This article appeared in modified form in the Maven Game newsletter. Sign up here.
I’m back from an extended hiatus working on an intense book-writing project.
The experience reminded me of a fact we editors cheerfully ignore as we exhort our authors to persevere: while writing can be moderately challenging, along the lines of bridge-playing or hula-hooping, book completion is an absurdly improbable occurrence along the lines of visiting the ER with a pogo stick injury (115,300 to 1) or being canonized in the Catholic Church (20,000,000 to 1).
Good book, bad book, whatever—I’m amazed anybody finishes one of these think-soaked paper-slabs.
In Shine, the piano biopic with Geoffrey Rush, simply practicing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is enough to break your mind into tiny pieces.
Well, if that’s true, completing a full-length book will leave your cerebral cortex a fine gray mist. Watch out the morning after you deliver your manuscript. If you’re not careful with that Q-tip you might swab away sixth grade, or the letter G.
For et about it!
So why climb the mountain? Why not crank out pithy tweets or—if you’re feeling wildly ambitious—the occasional newsletter, and call it a life well-lived?
Writing articles is hard too, although on a different scale. This article alone took me 48 minutes to draft. Plus another 27 to revise. (Kidding! I don’t revise.) All that for 700 or so thoughtlessly assembled, uh, letter-nuggets.
And articles pay off. When I write them, I often get some nice responses, occasionally a new client. Why make things difficult? Why write a book?
Typically, I tell bi-curious thought leaders (short for biblio-curious) that, despite all the downsides, writing a book for a traditional publisher—assuming one’s interested—usually makes sense the first time around, but rarely the second.
Alice Korngold was one of those rare exceptions. Alice and I first met when she was considering a second book for a traditional publisher. I gave her a nudge to move forward at the time, so I found myself curious whether she still considered the ordeal to have been worthwhile.
Here’s what she wrote:
Thank you again so much for playing such a pivotal role in helping me to get A Better World, Inc. published by introducing me to the perfect agent! Yes, the book continues to have steady monthly sales. And yes, I give talks at conferences and graduate business and law schools worldwide, which do indeed drive sales. And yes, this publication contributes to my ability to attract consulting clients…for a number of reasons:
- I expanded my learning and expertise by researching and writing the book…an extraordinary experience in personal and professional development.
Grew my networks and relationships through researching the book.
Demonstrate my expertise, insight, and new ideas through my writings/book.
Have something meaningful/useful to say to companies, NGOs, and others, having researched the topic and come to conclusions based on my unique perspective, experience, and observations.
I planned to expand on this but unsurprisingly Alice, being an author, nailed it. Those 4 reasons are why you should write a book. If they don’t sway you, start angling for canonization.
If you’re weighing the book option and you’d like a second opinion from a pro, reply to this email. I’d be happy to offer my two cents. Once you’ve gotten them, I want you to put them into an old-time pay telephone with the fixed mouthpiece and the crank and ask the operator to connect you with a New York publisher so you can tell them you’re not interested in writing a book.
Or keep the two cents and write the damn thing. I’m tired of fighting you about it. At the end of the day, there’s no denying that “she wrote the book” is pretty much society’s ne plus ultra designation of expertise.
“Hey, who’s that?”
“The world’s foremost expert on particle physics.”
“How do you know?”
“She wrote the tweet.”
…said no one ever.