A few weeks ago I “e-attended” the Book Marketing Summit. By and large, the “summit” (a serious of time-locked webinars) wasn’t great, a rehash of things I’d heard before mixed with tactics considered bad form in the marketing world and overly tipped toward churn-and-burn business writers who pump out short “how to” books.
But one thing one presenter (a “book marketing expert” *cue eyeroll*) said just really fired me up: “There are only three reasons to publish a book: 1) to make money 2) to build prestige and 3) to start a movement.”
Let’s take this one at a time:
1) To make money. Of course every author with a book out is trying to make money on it; otherwise, it just sits there and there is no more grist to allow the author to write more things. But making serious, all-I-do-is-write money is vanishingly rare and very hard to achieve. Writing a book is not a get-rich-quick scheme because it is neither easy nor quick and you won’t be rich. A few years ago, Hugh Howey wrote about how the average indie author is making $500 a year on their books. And The Guardian just wrote about how the author cut is dwindling even while book sales are up.
Authoring is just not a cash cow.
Possible exception: you are writing a nonsense business book to support your main business. Maybe it will help; maybe not.
2) To Build Prestige. Let’s just say, if this is a goal of book-publishing, I am definitely doing it wrong. I’ve so far published adventure gamebooks for adults, about zombies and aliens. Where’s my prestige? Is it under the joke about the evil sentient cow overlords? Maybe in the bit where you have the deep existential decision about whether to try to eat a lion?
3) To Start a Movement. Again, this probably doesn’t apply to fiction. Was E.L. James trying to start a movement when she wrote bad Twilight fanfiction?
Fiction doesn’t need movements to be worthy. It just is.
When I heard that ridiculous list, I basically gave up on the “summit” entirely. It was mostly hogwash.
But what ARE reasons to write and publish a book?
Just a few off the top of my head:
- To explain something
- To explain something better than was previously explained before
- To help you process something in your life
- To help other people address a problem in their lives
- For fun
- To achieve a deeply held personal goal
- Because the book you would like to read doesn’t exist in the real world yet
- Because the words won’t stop bubbling up and the only way to deal with that is to put them on a page
- To pass something on to someone else
Look at that: nine other perfectly legitimate reasons to write and publish a book, already three times more than that so-called “expert” claimed existed.
I wrote my books (including the just-published gamebook Beamed Up: Decide Your Destiny. Buy now!) as a personal challenge, and because I thought they were funny. I published them because I enjoy self-flagellation… well, no, that’s not the reason, but it feels that way sometimes. I published them because I had already spent so much effort writing all those words, it seemed silly not to spend a little (lot) more effort and put them out in the world.
Be wary, authors, of marketing “experts.” Keep your critical thinking turned on when you hear them out.
And write for whatever reason you want to write. You deserve that.
What’s your reason?