I have been battling the question of why Kenyan books have such ugly covers privately for some time now and I think it is time I came out publicly with it.

I thought publishing firms employ marketers whose sole purpose is to sell books? Why then would any marketer worth his salt allow his or her product to go out to the market without proper branding?

Publishers can be forgiven for having hastily branded text books and set books (or class readers). After all, these come practically with a ready market and parents would buy them even if they were mere photocopies, bound with sisal rope and sealed with cello tape.

Let’s talk about autobiographies, which to me, seem to be the latest craze with publishers. Is there a jail term that awaits any publisher who lets an autobiography with a well-designed cover go into the market? A ask this because almost every new autobiography in the market will have the subject of the story facing the camera (in what always appears to be a blown-up passport size photo), with nary a smile, with the title running above his head.

Do these publishers go to the same school where they copy each other’s work or is it just an attempt at saving costs by all means by simply refusing to contract a designer of good repute to turn bland boardroom ideas into something that breathes life and calls the potential reader by name when they walk past it in the bookshop?

Let me ask the question that my colleague and friend Obed asks whenever he receives a bad copy in the newsroom;

“Are the cover designs done at gunpoint?”