2017 Book Guide

The Surprising Truth About How You Can Make It Big In The Book Business

By Paul Uduk 

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 guerrilla 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 traveled 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 is the author of five best selling books, including Bridges to the Customer's Heart, dubbed the Customer Service Bible, The Gods of Quality Strike Back and Wealth Beyond Your Imagination - It's Up To You. He is the CEO of Vision & Talent, one of Nigeria's most respected process and service excellence training consultancies. He has facilitated training programs for Total-Elf, Heineken and Nestoil, whose clients include Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Total-Elf, Agip and NNPC. He is a past president of Eagles Toastmasters Club, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria. You can reach Paul via email: paul@pauluduk.com.

Why Readers Read: What Every Writer Needs to Know

By Tamar Sloan

Why do we read? I hadn't really thought about this question in any depth. Sure I could tell you that I do it because I love to, that those stolen hours lost in pages are exciting, exhilarating escapism. But I'd never considered - and as a psychologist with my theoretical roots firmly embedded in science and evolution I should have - that story is actually a powerful part of our lives.

Think about it, unlike other pass times - like quilting, croquet or gambling - everyone does story in one form or another. I devour books, my husband loves to watch TV, my son absorbs himself in games of breeding dragons or building pixelated forests. Children take plastic My Little Pony's and build families and plan great adventures. Adults take little painted figurines and build empires and plan their enemy's defeat. Gossiping is story, seeing a psychologist is all about telling your story, marketers know that a good story will invest you in their product. I realized that story is EVERYWHERE.

Which means escapism isn't a good enough reason for story to be with us. It's true, getting lost in a story isn't smart: from centuries ago, when keeping an eye out for sabre tooth tigers was pretty essential for survival, through to modern times, where paying your mortgage keeps food in your fridge. Story has been so pervasive and universal that it's survived the ruthless mill of evolution, that unrelenting process that screens out anything that doesn't ensure our species will be here to produce future generations. If it's not securing our survival, then its cut. Gone.


Why then? Why is story still around? Why is it woven so tightly into the layers of our life?

Essentially, story was, and continues to be, our first virtual reality. Just like it's much safer for pilots to learn to fly in simulators, we get to learn the complicated lessons of life through the experience of others. In the same way pilots prefer to make their mistakes much closer to the ground, we get to see what could happen if our baby sitter didn't turn out to be who we thought they were, how to take down a zombie, what a serial killer is capable of, how to navigate a dystopian world, what the ripple effect of having an affair with your neighbor is. In real life, mistakes can be devastating for pilots and us alike. With story, we get to do all of this and more, all without the deadly crash landing.

Evolution thought this was so important that it actually wired us for story. In fact, it thought it was so important, it deeply embedded it into our grey matter it in two significant ways. The first has us probing right down at a cellular level. Neurons are the spindly, spidery cells that make up our brain matter. They're the little suckers that zip information all around our brain and body. A relatively recent discovery was that of mirror neurons, cells that fire both when you do something but also when you see someone else doing it. Oh, like hear a story, watch a movie... or read a book! Mirror neurons are why we get just as excited watching sport as playing it, why we scrunch up in our seats and turn our eyes away from a horror film.

Or why we have a physical, visceral response to a great book.

Pretty cool, huh?

Another is in the chemical communications that happen in our head. Namely dopamine, the little molecule involved in pleasure and reward. Food, sex and cocaine all trigger the release dopamine in our brain. And so does devouring a good book.

In the case of reading, dopamine is your brains way of rewarding curiosity, so you can learn the hard-won lessons the character is enduring (in the safety of the library or your lounge room). Interestingly, the more dopamine is released, the more of a high we get, the more we want to keep doing what we're doing. Most importantly, if the brain anticipates doing that activity again, like reading, it will release dopamine accordingly. Think about it, we've all been there when our favorite author releases a new book. When that book finally rests in your palms, that happy, heady feeling has you diving into the first page no matter where you are. It's the brain's way of encouraging you to go for it because it felt so good last time.

When I learnt all this, as a reader I felt validated. I finally figured out why I turn up to work gritty eyed and wishing I drank coffee because 'just one more chapter' turned into 'there's only a hundred pages to go, I might as well finish it'. It's not about poor self-control, an addictive personality or a belief I can function on three hours sleep. My brain is wired to want this! (Okay, fine... maybe self-control got skipped in my DNA... )

But as a writer I was fascinated.

I realized all this knowledge is the foundation of what readers are unconsciously looking for in a story. Why some books are 'meh' and why some will be OMG IT'S PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO PUT THIS DOWN!

If you capture your reader, give them a character they care about as they fight, fail but ultimately learn, if you swallow them whole with your words and your wit, you've done it. You've got them. They'll connect with your protagonist, your story...

Your book.

And if it's really got them hooked, the ones on your backlist, and the ones yet to come.

What writer doesn't want that?

In future posts I'll start teasing apart what the parts of our craft that will fire a readers' mirror neurons, spark that rush of dopamine, so check out the PsychWriter blog: where psychology meets writing.



Five Ways to Explore Topics You Want to Write About


Once you decide to write about something, it is natural to feel overwhelmed by the volume of ideas which flood your mind. Of course, the reverse could also be the case. I think it is important to realize that writing provides an opportunity to explore rare pools of knowledge and to learn something new.

Starting from scratch on a writing project gives you a chance to sharpen your analytical and writing skills. Ultimately, you will discover something about yourself by the end of the process. Before you start writing, explore topics through the following steps:

1. Make a list of things you want to write about; this is your brainstorming session. Spend time on it. Let your mind wander. Write things down: thoughts, ideas, feelings. Be random or organized whatever works for you. Don't worry about the words you choose. They do not matter at this stage.

2. Get a writer's notebook or a journal and write down your experiences concerning the topics you're interested in and how you feel about them. Write down what you've learned from conversations you've had with people around the topics. Research articles on the topics. Search for online or offline forums discussing these topics and take notes. From time to time, read your journal and write down any new insights. Don't worry about grammar and spelling. Your notebook is your personal space to feel free.

3. Ask yourself questions about the topic(s).


  • Whom or what is the topic about and why?
  • Why am I interested in topic A, B or C?
  • What information is available about this topic?
  • What insights do I want to add to this topic?
  • What is happening in this story?
  • Whom/What is causing the action in this story (if any)?
Write down your answers and compare them with previous notes/lists you've made on the topic. When you compare your ideas, look for similarities, contrast, relationships, and repetitions.

4. Gather your lists, experiences, ideas and insights into groups; this is called clustering in writing. You can create a simple table with columns and rows, and group similar ideas, thoughts and observations in separate columns. You can also draw a simple mind map with circles, squares, or rectangles, and organize your topic ideas and notes in them. Use lines or arrows to link related groups. This process helps you organize your thoughts on the subject.

5. Free Writing: This is the style of writing you use when brainstorming and answering the questions you ask yourself. Write thoughts down and do not worry about whether they make sense or not. Write for as long as you need to.

Going through these steps will help you to narrow down your list of topics, generate ideas for your first draft, and write confidently about the topic you choose.

Mercy A. Ananeh-Frempong

Copy-editor with 12 years' experience editing articles, manuals, reports, and manuscripts. Visit The Griffin's Inkpot (https://thegriffinsinkpot.tumblr.com ) for more tips, resources, and insights on the writing process. Contact me for editing services.