Is there a closely guarded secret for making it really BIG in the book business? Is the system rigged in favour of some selected authors?
Are the top four global publishing houses to blame for the mediocre performance of close to 99% of published authors worldwide so they can keep all the profit to themselves? Is it possible to make it big in the book business in an underdeveloped or a developing country such as Nigeria noting that Nigerians don’t read?
As a the founder of a platform that teaches people how to stake a claim in what has come to be called the expert industry, with focus on book writing, these are the type of questions majority of my candidates bombard me with. This article addresses these concerns.
As J. F. Kennedy once noted, the great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree.
The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, ‘In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!’
A typical amateur author with a short-term mindset sees the world as the gardener, while those with long-term focus approach every enterprise, be it education, investment in stocks or book writing, as Marshall Lyautey.
As trite as the following cliché is, it’s worth repeating, nothing good ever comes cheap. As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his elegant book, Tipping Point, to reach the tipping point in any endeavour requires about 10,000 man-hours of serious practice. That is about 10 years of effort.
So to hop into the book business and hope to make it big overnight is like fast tracking pregnancy. It’s impossible under normal circumstances; it has to go the full cycle of nine months.
A close look at three authors that have become wildly successful, such as Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink and Tony Robbins, shows that they have one thing in common: they are very prodigious in their output.
Take Malcolm Gladwell for example. He is such a detail oriented author that when he sets out to describe something, he paints a picture so vivid that you cannot but read his to the very end.
For instance, if he is writing about something as mundane as a door key, he would describe the colour, size, texture, brand, make and the type of key, the iron the key was made of, and not forgetting the country where the mine is located and the technology used in converting the iron ore to iron ingots and finally to key.
Any wonder all his books including Outliers, Blink, Tipping Point, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath became instant best sellers? How did he hone his skills? He honed it over the years as a journalist, including over twenty with The New Yorker.
On the other hand, Daniel Pink is trends and research oriented. He watches trends, follows it up with research and writes about it in a spirit uplifting way that you cannot but read his tomes to the end.
Any wonder his Free Agent Nation, A Whole New Mind, To Sell Is Human and Drive became instant best sellers? Tony Robbins on his part is a master motivator and expert story-teller. He is so gifted in these arts that his books such as Unstoppable, Awaken The Giant Within, and Money: Master The Game are all run-away best sellers.
As you can see, Malcolm, Daniel and Tony are not only prodigious, they are also deep. These attributes would make publishers pay millions to get them on their stable. You cannot become an overnight wonder. It takes years of toil and sweat to become a worldwide sensation. Take the case of J. K. Rowling.
A single mother, no publisher would touch her first Harry Porter fantasy novel. To them, it didn’t have market value. So what did she do? She stuck to her gun. She believed in the value of her work and persisted and today, her Harry Porter series is the best-selling book series of all time.
The Harry Porter series have been turned into movies propelling her to the pinnacle of success as the richest author in the UK, with estate valued at over $1billion as at 2014. The same can be said of the Chicken Soup For The Soul series by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson. The first book in the series according to the authors was rejected over 400 times by the big publishers because they believed stories would not sell!
What of the Guerilla Marketing series initiated by the late Jay Conrad Levinson in 1984? The very first Guerilla Marketing book was self-published and today is the best known marketing brand in history, named by Time as one of the top 25 best business books, with over 21 million copies sold.
The guerilla concepts have influenced marketing so much that the books have been translated into 62 languages and are required reading in MBA programs in most IVY League Schools around the world.
Again what is common even with these initially self-published authors is prodigious output, focus and believe in self or you would say, persistence and determination. They didn’t just write one shallow or even great book, uploaded to Amazon, composed a Gospel music to herald the release and expect the world to beat a path to their door as the average amateur author does. Also, these authors didn’t set out to write best-sellers.
They wrote on what they were passionate about and their passion shone through their art. So the ingredients that make for an author that people are willing to read, follow and like are a series of books (not less than three, but the more the better), a niche that enables you to express yourself and your passion and finally depth.
If you lack depth no one is going to take you seriously. Depth requires focus, thought and zeal. Depth requires you go where no one else has been.
Depth requires you develop your own unique style. Uniqueness is both the foundation and the icing on the cake.
Ryan Holiday, the author of five iconic titles, such as Trust Me, I’m Lying, Growth Hacker Marketing, The Obstacle Is the Way, Ego Is the Enemy and The Daily Stoic, that have sold over five hundred thousand copies combined, advises all would-be authors that want to go far to write books that last forever by creating what he calls “timeless work.” By that he means going deep, travelling the road less travelled and by all means avoiding freaky fashion, here today, gone tomorrow.
If you want to be like one of the icons highlighted here: Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Tony Robbins, J. K. Rowling, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hanson, Jay Conrad Levinson, or even Ryan Holiday, start writing and you never can tell where your effort will land you. Forget accolades.
When you do it well, the accolades will come. Do you have a story in you? Start telling it today. Let the end of one story be the beginning of another and before a decade is over, you will be on a pedestal as one of the immortals. Your book will make you immortal.
Paul Uduk CEO, Vision in Lagos