So you want to be a writer? Most people you tell that to are going to say something to you like, “very cool” and “you can do it.” But I’m here today to dispense reality. Before you start on chapter one let me give you 10 reasons NOT to write a book!
1. Everything there is to say has already been said. Leave it to no less of an expert on writing books that have sold well than King Solomon, who said: “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, ‘Here is something new!’ But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11, NLT). If that’s not enough to discourage you, keep reading.
2. There are already more books published than people will read. Bowker, the company that dispenses ISBN numbers, reports that more than 1 million new titles are being released in the US alone each year. That doesn’t count the number of independent books being PUBLISHED without an official ISBN number. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) estimates there will be 1,761,280 books published worldwide this year. (See my infographic on the top book-producing countries.)
3. The average number of units each new book published will sell is 250. As low as that number is, it is still inflated by books that sell hundreds of thousands and millions of copies. For most authors, writing will not pay the bills and will be a labor of love. (Do you want to know how much authors make?)
4. Even though the number of total units sold in the US is rising, the total dollars generated has been stagnant since 2007. Independent and digital publishing has lowered the price on many books, so not only will most new authors not sell very many copies, they will make less money for each copy sold.
5. Writing books is hard work and almost guarantees you will lose sleep and leave something important you need to do undone. Again, it was Solomon who said: “Let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out” (Ecclesiastes 12:12, NLT).
6. Not only is the study, the plotting, the organizing, and the pacing that goes into writing a book difficult, so is the final technical execution. A 50 thousand word book has roughly 134 thousand characters (163 thousand with spaces) on 1,700 lines. I am a simple man and use small words, so if you have a better vocabulary than me, your 50 thousand words might have a lot more characters than that! If Microsoft hires an army of high-paid programmers that still mess up lines of code that require frequent fixes, what hope is there for us? Writing is hard – editing is even harder. No wonder Earnest Hemingway advised, “write drunk; edit sober.”
7. In today’s crowded marketplace, not only do you have to write a book, but you are also the person most responsible to market it. A lot of us can write. And a lot of us can market. But not a lot of us can do both. To get a traditional publishing deal today the first question most publishers will ask is: “What is your platform?” Do you have a radio or TV show? Do you have hundreds of thousand of Twitter fans? As hard as writing is, I think marketing might be harder.
8. Some people will criticize you for being egotistical.
9. Some readers will give you a bad review. (I’ve been fortunate to receive good reviews on my novels, but there are still some 1-star ratings mixed in there and that never feels good.)
10. I’m sure there are a few exceptions, but as a rule, if you want to be a great writer you have to be a great reader. Both activities are time-consuming. Wouldn’t it be easier to just watch some TV or find a new hobby?
11. And as a bonus reason, let me be the one to tell you that people do judge a book by its cover. So not only do you have to write it and market it, you have to trust a publisher to come up with a great cover – or become an art director and make sure your designer gives you something that looks great and fits your category.
To summarize, don’t write a book because you’ll get rich or because all your friends and other reviewers will tell you how brilliant you are or because you can knock off a novel in a couple weeks or because you’ll become famous or because a publisher is waiting to turn it into a hit for you or because you know something that not one else knows.
Have I discourage you sufficiently and convinced you not to write a book?
If not. If you are crazy enough that you just know you have to write a book, let me be the first to tell you “cool!” and “you can do it!”