Demographic Descriptions Do Not Buy Books and Other Important Truths

Jan 14, 2020 | Writing A Book

Thinking about writing a book and publishing it yourself? Lots of people are doing it and lots more are thinking about doing it. If this is your first book, you have no idea what you don’t know.

There are many misconceptions about writing a book. It will probably take you a year or more to write your book. You’ll probably go through at least four full revisions. Does that sound like what you thought?

The publishing process has lots of moving parts to master. If you publish your own book, you are responsible for more than writing it. You’re also responsible for cover design, interior design, getting ISBN numbers, writing sales copy, and more. Does that sound like what you thought?

Before you commit to writing and publishing your book, do your homework. Read books about writing a book and self-publishing. Take a course or two if one is handy. Talk to people who’ve done it and get their advice. Talk to people like me who’ve helped other people do it.

Knowledge is power. If you know what you’re facing, you can make an informed decision about whether writing a book and publishing a book makes sense for you. Here are some things to think about.

Where will you find the time?

Very little advice on writing a book covers where you’ll find the time. One popular bit of advice is to get less sleep. Many writers tell you to get up an hour early or stay up an hour later to write. That’s stupid.

If you’re like most mid-career Americans, you’re probably not getting as much sleep as you should already. Taking an hour, a day from your sleep is a recipe for sleep deprivation. When you write a book, you need more sleep, not less.

Hardly any advice on how to write a book addresses fitting it into an already full life. Will you take the time to write your book from the time you spend on important relationships? Sure, the people who love you will forgive you because they know your book is important. Don’t make them forgive you so much that they quit.

Extra time to write your book won’t magically appear on your calendar. You’ll still have the same 24 hours a day. If you’re an entrepreneur, you can take time to write from the time that you work. That will probably mean cutting your income.

Demographic Descriptions Don’t Buy Books

One question you’ve got to answer early on in your planning process is, “Who’s going to read this book?” You’ll be tempted to answer with a demographic description.

Don’t do it. Demographic descriptions don’t buy books, only people buy books. If you’re going to write a good book, you need to write to a specific individual. I tell my clients to identify a real person who is the ideal reader. When you know that you can make wise choices about content and wording. You can write more personally.

Great Writing Really Is Rewriting and There Will Be a Lot of It

Anyone who’s made a living writing will tell you that first drafts are awful. Ernest Hemingway said that they’re “crap.” Others have used more colorful language.

The big challenge of writing a book is to get from that awful first draft to a final draft that achieves your goals and makes you proud. That’s a slog, even if you get some help writing the book.

Just to make it interesting, writing a book is not the same as writing an article only writing more. Because there are so many parts to the book and because the book has so many words, there’s a lot to keep track of. A book is a complex system. If you change one part, you usually must change other parts.

You Can Cut Out the Publisher, But You Can’t Cut Out What the Publisher Does

One thing many people think is great is that if you publish a book yourself, you “cut out the middleman.” Well, that’s true.

It’s also true that you can’t cut out what the middleman does. Publishers bring a lot to the table. They select editors and proofreaders. They arrange for cover and interior design. They decide whether there will be an audiobook and whether the book itself will be hardbound or paperbound. They arrange for marketing channels. And there’s more.

Is that intimidating? It should be. If you’re going to self-publish a book, you must either learn to do the things that a publisher does or hire someone to do them.

There Is No Easy Way, There Are Only Different Hard Ways

Permit me to riff on a line from “The Princess Bride.” “Writing a book is hard, my friend. Anyone who tells you different is selling something.”

Everything worthwhile you’ve ever done was hard. Writing and publishing a book will be no different. You don’t need special talent. You don’t need great gifts. If you can read a book, you can probably write one.

Bottom Line

Before you begin writing your book, do your homework. Develop a writing plan that describes where you’ll find the time. Develop a book plan that includes a description of your ideal reader. Figure out what help you need.


Download my free white paper, “Do You Want to Write and Publish a Business Book? ~ How to Go from Your Idea to a Book You’re Proud Of.

Contact me for a free Options Review Session where you can ask all your questions.

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