In Books

“Should you write a book?”. A great article for wannabe authors by @GuyKawasaki. Just read the first 5 paras.


“To me a book is a message from the gods to mankind; or, if not, should never be published at all.” Aleister Crowley, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley

Over the years, dozens of people have asked me what I think of their idea for a book. My response is always the same:

Imagine you’re in a Barnes & Noble bookstore (let’s hope there are still bookstores when you read this) or you’re on the home page of Amazon. You see novels by Isabel Allende, Jonathan Franzen, Daniel Silva, Anne Lamott, and Lee Child. Over in nonfiction there are books by Stephen Jay Gould, Malcolm Gladwell, and Clayton Christensen. And maybe there are a few vanity tomes by the CEOs of large, well-known companies.

In this sea of choices, why should anyone give a shiitake about your book?

Many would-be (and some published) authors cannot answer this question because they’re focused on a different one:

How will I benefit from writing a book?

Their answers to this other question include: “It’s good for my visibility.” “To make money.” “It will help me get speaking gigs and consulting engagements.” “It’s good for my company.” “It will make me a thought leader.” Any of these reasons may be true for the author, but they are not relevant for readers.

Think about this:

How often do you peruse Barnes & Noble or Amazon while wondering how you can help an author achieve his or her personal goals? Your answer, like mine, is probably “never.” I’m happy for authors to earn lots of royalties, but that’s not why I buy their books. I’d bet the same is true for you, too. Let’s examine the good and bad reasons to write a book.

Good Reason 1: Enrich Lives

The first good reason to write a book is to add value to people’s lives. Both writer and reader benefit when a book enables gains in these arenas:

Knowledge. Science books explain how the world works. Business books explain management techniques. History books explain events of the past. Books like these spread knowledge and expertise. Example: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White.

Understanding. Both novels and nonfiction can help people understand themselves and others. They can provide tools and techniques to foster greater awareness and comprehension of their lives. Example: Light in August by William Faulkner.

Entertainment. Novels entertain people by providing adventure, fantasy, and out-of-the-ordinary role-playing. Some people want to be heroines. Some people want to be spies. I want to be a Navy SEAL. To each his own. Example: The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Laughter. Some books brighten people’s lives with humor, mirth, or sarcasm. For me, there’s Fran Lebowitz’s Social Studies and Alice Kahn and Whoopi Goldberg’s Multiple Sarcasm. Another example: Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander.

Stop reading and answer this question: Will your book add value to people’s lives? This is a severe test, but if your answer is affirmative, there’s no doubt that you should write a book.