We are excited to feature the talented Tunde Leye as our #WriterSpotlight today. Unlike many writers who give up after being rejected by major publishers, Tunde Leye chose to start his own publishing company and over the weekend, he launched his latest book, Guardians of the Seal. Not only was the book highly anticipated, the book launch was in a class of its own. How did Tunde Leye achieve all this? Find out as you read our interview with him 🙂
Who is Tunde Leye?
Tunde Leye is first a guy who loves to read. I recall growing up and scrounging money together, not to buy toys or games, but books. I’d read when I was doing chores, and when I was eating. Everywhere and anywhere. Of course no one is one dimensional. So apart from reading and writing, I’m immersed in the fintech world and almost did music professionally at some point.
When and why did you start writing?
I think writing is a natural progression from reading a lot. It’s probably why they ordered it “read and write”. So I’ve read for as long as I can remember. I read classics like Lord of the Rings at 9. I started writing little stories not long after and wrote my first book some 10 years ago. I haven’t published that particular book yet, because I don’t think it’s ready. Or more correctly, I don’t think my experiences reflect those I’ve put into that book yet. I’d like to live a bit more before going back to it.
Do you think you were born to be a born writer?
I’m not certain what the question means, but I’ll answer what I think it means. Writing is a skill, and like every other skill, having a gift helps. But more important than being born with gifts is adding all the inputs through the right experiences, practice, learning and opportunities taken to mould the skill.
You have written three books, which was the toughest for you to write?
Each book presents a different challenge really. The first I published was Rat Race and I found out from it that writing what children will be eager to read is really hard work. My second book helped me learn the business of writing properly. My latest required perhaps the most extensive research I’ve done for a single work and also took the longest time, five years, with plenty rewrite, two editors and reworks of virtually every single aspect of the book along the way. But it was worth it; the one most frequent feedback I’ve received is how easy it is to read and easy reading is very hard writing.
Your latest book, Guardians of The Seal, was officially launched last weekend. Tell us about the book and why you decided to write it.
Guardians of the Seal is an experiment on many levels. The genre, the design, the way we are marketing it, the distribution model we are employing, everything is an experiment geared towards showing that my views on the commerce of writing works. It’s a fantasy book, which rolls from creation to a time in the future when we have flying cars. It explores themes covering magic, loyalty, sacrifice, the supernatural and how love wins all. Oh, and it’s the first in a trilogy.
Have you ever had challenges with getting your book published? If yes, how did you overcome them?
[Laughs] I wouldn’t have gone through self-publishing, to registering my own publishing company to publish my own works if I hadn’t faced challenges. I think I realized quickly that my type of writing would not get the attention of the major publishers and decided to go past the gatekeepers directly to the reading public by starting a blog. That was after the initial disappointment in the sales numbers of my first book. The blog proved the point that Nigerians read and would love my writing if I could find a way to get it to them. That’s what I’ve done since and the sales numbers agree that this is an approach that works.
Why do you think writers are not well-recognized in Nigeria?
Actually, I think writers are well recognized in Nigeria. In fact, I think recognition is one of the rewards the Nigerian system offers writer. What writers don’t do very well in Nigeria is sell books, the commerce of writing. The reason why, I’ve written extensively on this. Writers, like everyone else, respond to incentives. In Nigeria, the incentive is not to sell, so people don’t focus on selling.
What should every budding writer know about the business of writing?
I’m still in the process of learning myself, but if I’ll offer one thing it’s to approach publishing as a business. Of course writing is an art, so pour all your creative juices into your writing. But publishing is the business of packaging writing into a product, selling it and extracting all the possible commercial benefits from it. This distinction must be clear to the writer. Musicians do this very well and we must learn from them in this regards.
What do you think about writing as a side hustle?
Absolutely no issues with that. Until the writing can pay your bills, biko have a side hustle.
Have you ever considered quitting writing?
Not yet. Maybe I’ll get there, but I haven’t reached this point yet.
Is there any writer you absolutely love and why?
Oh there are many. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know I absolutely love J.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis. They were friends, brilliant writers, without bitter rivalry. They shared ideas, helped each other and produced some of the best and most enduring fantasy fiction of the 20th century which continue to be sold, read, analysed, inspire, adapted and generally make tons of money long after the writers are gone. That’s what good writing should be.
How can a writer build and maintain consistent blog followers?
I try not to extrapolate my own experience into a how to. How did I do that with my blog? First, making the stories enjoyable and easy reads. Second, consistency, on a schedule so that people formed habits around reading my work. Third, recognizing that blogging is a means to an end – I didn’t lose sight of writing books, which requires a different writing mien than blogging, so that your readers have major things to look forward to.
What is that one thing you cannot do without?
Right now, my family.
Tell us two things social media doesn’t know about Tunde Leye.
In my singing days, I backed up for a fuji musician and we sang at weddings around Lagos. I plan to retire to a cottage beside a sparkling sea on a beach when I’ve lived to my heart’s content.
What answer will you give a budding writer who desperately needs to start making money from writing?
Find another means to make money in the now so that you can then focus on writing great stories and so that you can negotiate deals around your writing without the pressure of making whatever money comes your way, if it’s really not worth your while.