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Should I write a book?

Writing a book is a powerful strategy for raising one’s personal profile and is often used by celebrities, politicians and business leaders. Their books are typically autobiographies or best practice books – how to turn around an organisation, how to win customers for life, or how to get your employees to perform like rock stars.

However, before you start writing you need to be brutally honest – do you have a unique, inspirational, original story to tell? Nobel and Pulitzer prize winner, Toni Morrison offers excellent advice: “If there is a book you want to read and it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

The next obvious questions are: “Do you write well and have you got time to write a book? American journalist, and dramatist, Gene Fowler sums it up nicely: “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Jessamyn West adds a humorous twist: “Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment thereafter.”

There are some important truths you need to know upfront:

  • Competition is stiff – a book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in the average bookstore
  • New books are competing with one million new titles and more than seven million other books that are available for sale
  • The digital revolution has expanded sales channels, but it has not increased sales
  • Only 62 of the 1 000 business books released in 2009 sold more than 5 000 copies
  • Your average South African novelist sells 600-1 000 copies of a novel in a lifetime (2016)

What makes your book different? Before attempting to answer this do some research on what has already been written. If the message is the same or the same as yours, rather spend the time with family or to improve your golf handicap.

  • Human interest type stories resonate with readers; they can identify with individuals and leaders who have achieved against great odds.
  • Do you have any unique lessons or pointers that your readers can learn from?
  • Will your story convince readers that although they may have a personal Everest, it is possible to summit?
  • Will your book inspire or motivate others to set stretch goals?
  • Will your book make a positive difference in one individual’s life?
  • Do readers care about the topic you are writing about?

If you can touch one life, the blood, sweat and tears that it takes to write a book has made it worthwhile.

I am an avid reader. My rule of thumb, when I’m reading, the time spent reading has been well spent if I have learnt something new (preferably a lesson I can apply), or even if I have learnt one new fact.

How will you benefit from writing a book?

  • You may change someone’s life
  • You may find the process cathartic
  • If successful, it will help to build your personal profile and/or your business profile
  • It may place you on the radar for speaking slots
  • It may generate new business or career opportunities
  • The process will enable you to document your life story or learnings for posterity

By writing a book, will you be able to retire on a yacht in the Mediterranean? This is unlikely unless you have already made your fortune. Admittedly, Agatha Christie has sold 2 billion copies, Harold Robbins 750 million copies, and Barbara Cartland, Danielle Steele and J.K. Rowling, 500 million copies. However, these writers are the exception.

You may consider reading Jodie Archer and Mathew L Jokers book, the Bestseller Code published in 2017. (The book is available amongst others on and Loot). Archer and Jokers have harnessed machine learning to mine the texts of 20 000 novels published in the last 30 years. Utilising machine learning their algorithm analyses theme, plot and character with variables such as style and setting. They contend they can predict whether a novel will be a New York Times bestseller. (To be a New York Times best seller you need to sell 3 000 books in the first week).

Implementing these learnings, you too may write the best seller you have always dreamt of writing.

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