Writing a Book: Why it’s harder than ever to succeed

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Once upon a time, being a business author was a really big deal. If you were an author, you could pick up speaking fees that weren’t available to you before. If you were an author, you could generally increase your consulting fees. Since there weren’t many business authors, writing a book gave you a huge competitive advantage.

Part of the reason that being an author was a big deal is that it was really hard to do. You had to convince someone at a publishing company that you had a topic that people wanted to read about and that you were the perfect person to write the book they would read. Then you had to write the book. The publishers, who were investing a bunch of money in you, reviewed your manuscript for what they thought was important and had editors who cleaned up your prose and asked embarrassing questions about what you meant.

Today, you don’t have to go that route. Anybody with a word processor and some money can crank out a book and put it up on Amazon. So, things should be easier, right? Well, no.

It’s Easy, So Anyone Can Do It

Steve Piersanti’s post “The 10 Awful Truths About Publishing,” describes the contours of the publishing landscape today. In 2016, more than 700,000 books were self-published in the United States. That’s an increase of 375 percent since 2010. There are days when I’m sure that everyone with a business card also has a book.

But the Pie Isn’t Getting Any Bigger

Book industry sales are not increasing. Even though the number of titles published has increased dramatically, the number of books sold is declining. We’re cutting the pie into almost four times as many pieces, but the pie isn’t getting any bigger.

What’s an Author to Do?

There will always be a market for great business books. Writing a great business book will still give you a competitive advantage.

Great business books help people solve a problem or answer a question. Great business books are well-written. Great business books are also a lot of work.

It’s Always Been Hard to Be a Business Book Author

Even with all the research tools available, writing a business book is probably as hard as it ever was. You really have to work to wrestle the angels of meaning onto the page. You really have to work to be understandable. You need to learn the craft of writing a book, too. And you’ve got to do that while wedging your book project into an already demanding schedule and home life.

Most of my clients are already experts in their field. They already have a point of view that’s worth sharing. Even so, it takes them more than a year and four or five full revisions to get their books right.

You can get help. Most of my clients write well and the can certainly learn what they need to know and do to write a book. Getting help from someone like me can keep you from writing a crappy book and help you fit “write a book” into your jam-packed schedule.

Anybody Can Write a Crappy Book

It doesn’t take nearly that much work to write a crappy book. Throw some words on a page, run the spell-checker, and hire someone to put it on Amazon. That will, indeed, get you a publishing credit. It won’t get you the additional learning and mastery that writing a great book gives you. And won’t get you the reputation and fee boost that a great book gives you.

In a world of “crap between covers,” great books will stand out more than ever. But great books don’t come easy. They take work. And remember this, if you’re considering “self-publishing,” you are the “self.” You must do or hire people to do everything that traditional publishers have done, from editing and book design through promotion.

What to Aim For

If you’re going to write a business book, do the job right. Write a book that makes a difference for readers. Write a book that will make a difference for you, either by increasing your reputation, increasing your revenue, or just checking something off your bucket list. Make sure the writing is high quality, whether you do it yourself or hire someone to help you. Get a professional editor. Make sure your book is well-designed. And then, promote it ‘till you puke.

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