishing firm as my editors. This exercise took us up to March 2019. 

The third stage was the printing, publishing, and launching of the book. In preparation for this, Lawrence advised me to apply for an ISBN number from the National Library of Uganda. This I was able to do within two months and successfully secured one for a fee of thirty thousand Uganda shillings only. My editor tasked me to secure endorsements from some prominent personalities who knew me well and get someone to write the foreword. This was another daunting task. In August 2019 I sent emails to over twenty contacts within Uganda and over fifteen outside the country with a request for them to write a brief statement endorsing my book. This was followed by frequent reminders by myself and my publisher.  Thirteen of them responded.

The printing and graphic designing were done in-house. My husband owns a printing firm and my eldest son is a graphic designer. The book launch was set for 6 March 2020. I constituted a 10-person book launch preparation committee comprising of family members and colleagues from the Federation for Ugandan Employers (FUE).  Our biggest challenge was raising the funds required for the printing, publishing, and the launch. I had retired and was no longer earning a monthly income; I had exhausted my savings on financing the writing. We had barely one month to raise the money. My resource mobilization skills proved very handy at this stage. By God's grace we were able to mobilize the required resources. Printing of one thousand copies of the book was completed within two weeks. However, we only bound two hundred copies which were required for the launch. The rest of the copies were finalized two weeks after the launch.

The "RISE UP! Unleashing Your Leadership Potential as a Woman" breakfast book launch was held on 6 March 2020 at Protea Hotel, Kampala. The Right Hon Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Rebecca Kadaga, graced the function as guest of honour.  We had over 150 guests among whom were the Head of Public Service and Secretary to Cabinet, Dr John Mitala, Katikkiro Emeritus Ow'Ekitibwa Joseph Ssemwogerere Mulyanyamuli, CEOs, and human resource managers. We sold over fifty copies of the book at the launch. Unfortunately, COVID- 19 struck two weeks after the launch. This curtailed our book sales plan. Fortunately, we had reached an agreement with two leading bookstores, Aristoc Booklex and Uganda Bookshop, to stock copies. Arrangements had also been finalized with Jumia, however, we had not yet delivered our copies by the time of the lockdown. Discussions with Amazon had also been initiated.  During the lockdown, I set up a website and plan to continue using the services of Price Media to market and sell the book.


Major lessons:

1.     You must be focused and guided by a work plan with clear deliverables and time frames.

2.     It is important to engage the services of competent professionals.

3.     Have seed money before you embark on your project to avoid being bogged down.