Friday, February 15, 2013

Making Books for Fun and Profit

"Never mind critics, what do you yourself think is wrong with your writing? How did you dream of your book before it was created? What were your best hopes? How have you let yourself down?"~Zadie Smith

From time to time I run into someone who says they are planning to write a book. Many are simply too naive about the undertaking to know what they are saying. Some believe they will do it, but since they have no real writing experience or daily writing discipline it is not something that I expect will amount to much. I don't mind being proven wrong, but producing a book is... well, it's a lot like work.

Then there's the problem of taking a good idea and transforming it into something stellar that others might want to read. Putting a bunch of pages together and calling it a book is not an insurmountable task. It just takes persistence. But making a great book is another story.

Then again, who says it has to be a great book? What is great anyways? Great by whose standards? By critical acclaim? By runaway sales? By moral significance?

My opinion is that if you feel compelled to write a book, or a story or assemble a collection of poems, do it. Have fun with it. Express yourself. Pour yourself out. If you're motivated to write book-length manuscripts I commend you for that. It's audacious. It's ambitious. But to make it happen only requires a little daily discipline. Personally, everyone has a story to tell and books are a great way to share it.

I have a co-worker whose mother wrote and assembled memoirs of her experiences living in Germany during Hitler's rule. She did it for her family's sake, and the family has been enriched by this effort. It doesn't matter that the book has not been published by Random House or Scribners. It has been assembled and share.

Digital books have certainly lowered the bar as regards getting your work to the wider public. When you go digital there are no printing costs, and will display your titles all over the world. I don't even think an ISBN number is required for that any more. (Fact Checker: Please confirm.)

You do have to ask yourself why you are doing this? Zadie Smith challenges us to not compromise. But it's not easy. Making a good story great requires a lot of work. In my opinion, however, I'm not sure it has to be great initially. Your story simply needs to be told. If it's a good story, there are others who can help you polish it and bring it to the next level.

As for the profitability part of this equation... Don't think about it. It's a tough market and if making money writing books were all that easy, everyone would be doing it. Just tell your story. Tell it well and people will read it.

Meantime, have a very fine weekend. And write on.

Featured eBook of the Day: Unremembered Histories

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