Why You Shouldn’t Write a Book (And Why You Should)

My first book is coming out in a couple weeks (This Ordinary Adventure: Settling Down Without Settling). I co-wrote this book with my lovely wife, who wrote another book a couple years ago. I helped as a quasi-agent for that project. We also write a biweekly column for Relevant and contribute to their print magazine. And we both blog.

In the past few years, then, I’ve thought mucho about how and where our content goes out. The publishing industry continues to lurch and sputter, trying to figure out how to adjust to the new communications landscape. This ought to give you pause if you’re thinking about writing a book.

Here’s why you shouldn’t:

  • You want to be rich. The average book sells something like 1,000 copies. Even at cover price (and no one has bought a book for cover price since the 1800s), that’s like $15,000 gross. Take out printing. Shipping. Ads. Editorial staff. You may pocket the advance, but a few thousand dollars for the number of hours that go into a book doesn’t equate to “rich.” It’s got to be something like .1% of all book projects that pay the author more than minimum wage for their time.
  • You want to be famous. How many authors do you think you could name? Recognize on the street? Even just know the name of while browsing books? I’d guess maybe a few hundred for myself, and I’m good with names and I read a fair bit. Even in a niche market, there are not many famous authors. Committing a novel crime is a much easier way to get famous than writing a novel.
  • You want to be a writer. It’s far easier to just publish your own work on a blog or as an e-book through one of the new services that’s popped up. You don’t need to publish a book to be a writer. You just need WordPress. It’s easier and it’s faster. So why schlep through the months (years!) of a book project?

 

But we’ve got a book coming out anyway. Here’s why we still thought writing This Ordinary Adventure would be worthwhile:

  • We want to reach certain people. A key to effective communication is using the audience’s preferred mode of communication. Some people simply prefer books. So if we want them to consider our ideas, we need to hand it to them, made of paper and print (or pixels for the Kindle and Nook addicts).
  • We have big and deep ideas. Books allow a depth and pace that other formats do not. They are focused and immersive in ways that phones, laptops, and even tablets with browsers are not. We do blog (at IntoTheMud.com, ExecutingIdeas.com, and we even have a big announcement coming next week about a new publisher for our new blog). But a book hangs together, welcoming readers to sink in deeply.
  • We write and speak. Having a book out really has helped Chrissy (and me, too) build a platform, giving a reason to be in front of audiences. “Author” still confers a level of credibility beyond what we can get from “blogger.” (I’m not sure how much longer this will last.) For now, it makes a lot of sense to do both.

But here’s the biggest reason why we wrote a book, despite all the reasons we shouldn’t:

We want to help people. At the end of the day, our lives are for serving others. We have lived in Nicaragua, China, and South Africa, trying to learn from and to help friends in hard places. When we came back to the U.S., lots of people said, “We would so love to do what you’ve done!” and “That’s so amazing!” What we really heard in that was, “I feel like my life sucks. And there’s nothing I can do about it.”

We wrote This Ordinary Adventure for those friends (and thousands of others) who feel like they’re not living out their calling where they are. Our time overseas gave us a unique perspective on life in the U.S., and now that we’re back here and rooted a bit, we’re wrestling with how to live a life of significance, a life of deep faith for the good of the world. Our hope is that our struggle—our journey—helps others in the midst of theirs.

Have you written a book or thought about it? Why do you think you should or shouldn’t?

 

 

  • Curt Devine

    Adam, thanks so much for your honesty and passion. We talked on the phone almost a year ago, and you definitely inspired me to keep dreaming and keep writing. I may never be rich or famous, but just as you said, I have big ideas and want to reach a number of people. Thanks for posting.

    • acjeske

      Thanks, Curt! How’s your writing going?