People ask me all the time how they can get a book deal. So I had my agent write a post on how to get a book deal. But really, I’m telling you, you probably don’t need to write a book. Every time I ask someone why they want to write a book, they have a terrible answer.
So instead of worrying about how maybe you need to get a book deal, consider these reasons why a book deal is no good for you:
1. People who have a lot of ideas need a blog, not a book.
A blog is more immediate, so you'll get better feedback. And getting feedback as you go is much more intellectually rigorous than printing a final compendium of your ideas and getting feedback from the public only when it’s too late to change anything.
Many people think they have a ton of ideas and they are brimming with book possibilities when in fact, most of us have very few new ideas. If you have so many ideas, prove it to the world and start blogging. There is nothing like a blog to help you realize you have nothing new to say.
And, if you do end up having an amazing blog that focuses on one, big grand idea with great writing to boot, then you can get a book deal from your blog.
2. A book is an outdated way to gain authority.
It’s true that lots of people think that book authors are the people with authority. But anyone can have good ideas, and only some good ideas fit into book format. On top of that, the people who are on the cutting edge of any topic are not waiting the two years it takes to deliver new ideas in a book. Instead, they're reading articles and blogs and discussion online with all the immediacy of the Internet.
So if you feel like no one is giving you credit for having good ideas because you don’t have a book, think again: Maybe your ideas just aren't that good. Or maybe you are trying to get credibility with people who don’t know how to assess authority in the information age.
3. Books lead to speaking careers, but speaking careers often lead nowhere.
This reason actually works, because one thing a book really does provide is enough traditional authority to get you speaking gigs. People who schedule speakers are reluctant to give you a slot unless you have a book published by a top-tier publisher.
But before you get giddy about those huge speaking fees that take you to Hawaii and Belgium, remember that the life of a public speaker may not be what you expect. You don’t really connect with people and work with them, but instead flit from city to city making one-hour connections and then leaving. Also, it’s great to get a gig in Newport Beach, but usually it’ll be Bismarck or Birmingham. And the constant travel will keep you so tired that you’ll become numb to those chic-chic accommodations.
But really, the biggest problem with the life of a public speaker is that it is so tenuous, because you have to speak about what you do, but if all you do is speak, then it’s a Mobius puzzle that ends with you having nothing to say. So most speakers have to eventually figure out what to do after the speaking is over. Which means why not just forget the book and figure out your post-speaking career before you even start?
4. You’ll make more money per hour flipping burgers than writing a book.
The odds that your book will be a best seller are absolutely terrible. Writing fiction is an impossible life unless you hit the jackpot. There’s a great article in the New Yorker about a relatively famous, established novelist who cannot support himself on book advances. I can’t find that article, but just trust me: It’s a very very hard industry to survive in.
Nonfiction books are a better bet for personal survival, but this is not to say books are big money makers. Most nonfiction books are paperback originals which means they are $50,000 advances, and most of you could earn more than that spending a year in an office.
On top of that, a book costs so much in time that it’s a cost center which you have to justify by deciding what you are using the book to sell. And that’s the crux of all of this: That a book is a marketing tool. You can market your company or yourself or your blog or an idea, but you need to have something you want the book to support.
5. When you’re feeling lost, a book won’t save you.
A book will not give you direction in life. A book is something you write in order to get you to where you’re going. If you have nowhere to go, a book will insure that you stay where you are: Lost.
People use books like law school. They think if they have some piece of paper — a degree, a contract — then people will respect them and then they’ll respect themselves. But self-respect comes from having some sort of vision for one’s life and heading in that direction. And there is no one who can give you that vision — you have to give it to yourself, and before you can feel like you have direction, you have to feel lost — and lost is okay.
So stop with the idea that you need a book. Most people who think they need a book deal probably need to answer the question: What will I be doing two years after that book? Do you really need the book to get where you want to go? Probably not.