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 A book is an outdated way to gain authority.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.

251 replies
« Older CommentsNewer Comments »
  1. Billhackett2004
    Billhackett2004 says:

    Absolutely the best advice I have ever had…and for free!
    Rather than try to sell you another “How to write the great American novel” pamphlet to eager, untalented, and gullible newbies, you get straight advice.
    I don’t know Ms. Trunk, bit I like her a year already.
    Have a great day

  2. RELLZ
    RELLZ says:

    This post is entirely stupid and your commenst about speakers are so misleading. And as a professional speaker (and an author who wrote my book to get more into speaking) I am offended. I currently make $7900.00 per a half hour – hour long speech. As a speaker you can then expand to opening coaching and training businesses as well. Remember that as a speaker especially if you wrote a book then it is for a particular niche. Unless people stop being born or stop moving toward a particular niche then you will always have something to talk about. I’m surprised that you ever did write a book, probably 90% written by someone with a brain.

  3. uniestone_12
    uniestone_12 says:

    I am in the process of writing a novel as of today. I started in my Junior year of high school which was when I really began to read various novels from various authors. I never wanted to write a novel at first. I thought it was a frivolous and silly thing to waste time on. Not only did I think it was frivolous but I use to think it was a simple and breezy task. I learned quickly that I was wrong.

    Once I finally decided to write a novel which started out as an essay for school but unintentionally became the first words of my unfinished novel, I discovered that it is not only hard to write well, but it is “difficult”.

    I am taught myself how to write well by actually writing. Not too long after, writing became my passion. I even enjoy poetry and poems now.

    Some people have to ask themselves “Why do I want to write a book?” Unlike many people I know exactly why I want to write a book. I write to ease the pain within myself, both mentally and physically. I write to express my beliefs and ideals. I write to show other through my characters the experiences I had and what the world has experienced. To show the people who suffer from social interactions, wars, hatred, discrimination, low self esteem, pride, segregation, love, desires, and jealousy that there is but one solution to dry our tears.

    I have a reason to live and therefore have a reason to write. Although I wish to show the world a true lesson, more than anything I want to prove to myself that I have indeed learned a lesson instead of just earned tears.

    I want to remember the dark hours so I want make the same mistakes of the past. Mistakes we all so blindly made over and over again since the beginning of time and continue to make even as time nears its last breath.

    I write to speak my mind that asks: Can we make a difference? And if we can’t can I?

  4. uniestone_12
    uniestone_12 says:

    I am in the process of writing a novel as of today. I started in my junior year of high school which was when I really began to read various novels from various authors. I never wanted to write a novel at first. I thought it was a frivolous and silly thing to waste time on. Not only did I think it was frivolous but I use to think it was a simple and breezy task. I learned quickly that I was wrong.

    Once I finally decided to write a novel which started out as an essay for school but unintentionally became the first words of my fiction novel, I discovered that it is not only hard to write well, but it is “difficult”.

    I am taught myself how to write well by actually writing. Not too long after, writing became my passion. I even enjoy writing poetry and poems now.

    Some people have to ask themselves “Why do I want to write a book?” Unlike many people I know exactly why I want to write a book. I write to ease the pain within myself, both mentally and physically. I write to express my beliefs and ideals.

    I write to show others through my characters the experiences I had and what the world has experienced. I want to demonstrate not only what the world should be but what the world is. To show the people who suffer from social interactions, wars, hatred, discrimination, low self esteem, pride, segregation, love, desires, and jealousy that there is but one solution to an ultimate resolution.

    I have a reason to live and therefore have a reason to write. Although I wish to give the world a message, more than anything I want to prove to myself that I have indeed learned a lesson instead of just earned tears.

    I want to remember the dark hours of my life so I won't make the same mistakes of the past twice; not to mention thrice: Mistakes we all so blindly made over and over again since the beginning of time and continue to make even as time nears its last breath.

    I write to speak my mind and to ask the question: Can we make a difference?
    And if we can't, can I?

  5. Heather Head
    Heather Head says:

    Refreshing post! I would not have thought, from the title of your article, that I would end up agreeing with you. But I do. And it’s actually quite freeing to think: Maybe I don’t need to write a book, hurrah!

    I’m one of those for whom writing is a compulsion. I could no more stop writing than I could stop eating. But for years I have beaten myself up for not having the persistence to stick with a topic long enough to finish a book… now maybe I can let go of the idea that I need to strive for that.

    Thank you.

  6. Survival Jones
    Survival Jones says:

    I am just trawling through websites because I want to write a blog post called ’10 reasons why people do not write’ to go with my ‘how to write’ post.

    I do not think that the two need to be mutually exclusive. Why not blog and write a boom at the same time. I was very surprised to see so many sycophants in this section for this person whom I’ve just discovered ‘Penelope trunk’, and even more so after reading such a non-academic, illogically reasoned argument. Blogging and writing have worked for you, but imagine if you had received this very same advice when you were first starting out? you would not be the same person person at all. Your last point is just plainly wrong.

  7. Abelel
    Abelel says:

    So, you can make more money flipping burgers than writing a book. I find this comment obsolete for the kind of creative and more in-depth thinkers who are likely to consider writing a book.

    I find working everyday in an office a kind of hell, so perhaps the less well-off lifestyle of a writer is very well suited to some who can manage it.

    This debate seems to be a classic ‘one size doesn’t fit all’.

  8. ABCustom
    ABCustom says:

    Ms Trunk So you are all of what from the picture 36? you have good points here fact is your words could be taking the wind outta somes sails. which some of those things you described put a squash to somes peoples dream so to speak. are nt some of those things what makes us who we are. Go for it get after what ever it is you want in life and you will learn from it.and if you ask for a suggestion cool if not thats cool too

  9. gennicko
    gennicko says:

    Доброго времени суток.
    Подскажите плиз,[url=http://board-free.ru/] [/url]какими электронными деньгами лучше всего пользоваться?[url=http://www.kupiandprodai.ru/] [/url]Я просто новичек в этом деле… Недавно в интернете)

  10. kaite L.
    kaite L. says:

    I completely disagree with this. I don’t remember J. K. Roweling ever having a blog. Or Lois Lowery. Or even Suzanne Collins for that matter. And they all had best sellers. And Hunger Games and the Giver are practically the same book. If someone gets a book published, congradulations. If not, they’ll get over it. So should you

  11. Shukaib Rocky
    Shukaib Rocky says:

    Thanks! the advice you gave on the site is truly helpful. I understand now what is important. I actually want to hear that but didnt know from where.

  12. S n o w y
    S n o w y says:

    I exceedingly disagree. This is just totally discouraging to People who want to write a Book and is looking forward to that, like me, and this is completely false.

    • T.R.Harold
      T.R.Harold says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more snowy. These people who write things like this seem to come from the most pretentious part of the world… Blogger Country! I dislike these people… Having a go at people who wish to write, telling them “Write a blog – it’s easier”. The only reason writing a blog is so easy is because it takes no effort… And, in my opinion, no true imagination! I cannot stand these people who turn their noses up when some young pup goes up to them and says “I’m writing a book!” and they reply with – “Big whoop, everyone is”, it sickens me, just because everyone wants to do it, doesn’t mean that those who already have can just sit there in their exclusive little club and say “I know all about writing books, but it’s not for people like you” :/

  13. mikearnold
    mikearnold says:

    I think what’s most fascinating regarding this post isn’t such a lot regarding whether or not writing a book could be a sensible plan or not. clearly for a few it’s and for a few it isn’t.

    The real purpose is that:lost is okay. therefore everybody might have a special factor that they may convince themselves they have to accomplish so as to feel revered and like they need ‘arrived’. therefore if the motivator to jot down the novel is really concern of not knowing what the heck to try and do next. Then, yes, it’s a nasty plan.

    For some individuals their factor are going to be a unique, for others it’ll be Law faculty or a |ipad casinos
    | Graduate Degree.

    The ROI on all of those things is terrible if you’re doing them for the incorrect reasons .

  14. alex
    alex says:

    you are a truly ignorant man because you wish not to read, you publish a article about why to not read, you are a true fool…

  15. T.R.Harold
    T.R.Harold says:

    I’m sorry, i’m not from this literary world of yours… What the hell is a “Speaking Career”? Sounds awful pretentious!

  16. Ralphlv
    Ralphlv says:

    Many people prefer to go to those brand name outlets to buy goods in good quality though they will cost much more money than that in stable stores and fakes. It is common that when a brand has become famous many fakes of it will exist in market quickly. As the most worldwide luxurious brand name, Louis Vuitton had and is meeting such a problem all over the world. Some manufacturers of luxurious brand name think that fakes of their brands show they are very popular in public but other brands do not think so. It is reasonable that Louis Mote Hennessy had ever prosecuted Google for it sold fake goods of Louis Vuitton for they thought the fakes would destroy the image of Louis Vuitton Brand. And their honest customers will never like Louis Vuitton Bags for they feel this brand has cheated them when they see a person wearing an ugly fake some day. We can say that the key to the success of commercial area is brand for it is the real thing that increase and create the valuation of those brand name goods. It is not the design and quality can cost so much money but the brand which they have set though more than one century’s efforts. It is true that the setting of brand bases on the good quality and design. For example, a Louis Vuitton wallet will be made in more than one hundred procedures before being displayed in market.

  17. Sheri
    Sheri says:

    What if you have a story about your life that was a secret for many years. One that is about survival that is almost unbelievable.

  18. Mike Moriarty
    Mike Moriarty says:

    Thank you for this great article. I think it’s very useful for everybody. I have been visiting your site for a while and I suggest everybody to read other articles in this site.

  19. Ross Anziano
    Ross Anziano says:

    Writing a blog is to writing a novel as masturbating, in hopes that someone (anyone) will stay to play is to being a virgin who studies tantric sex for years in the hope that you will, perhaps, have sex with no one…or have sex with one person and change their life forever. Please….PLEASE…if there is a book in you, write it. If people don’t appreciate it, it’s OK. If you don’t get rich, it’s OK. Get it out your system, if nothing else. If you don’t try, when you think that this is what you should be doing, you are a sad excuse for…whatever it is you claim (or wished, or dreamed) to be. Books are NOT irrelevant, btw. Ask a NOOK owner.

  20. angel
    angel says:

    i am in the process of finishing one book and have ideas for another one maybe you should take your own advise,,,,,,

  21. Rachel Henke
    Rachel Henke says:

    Good to read such an unusual spin on being an author. It’s true that a book won’t solve all your problems & isn’t the fastest track to cash.

    A non fiction book is brilliant for business if you have one which I think is what you mean by having something for the book to support. To make the most of a non fiction book you need what I call a ‘big back end!’

    As far as fiction goes I think it’s one of those things you do because you just can’t stop yourself in which case go for it as it’s not for the money anyway!

  22. Rana
    Rana says:

    To bounce off what pink panther just said, you should write if writing is your passion or if it’s a subject you’re really really passionate about, something you absolutely cannot stand not sharing with others. That’s kind of what being a speaker is, isn’t it?
    Employment Agencies In Pakistan

  23. fred
    fred says:

    I want to be a fiction writer. Every time I read a blog that says don’t write a book, I tell myself that I can’t not try to write a book because I have stories in my head which would be sad not to share, even though I know the odds of having a bestseller. But I am a young writer, so I have began stories but not finished them.
    Overseas Jobs Pakistan

  24. เครื่องช่วยฟังเสียง
    เครื่องช่วยฟังเสียง says:

    เครื่องช่วยฟังเสียง มีหลายชนิดที่แตกต่างกันจำนวนมากของเครื่องช่วยฟังหรือแอมป์เสียงส่วนบุคคลที่มีอยู่ในตลาดในวันนี้คือ มันเป็นสิ่งสำคัญที่จะต้องทราบว่าแต่ละโรคเอดส์เหล่านี้ถูกออกแบบมาด้วยวัตถุประสงค์เฉพาะในใจและที่หนึ่งควรปรึกษาแพทย์ของพวกเขาก่อนที่จะใฝ่หาใด ๆ ของเครื่องมือเหล่านี้

  25. Sean
    Sean says:

    Wow. Pessimist in realist clothing.

    I think it is to detriment that you present these perspectives in such a negative way. I noticed many presumptions, negative ones, about potential and future writers.

    For any hopeful writer reading this, there is just as much reason to be inspired as their is to be worried. One should not presume to know the reasons why people want to write – nor the legitimacy of that want.

    It seems like this post automatically assumes the worst about people. This post loses credibility in my mind.

  26. เครื่องอ่านบาร์โค้ด
    เครื่องอ่านบาร์โค้ด says:

    เครื่องพิมพ์บาร์โค้ด อ่านบาร์โค้ดหรือ scannability ขึ้นอยู่กับคุณภาพการพิมพ์ของ มีสี่ประเภทที่แตกต่างกันของเทคโนโลยีการพิมพ์ที่สามารถใช้ได้พิมพ์บาร์โค้ดเป็น พวกเขาเป็น Dot Matrix, Inkjet Laser, และเครื่องพิมพ์ความร้อน

  27. เครื่องชั่ง
    เครื่องชั่ง says:

    ตาชั่งดิจิตอล แนะนำเครื่องชั่ง คุณภาพสูง นำมาจาก ประเทศจีน ราคาไม่แพงอย่างที่คิดนะครับ เลือกซื้อเลือกหากันได้ เรามีเครื่องชั่งดิจิตอลมากมายให้เลือก ทั้งแบบเล็ก แบบตั้งโต๊ะ แบบชั่งละเอียด พร้อมส่งทั่วไทย

  28. Pettiskirts
    Pettiskirts says:

    nice post i just want to say that Why is it that everyone whose written a book and has a speaking career tells everyone “don’t write a book and start a speaking career”? Hmm?

  29. Esther
    Esther says:

    What is a good reason for wanting to write a book? I want to write a book because I feel I have something worthy to say. I look at a lot of fluff, noise, clatter, and negative stuff out there and say, “I can do better than that.” And I mean that in terms of being positive and helpful. The world doesn’t need more negativity. And the world doesn’t need clones. I have decided to stop apologizing for myself and just be me. I was writing to please people not help them. I was writing to be famous and feel good about me, but now I write to inspire, encourage, and uplift! I don’t need to be “approved” by an agent or book publisher any longer.

  30. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Another suggestion if you have a story that just has to come out, is write it in abbreviated form (12,500 words or less.) This can be done in under an hour a day for a month. There are some magazines that may publish it if it’s good. If none of them do, and you still want to share it, is print it in chapbook form at home or Kinko’s. Or give it away on smashwords or your blogsite. My advice is not to charge–for the first story at least. This is a labor of love. Less time-consuming than a “real novel.” No agent required!
    Design the cover art yourself for free, edit it carefully yourself, and get a tech-savvy friend to format it. Or format it yourself. If you haven’t figured paint software out yet, you can get a decent cover done at fiverr for five dollars.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

« Older CommentsNewer Comments »

Comments are closed.