Finding & Filling a Need with Your Writing

Elliot_LOL_150SoldREV0512.inddI remember sitting in the sales meeting where Baker Publishing first mentioned the Laugh Out Loud joke books by Rob Elliot. Sandwiched between presentations of Amish romance novels and deep theological text books, was this joke book. It was unlike anything else in the catalog.

There were confused looks around the room.

And then the company president stood up.

“You may be asking yourself why we are publishing a joke book for children,” he said. “Well, not too long ago, one of our sales people approached me and told me that if we published a clean joke book for kids, we’d make money on it. So, we’re going to give it a try.”

The sales person in question was Rob Teigen, and it was him who collected the jokes, pitched the idea and got it published under a pen name. Why? Because he saw a need in the marketplace. Sure, there have been other joke books published. But what Rob noticed was that joke books sell and there was room for another one.

And guess what. It paid off. A lot.

Here’s an excerpt from an article published in the New York Post:

It sounds like the usual setup for a knock-knock joke: Who is the best-selling author on all of this holiday season?

Rob Elliott. Rob Elliott who?

Yet it’s no laughing matter for Rob Teigen, a father of five in Grand Rapids, Mich., who, under the pen name Rob Elliott, currently owns the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on’s best-selling book list, outpacing such hits as “Unbroken” and the latest from Bill O’Reilly.

Did you pick up on that? He currently owns the No. 1 and No. 2 spots and Amazon’s best-selling books, ahead of Unbroken and national celebrities.

How did a salesman become the author of the top two books on Amazon? He saw a need and he filled it admirably.

Whether you consider yourself an author or not, maybe you know of a need to fill. What are you doing to fill that need? Do it well and you might just wind up on a bestseller list too.


I am (possibly) raising a sociopath.


The other night, my family decided to snuggle to a movie and the girls picked out Finding Nemo. We’ve seen the movie as a family before, but it’s a good film.

I think the fine people at Pixar used the opening of Finding Nemo to test a theory that they later went to perfect with the opening of their movie, Up. Make the beginning of the film sad.

If you’ve seen Finding Nemo, you know the scene that I’m talking about. Marlin the clownfish is bragging to his wife, Coral, about the ideal location of their new home on the edge of an ocean drop-off. They show the hundreds of fish eggs that will soon hatch, half of which will be named Marlin Junior, the other half Coral Junior, and one named Nemo.

Everything is fun and games and glorious rapture until disaster strikes. A toothy, evil fish knocks Marlin out cold and feasts upon Coral and clownfish caviar, leaving only one damaged egg. Nemo.

Here’s the scene if you have a couple of minutes to watch it:

We gain insight into the family dynamics that govern Marlin’s over-protective nature and fear of losing another loved one. We understand Nemo’s defiance and desire to prove himself capable in spite of his “lucky” fin. It’s beautiful story-telling, if somewhat heartbreaking to open the movie on such a blue note.

But as we’re watching this scene as a family, snuggled onto the loveseat in front of our computer, my wife and I silently contemplating the loss of each other and our children with tears poised behind our eyes, our 2-year-old daughter begins to laugh.

Full belly aching laughs.

“He eats the fishies!” she shouts cheerfully.

I’m hoping that she just didn’t understand the scene. I hoping that she doesn’t think that it is funny when family members are eaten or killed.

Anyway, if I all the sudden stop blogging, you may want to ask my 2-year-old where to find my body.

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Are you ready for a sneak peak at the upcoming year of Lego product releases? Do you know how to speak German? Are these trick questions? Nope.
  2. If you are not a nerd like me, perhaps you haven’t read Tolkien’s Silmarillion yet. Well, I feel bad for you because you just won’t grasp the intricacies of the Hobbit or LOTR movies. Until now, that is. Watch this 4 minute video and you’ll almost be as cool as me. Almost.
  3. See the biggest collection of tiny books ever! Much more impressive than the tiniest collection of big books!
  4. Do you ever wonder if you college degree was a waste of money? Now you can know for sure! (Mine was, as far as earning potential is concerned.)
  5. My beautiful amazing wife didn’t waste money on her Accounting degree. And now with the help of Seinfeld and the internet, I might be able to understand some of the economics concepts that she’s talking about.


On the Origin of Stockings

stockingThere’s a couple of ways to go with this: the Christmas tradition and the origin of the word itself. I’ll do both.

The tradition of hanging stockings at Christmas has a few origin stories. The most popular one actually involves the historical Saint Nicholas, so we’ll go over that one first.

The story goes that Saint Nicholas happened upon a poor man with three beautiful daughters. The old man was concerned about his daughters’ welfare after he died since he was poor and couldn’t afford to marry any of them off to proper gentleman. If they couldn’t get married, they might become prostitutes. Saint Nicholas knew that the old man was too proud to accept charity, so in the cover of night, he threw three bags of gold into an open window of the poor man’s house. One of the bags of gold fell into a stocking set by the fire. In the morning, the poor man found the gold and his daughters were all able to get married.

In other regions, the stocking tradition is said to stem from Odin and the food that would be left for his 8-legged horse, Sleipnir, in the shoes of home’s occupants. Odin would take the carrots and hay and whatever and leave presents and candy in their place. But I don’t think I’d want to eat candy from a shoe that was just emptied of horse food.

So I’m going to believe that the stocking tradition came from St. Nick himself and his efforts to prevent pretty girls from becoming prostitutes, even though I’m a fan of Odin too. I’m just a sucker for a story that ends well.

But what about the origin of the word “stocking”? Where did that come from?

As it happens, we have trees to thank for stockings. The root of stocking is “stock”, which is an Old English word (stocu) for sleeve that is related to a very similar Old English word (stocc) for log or trunk. This is probably because legs look a bit like tree trunks. More so if you are an Ent from Lord of the Rings or Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. As root words go, “stock” also went on to be used in stockades, which as almost nothing to do with stockings, but now you know the connection.

So as we get closer to Christmas day, don’t forget to hang up your leg-sleeve so you can avoid a life of prostitution! Maybe you could even throw a carrot in there for good luck. If Odin’s 8-legged horse doesn’t want it, maybe Santa’s reindeer will.

Merry Christmas!

Last Minute Shoppers Guide | 10 Items Available Now at Baker Book House

“Wait a second,” you say. “This isn’t the last minute. We still have more than a week until Christmas Day.”

That may be true, but I thought I’d get this guide out there while there’s still a possibility of having some of these items on the shelf. The dangerous thing about waiting until the very last minute to buy a gift is that someone else has already made off with the thing that you were going to buy. So why not be the person that buys it first?

Anyway, here are some ideas for the people on your Christmas lists. And all of these items are conveniently located at Baker Book House (where I work), just waiting for you to come in and get them.

For the children who can appreciate reusable playthings that don’t require batteries:

water_wow_melissa_and_dougThe Water Wow! activity books from Melissa & Doug are awesome. They come with a pen that holds water. To color the images, you just run the pen over the white pictures and the color shows up. When they dry, the boards return to white and you can do it all over again. My girls love theirs and they’ll be getting two new ones for this Christmas.

For fans of fantasy literature akin to the Chronicles of Narnia:


The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson is a surefire hit. I’m serious. I’d recommend this series to anyone who enjoys any type of reading, that’s how sure I am that you will like it.

For the lover of bad jokes in your family:


I don’t mean naughty jokes. I mean groaners. These books are full of them, but kids (and select adults) seem to love them all the same. In fact, they were the number one selling item on Amazon last year. Not just the number selling book, the number one selling item.

Also, these are included on the 12 Days of Christmas Sale at Baker Book House at 50% off their retail price.

For nostalgic grandparents of young children who value a bit of reading time together:


Did you know that Mercer Mayer has a series of Christian Little Critter books? They’re new. That’s right, new Mercer Mayer books.

By the way, these are also included on the 12 Days of Christmas Sale at Baker Book House as Buy 2, Get 2 Free.

For that couple that is either sickeningly cute together (like my wife and I) or that couple that needs the reminder that marriage can be good:


I love my spouse shirts! Also mugs. Win some brownie points this Christmas and pick these up.

These also happen to be included in Baker’s 12 Days of Christmas Sale as 2 for $20. Just saying.

For the college freshman or high school senior or person who has already worn through their copy of Mere Christianity:


What could be better for a person’s formative years of self-discovery than the wisdom of C.S. Lewis non-fiction books? And for those of you who claim to already own them, yes, you may have one copy of these books, but do you have two? Then you probably don’t have enough.

Also, these are 50% off at Baker Book House because of that sale I keep talking about.

For the person with ears and decent taste in music:


This is just a really great album. In fact, whenever my two-year-old daughter asks to listen to music in the car, what she is really asking for is the third track on this album. Over and over and over again. And you know what? I’m still not tired of it. It’s that good.

For anyone who appreciates a good Bible and wants to understand it in relation to world history:


This isn’t a new Bible. It’s been out for about seven years now. But it’s still my go-to choice when recommending a Bible for personal study. If you want to understand the text within the scope of its originally-intended audience, this is the Bible for you.

For people who are perpetually cold:


It’s a soft, warm blanket with Baker Book House’s logo on it! (Beautiful daughter not included)

And for anyone who appreciates ugly Christmas apparel:


Wear it to your next Christmas function! It’ll be a laugh riot. Anyway, just buy them so they aren’t sitting around my bookstore anymore.


A Blogging First (and Hopefully Last)

I had a first with my blog last week. Since my first post back in April of 2012, I’ve consistently posted something new every weekday of every week. Somewhere along the timeline, I added in Saturday flash fiction posts.  But last week, I missed my self-imposed deadline, and did not post one day.

Looking at my blog stats, you probably can’t tell. In fact, I’ll post them here and let you guess which day it was.


To be honest, I forgot about writing a post. Normally, I write in the morning after my wife leaves for work (and before I do). But on the day that I missed, I had morning plans. Whenever that happens, I normally try to jot something down on my lunch or make a point to write in the evening after everyone goes to sleep. But on this day, I didn’t remember my missing blog post until nearly midnight (after I woke up to let the dog out) and by that time, I didn’t have the presence of mind to write something.

As it turns out, it may not have mattered to anyone but me. At least, if I am to judge by the amount of traffic the my blog got on that day.

Here’s the day I missed, in case you were curious.


Wednesday, December 10th. I had 218 views. More than the day before, far less than the spike from Thursday. It was roughly equal to the Friday links post after the spike.

So if my blog hits didn’t go down, does it matter if I post nearly everyday? Is it that big of a deal if I skip from time to time?

To be honest, it probably isn’t that big of a deal that I missed once. But it’s a bit like cheating on a diet. One cookie won’t make you gain back all your lost weight. But one cookie leads to two, and it gets easier to justify the next with each cookie you’ve eaten.

So I’m letting you hold me accountable for my posting schedule. Until I intentionally choose otherwise, I will post something new on everyday except Sunday. In turn, maybe you’d like me to hold you accountable for reading every post I write (just kidding, but that would seriously make my blog stats look awesome). No, the truth is that it matters less to me how many people read my blog than the fact that I’ve written something on that day.

In the future, my posting schedule may change. But when it does, it will be because I have chosen some other creative or important thing on which to spend my time. Most importantly, it won’t be because I forgot to write something.