1. Writing a book takes time—more than you can imagine.
Whoever purports: “You can write a book in ten days” (or two months or ten) is inviting you to:
- Use what you have already written.
- Create a ten-page e-book to use as an infomercial.
- Send more poorly produced stuff into cyberspace and give self-publishing a bad name.
- Pay money for their “big results guaranteed” seminar. (Run clear!)
Writing a book takes time, so you might want to stop there. If not I’ll give you eight more.
2. Success is never guaranteed.
Perhaps if you are a celebrity, have a mega-following, or have the secret scoop about the former president (probably not needed)—you can win a book deal, a big advance, and publicity that will give you seven weeks of fame when you launch your book. You can boost your chances if you hire the world’s finest ($$$) ghostwriter and call in a chit from your uncle who runs Random House. But even then, the market is fickle, and seven weeks is not a long time to prove your awesomeness.
But most of us non-celebrity mortals don’t have to worry about that. We will work very hard to get readership and recognition beyond our friends and dear Aunt Myrtle—who barely reads but will do whatever we ask.
3. It can be expensive.
Celebrities get advances and their expenses paid. For first-time authors—dream on. Yes, occasionally, it happens that a first-timer will be picked up by a big publisher and go on to great success. You might tell me, “J.K. Rawlings was turned down by twelve publishers before one picked up Harry Potter, and now she’s a billionaire.” To which I’d counter, “Yes, and every month, one person in a million wins the lottery.” I’d like better odds.
The good news is that independent authors can self-publish, and because of print-on-demand, they don’t have to dedicate their basements to housing 2000 copies waiting to be sold. The bad news is that it will cost money. You can economize, especially if you know exactly what you are doing (not yet my case!). Here are ways:
- Ask your Uncle Harry, the professional editor, to return the favor he owes you—because you will need an editor.
- Ask your best friend Martha, the graphic artist, to do your cover and design, and hope that she’ll still be your friend.
- Subscribe to every source of free info on publishing you have time to read (see the first point above).
- Be willing to screw up a lot. (I’m trying to minimize this by paying a reputable book producer.)
4. You may never make your money back.
There may be a few ways to handle this. If you are a consultant, you may be able to reimburse your book expenses by hiking your already exorbitant consulting fees because you will be a “published author.” If you are “retired” (a word I don’t understand), you might arrange to live three years less to cover your mounting expenses. Or you might learn to say the word that sticks in my throat, “fundraising.”
5. You will annoy your ego.
You may think you are doing your ego a favor by offering it the “high status” of being a published author. But that strategy may boomerang after publication as you run the numbers, read reviews, and lament that your book is not the great hit you imagined. If you look outward for success, it’s pretty likely that your ego will find some reason to declare: “Not good enough.”
6. Being a writer means taking ego-licks, like when your close friend reads a draft and says, “Not for me.”
Not everyone will like your book. Guaranteed.
6. It will mess with your sleep.
Be prepared for less shut-eye as you debate the 100th iteration of your title with yourself at 2 am. (And neither side wins!)
7. Your house may suffer.
The spiders in your house will do a happy dance. Some bills will be late, but what are a few finance charges compared with what you are already spending?
8. It will take over your life.
Maybe this won’t happen if you are really good at setting boundaries, but where’s the fun in writing a book if you can’t be passionate and obsessive?
9. Your social life will plummet.
If you’re lucky, your family will hang with you. But friends may stop calling.
So think about it. The whole process will wreak havoc with your pocketbook, your ego, your social life, and your sleep. Need I say more?
If you want to write (yay), save yourself the misery and write anything else—a blog, an essay, a poetic shopping list.
However, if you must, write a book if:
- You feel called, and it’s a lifetime dream.
- You’re willing to give it the time it needs.
- You want to learn a lot.
- You can invest in the support you need.
- You like taking on huge challenges.
- The thought of banging your head against the wall sounds thrilling.
- You have a good set of salves available for your ego.
- You are willing to be transformed by your creation.
- You like spiders.
- You’re going to do it anyway.
Truthfully, one of the themes of my (about to be published) book Meeting the Muse After Midlife: A Journey Toward Joy, Creativity, and Meaning is that sometimes—especially as we age—we have to do that thing that calls us.
No matter how insane it looks to others.
So go forth and do that thing you love.
And if you decide to write a book and need moral support, call me because, believe me, you will.