Q&A with author Tobias Harwood

By   John Bond 4 min read

Tobias Harwood is the author of Great Traits and the founder of GreatTraitsProject.com. Since shattering his pelvis and fracturing his back aged seventeen he has been fascinated by the interaction between mindset and accomplishments. Tobias was inspired to write Great Traits after his close friend, a wounded soldier, became the first ever amputee to walk to the North Pole. All the author’s proceeds from Great Traits are donated to the charity Walking With The Wounded. Aside from running the Great Traits Project, Tobias is an investor and researcher for a Wall Street financial firm. He has a degree from the University of Bath. Great Traits is his first book.

Image result for great traits book1. Tell us a bit about the Great Traits book.

Great Traits reveals the character traits that make successful people tick: passion, grit, competitiveness, boldness and a constructive consciousness. The book shares insights from three years of research and face-to-face interviews with business leaders, sports stars, record breakers and other incredible individuals to reveal the mindset behind success.

I was inspired to write the book after a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Afghanistan in 2009 left my childhood friend, Captain Guy Disney, as an amputee. Only eighteen months later, Guy had overcome his devastating injury to become a record breaking polar adventurer who reached the North Pole. Guy’s remarkable achievement propelled me to devote three years to interviewing an array of remarkable individuals to reveal the ingredients that make them tick.

I am donating all the author’s proceeds from the sale of the book to Walking With The Wounded. I hope that Great Traits will inspire readers to reassess how they behave and what they believe about their own potential.

2. Who is your target readership for the book?

The potential audience is quite broad. The book is composed of compelling life stories and psychological insights. It is suitable for popular psychology fans and anyone who enjoys reading inspiring stories of human endeavour. The book will resonate with readers who are curious about the mindset behind success. Multiple people have described the book as the UK version of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, which is a great (and generous) analogy.

3. What is next for the Great Traits Project? Is this the beginning of further books or events?

GreatTraitsProject.com is publishing one podcast per month to help publicise the book. The podcasts provide rich insights into the fascinating individuals who feature in the book. GreatTraitsProject.com is still actively investigating what drives remarkable human achievements. In the past few months, I have started to record podcasts with new people who don’t feature in our first book, Great Traits. These new stories and psychological insights are compelling, and I think they will provide the basis for a second book when the timing is right! If you know anyone remarkable that you would like to hear on the podcast, please let us know.

4. What advice would you give anyone thinking of embarking on writing their own book?

Do it. Definitely do it.

Along the way, you will experience pain and exhaustion but eventually elation. The end product will become an addition to your family and will be a companion for your lifetime.

Writing is a colossal test because it requires the fusion of creativity and imagination with iron will and self-discipline. Like any colossal test, it offers monstrous rewards.

Once written, the task of publishing a book offers a totally unblemished canvas. If you have an inkling for what you want to produce, the possibilities are limitless (typeface, paper weight and colour, layout, cover design). There are no rules – only the established norms which you can happily reject.

The quality of what you can publish by yourself is incredible. I accessed the same printing and production channels that established global publishers use so the quality is impeccable. Self-publishing needs to move on from being a shy footnote to being a badge of disruption and pride. Now my book has made it into Waterstones I prefer to view myself as running a (small) publishing imprint rather than being a shy self-published author. Over time we will see more and more people replicating this path. The barriers to entry are lower than ever, especially with whitefox operating in the shadows.

5. What is the outlook for publishing vs. self-publishing?

As an independent author, the future looks exciting. The barriers to publishing have never been lower and the platform to distribute and sell online offers huge optionality. The challenge remains how to get your voice heard, but fragmented online audiences mean traditional media is less of a requisite than in the past and large publishers face the same challenge.

Today’s lower barriers to entry compound the age old problem for a large publisher: being flooded with submissions and having to sift out the bestsellers. Consumers are not loyal to publishers, which means publishers are under persistent pressure to find ‘authors’ rather than simply one good book.

In my vision of the future, we will have a polarised market where more books will start off as an electronic version only (possibly on a subscription basis). For large publishers, only certain books will have capital deployed behind them for a physical version. This will offer greater opportunities for a diverse array of authors. The market will become polarised between electronic-only format vs. the most in demand (or on-demand) print versions, which will become even more of a coveted honour. Kudos will lie not in publishing an e-book but in being able to say, “my book is available in print too”. I, for one, hope to be able to buy hardback physical books in bookstores for many years to come… Let’s hope my daughter will have this option too.

John Bond
John Bond
John has been involved in publishing for more than thirty years. He held senior positions at Penguin and at HarperCollins, where he was on the main board for nine years, running sales, marketing and publishing divisions including the 4th Estate imprint and their stable of award-winning authors such as Hilary Mantel, Jonathan Franzen and Nigel Slater. He co-founded Whitefox in 2012 on the principle that the future of successful publishing would be based upon external managed services and agile, creative collaboration with the highest quality specialists. Nothing that has happened since has dissuaded him of this view.