A big part of what I do is help people simplify, revealing what’s meaningful and useful by eliminating what isn’t. For plenty of folks, that means the following singular prescription:
Don’t Write That Book
More than half the people I work with have a book in mind, and I’ve helped many get those ideas from inception to bookshelf. I’ve written a couple myself. But most people who think they should write a book, shouldn’t. They don’t understand the reasons not to write it.
That probably includes you.
I get it. I really do. You have a story to tell, and it’s been hounding you for years: “Write me! Write me!”
It keeps you up at night. It whispers at you when you’re driving. It wants to take over your hand while you’re sipping that morning joe and spill forth inky tales of wisdom and delight for adoring masses.
But you probably shouldn’t listen to it, and here are 10 reasons why.
1. You won’t finish it.
You say you will, but you also say you’ll lose those last 10 pounds and that you’ll stop binging Netflix. But books take effort, and that much effort feels like work. It should be the case instead that writing is deep, engrossing play. But you have barriers:
- You don’t know all the steps you need;
- You don’t have time;
- You have unanswered questions, and
- You haven’t developed the stamina.
Not yet, at least.
2. Nobody will read it.
Amazon, the world’s biggest bookstore, invites you to add your new title to their shelves – along with over 30 million others. But yours will languish in their remote backwaters and virtual remainder bins, forlorn and unnoticed and a constant reminder that people don’t care about you.
Folks who need it won’t find it. Folks who find it won’t open it. Folks who open it won’t finish it. Folks who finish it won’t like it. Folks who like it won’t tell anyone.
3. You’ll lose money.
Those dreams of bestseller lists and swimming in pools of money like Scrooge McDuck? That’s a nope. Or of helping pay the mortgage and get the kids through college? No, ma’am. Or of providing just enough for that vacation, where you’ll be inspired with your next great book idea? No, sir. Not at all.
Most books sell fewer than 1000 copies.
Most sales net you less than $3. Yet most books cost more than $5000 to publish. [Pause for the doing of math.] And that’s not counting any marketing at all, the lack of which is the second surest way to fail. (The first is to write a bad book.)
So. The money thing. You’ll lose.
4. It will be riddled with typos.
It doesn’t really matter how good your one set of eyes is. You’ll miss things. That is, even if you know what to look for. Even if your 8th-grade grammar class has held up well enough over the years to service your 50,000-word magnum opus. Even if you can tell an en-dash from an em-dash at eighty paces. Even if you won that spelling bee such a long, long time ago.
Professional works need professionals’ eyes, and you don’t have them. So what you’ll get are lots and lots of typos, and all the permanent embarrassment that goes with them.
5. It won’t speak to anyone.
It’s your story and nobody else’s. Your private memoir or secret escapist fantasy or prescription for world peace. And nobody will get you.
It’s as if you’re the only remaining speaker of a lost language, telling what only you can, but in ways no one else can follow. Worse than Cassandra predicting truth that’s destined to be ignored, you’ll say what needs to be said to nobody at all.
6. It’s already been said.
Greek philosophers explained truth thousands of years ago. Shakespeare set the bars for wordplay and for revealing the human condition. Centuries of novelists and scientists and biographers and thinkers of every stripe have exhausted what there is to say.
There’s nothing new under the sun. At least from you.
7. You’re not the expert.
Where do you get off thinking you have something worthwhile to write down? Plenty of folks with more credentials know the topic better. Plenty of writers with real talent can express it better. Heck, you’d know the topic better yourself if only you’d take more time to really understand it before starting all that typing.
You don’t know enough yet. Leave it to the experts.
8. The cover will suck.
You’ll mock something up with a word-processing program, drop an overused font family on top, and arrange it without an eye for balance, negative space, color balance, or thumbnail readability – leaving you just unsatisfied enough to add an extra image or three, because it needs something.
The title itself will be too small and in an indecipherable script. Curlicues will abound. You’ll trust only your own design eye because nobody else could really understand the book’s special vibe. Reasons not to write usually overlap with reasons not to design.
9. It’s too hard to get it published.
We all have choices now. No longer do five major publishing houses gatekeep what’s available to readers. Not that you won’t consider trying to have your manuscript accepted by a “real” publisher. (Which is nearly impossible.) But that means you have to first woo an agent. (Which is nearly impossible.) Which means you first have to prepare a top-flight book proposal. (Which you won’t do.)
Which means you’ll try to publish it yourself, whereupon you’ll discover that it needs a certain type of formatting. (Which you don’t have.) And you’ll need to decipher a whole new insider lingo of ISBNs and BISACs and PDFs and DRMs.
Which you won’t do.
10. You’re not a very good writer anyway.
The last thing you wrote was a two-star scathing review on Yelp, but you “have a novel inside.” Your co-workers let you draft the Christmas Party invite; everyone came in costume. Your email threads never actually resolve; they just die when the number of nested “Re:” responses break your company server.
Your children forge their own school-absence notes because yours get returned with corrections. By the crosswalk officer.
But you have a novel inside.
Oh, But There’s Hope
What? You’re still here? Shoo! Beat it, Kid. That book’s not for you. Just look at all those barriers. Any reasonable person would throw in the towel.
Here’s what’s funny: I have thought all of those exact things before. Pretty much every writer has. And until just two or three years ago, many of those issues had no practical solution, which meant that most people left those books unwritten.
But not anymore. Not for unreasonable people.
Reasonable people are those with enough time, money, expertise, and influence. Those are what’s needed to conquer those 10 objections. For writers without those four traits, it just means they have to compensate by being a little unreasonable.
Because it turns out that every one of those 10 reasons has a fix.
I know because I’ve seen it happen over and over again. One goal of this site is to show you, step-by-step, how to navigate the modern marketplace of tools and experts to finally get that book of yours to stop being an ear-worm and start being a to-do list. If you’re unreasonable enough to stick with me long enough, I know we can conquer all 10 reasons not to write that book.
But don’t say I didn’t try to warn you off.