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Is there a formula to a best-seller?

Title: Write a Book and Grow Rich
Author: Elijah Miti
Publisher: Elijah Miti Enterprises Consultancy
Pages: 247THE first major problem that Elijah Miti will encounter in convincing people to read his new book Write a Book and Grow Rich, on how ordinary people can write a best-selling book, publish it, market it and increase sales, is that he, himself, has not done so.
Miti has a number of titles under his name including How to Get Motivated at a Work Place, Enlarge Your Vision in Entrepreneurship, Petition for My Heavenly Grant, What Men and Women Want in a Relationship, A Favour Flavoured Dream, 101 Wisdom Keys, You Have 24 Hours or Else and Authors Self-Publishing Manual.
Others are How to Alleviate Child Labour in Zambia, Daily Prayers for Business Success, God’s Covenant Promises, How to Write a Book Proposal, Possiblenaire, How to Make $1 Million Dollars, What to Do When a Man Does Not Call You or Answer Your Phone and 10 Ways to make Sure a Guy TextSMS You Quicker.
That is a long list of published books by any standard, even for a full time author. Now, none of those books are bestsellers by the standard definition of a best-seller. In fact, none of those books are known beyond perhaps his circle of friends and family. Yet, Miti adds another one on how to write a best-selling book.
So, is he writing the new book based on his experience as a writer?
He is better placed to answer that.
It is not that he cannot advise or offer his perspectives on how to write a best-selling book. In any case, he is a motivational speaker.
For those that do not know the author, he was born in 1974 and began preaching after completing school in 1992 and studied banking, financial management, property management, web development, marketing and pastoral and theology.
He is an independent accredited motivational speaker, book publisher, six-time Networking Marketing Award winner, Eagles Award winner for Motivational Speaking and founder of an NGO called Southern Internally Displaced Persons Answer (SIDPA). For now, he is a full-time missionary trainer who travels the world preaching the gospel and publishing books for other authors.
However, as a publisher, Miti does not mention whether he has published anyone who has gone on to become a best-seller.
That is why it is difficult for the reader to religiously follow Miti’s prescribed formula in Write a Book and Grow Rich.
This critic will instead point the reader to a 2005 book The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories from Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them by Brian Hill and Dee Power.
The authors, who have also co-authored Inside Secrets to Venture Capital and Attracting Capital from Angels, were inspired by their own publishing experiences to research and write The Making of a Best-seller.
And besides non-fiction books on the exciting subject of “success”, Hill and Power, who are founders of research and consulting firm Power Dynamics, write novels and screenplays in the suspense and action/adventure genres.
In writing The Making of a Best-seller, they interviewed scores of people involved in making bestsellers, from the authors to the editors and, last in the chain of reaching consumers, the booksellers. The book covers such topics as what publishers are looking for; the editor-writer relationship; how bookstores choose stock; the importance of reviews; and the ever-popular debate, commercial versus literary. There are also interviews with writers who have scaled the heights, including Dan Brown and Barbara Bradford Taylor.
The authors offer a serious look at the business of publishing and how its components must work together to produce a bestseller.
The advantage with The Making of a Bestseller is that the authors talked to the people involved in the making of a best-seller including the authors.
The reader is certainly interested in reading how after five years of continual rejection, Agatha Christie landed a publishing deal and her book sales are now in excess of US$2 billion, only beaten by William Shakespeare.
Or how the Christopher Little Literary Agency received 12 publishing rejections in a row for their new client, until the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demanded to read the rest of the book after which the editor agreed to publish it. However, the editor advised the writer to get a day job since she had little chance of making money in children’s books.
That is JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which spawned a series where the last four novels consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history, on both sides of the Atlantic.
There are others like Louis L’Amour receiving 200 rejections before Bantam took a chance on him; Dr Seuss, who was told that his works were too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling yet turned out to be one of the best-selling fiction author of all time; and CS Lewis, who was not broken by years of rejection and went on to publish The Chronicles of Narnia which has been translated in 47 languages and sold over a 100 million copies.
But of course things have changed with the coming of the digital era. It is something Miti acknowledges in his book.
“Some of the best-selling books received countless rejections before they were published, and many of them were printed via other publishing options. I hope this book has opened your eyes to these other avenues of publishing,” he concludes in his book.
But the problem is that he makes it look so much easy to become a best-seller.
“The quickest way is to use Amazon blast campaign by asking people to go to your Amazon link so that your books sell. Making appointments with media houses, television, radio and newspapers and share your book. Use Facebook, twitter, blogs and YouTube to build a loyal audience,” he writes in chapter nine of his book.
“Learn how to do press releases, get all your articles you have written spread across the web and book reviews in newspapers and magazines.”
The tips do not end there; he says if your book does not sell, start a movement with an ambassador programme where you ask the people to buy three books and offer them free mentorship.
Are they interested in buying even to start with?
Simply put, Write a Book and Grow Rich is certainly the work of a motivational speaker. And like Shawn Callahan, author of Putting Stories to Work, said, it is sometimes difficult to get enthused with motivational speakers – they do not do what they say, that is to motivate.
Put differently, they do not build self-efficacy, a term coined by renowned psychologist Albert Bandura which relates to a person’s belief in their own competence and ability to undertake a task.
Miti’s book can be helpful to someone looking to learn about some basics on writing a book. But getting rich is another matter altogether.
The secret though to becoming a best-seller may just be one – having a good book. Ben Carson would call it Gifted Hands. But as industry insiders know, there is no guarantee that a book will be a bestseller; publishing is not a business but a casino. – KK

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