Why Write a Book in the First Place?

Composition with books on the table

There are Stories to Tell.
I had lunch last week with two old friends I haven’t seen in over thirty years. It turned into a great afternoon, catching up on half a lifetime. Both of them seemed surprised and impressed to learn I have published five books of fiction.

They wanted to know if I am getting wealthy doing it. I had to laugh and tell them no. When they asked, “Then why do you do it?” I said it was because I had stories to tell.

All you author wannabes out there, if you’re writing a book simply to get rich … forget it. Stop what you’re doing right now.

You should only write a book because you have something to say.

If you have a story that inspires or entertains; or information you believe everyone needs to know, then write it. But don’t rush to get something out because you think it will enhance your bank account.

Chances are you will not succeed, and I’m not being harsh. Rowling, King and Grisholm aside, the vast majority of authors don’t make much money from their books … most sell fewer than 5000 copies.

Here are some sobering stats for you (source: Publishers Weekly):

    – Nielsen Bookscan tracks 1.2 million books
    – 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies
    – 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies
    – Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies
    – The average book only sells 500 copies

In the old days, the imprint of the publisher was the main proxy for quality … if you were accepted by the publisher, you passed the test. It still didn’t mean your book would sell.

The self-publishing world has eradicated the filters and barriers the traditional publishing world represented (where editors made the judgments about content and worthiness).

This should be just fine because today, when readers contemplate buying a book, many don’t even notice the publisher. They look instead at audience ratings and reviews.

However, with self-publishing … even more so than traditional … you must start with a very good book … then market it with everything you’ve got. There is no publisher to do that for you.

For many would-be authors, writing a good book is difficult enough.

We’ve all seen self-published examples that fall far short of the mark. Or, not to dilly-dally around the obvious, many of these books fail because they’re poorly written, dismal-reading crap (sorry to be so blunt, but somebody has to be).

Many more fail not because of bad writing, but poor editing, or the total lack of it.

The Key to Success
You absolutely must have good copy editing to succeed. All writers need it, even the great ones. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can edit on your own. You can’t.

I spent many years writing, proofreading and editing copy for publications produced by one of the largest corporations in the world. I know how to do it.

But editing my own work is always a no-no … for the simple reason that when you write the copy in the first place, you quite often see what you want to see when you edit.

Believe me, if you skip this step, the quality of your product will be sorely compromised.

Readers don’t take long to spot the garbage that’s out there … and they will abandon it in a heartbeat.

In order for them to be followers and advocates for what you do, they need to see a true reason, be it talent or style, which makes yours an important story to read. It has to be well written and compelling, adding in a positive way to things that already exist.

Is Your Book Worthwhile?
Think of it this way: readers go to Amazon or visit a Barnes & Noble bookstore and see amazing books written by names they recognize … John Grisham, Ray Bradbury, Lee Child, Stephen King, David Baldacci, Anthony Doerr.

When they see your book, why should anyone give a hoot?

As an indie, to help make your book as good as it can be, get as much feedback as possible from your potential audience before publishing.

Be forewarned. You might not like what you hear. Strangers aren’t necessarily kind. You’ll likely get a host of brutally frank comments. But it is all feedback and input that you can use to understand if your book passes the test.

You should also learn how to improve it, so the work you eventually show the world is the best you’re capable of doing.

However, even if you turn out great work, in the end if you want to be a successful self-publisher, you have to be willing to do the marketing, which can be a daunting task.

Many self-published authors are ignorant of what’s required to get the word out (or they simply detest the marketing process altogether). How do you get your book the viewing it deserves?

Find Your Community
Most new authors think everyone in the world will want to read their book. To be successful, you need to get over that idea, and focus on who will really read it. Segment that audience as specifically as you can.

You want to see what those people do, where they do it, what they read, how they read it, what their biggest celebrations are, and so on. Then figure out how you can connect with them. Do they meet at rallies? Do they congregate at special places? Do they all drink Starbucks coffee?

That last item is not as frivolous as it sounds. The idea is to meet your community where it lives, and reads. After you’ve figured out how you’re going to connect to your community, then start getting the word out.

For example, award-winning author Eddie Price who writes good historical fiction, actually goes in costume to annual recreations of famous battles, where he talks about (and sells) his books to folks interested in that period. He does well with it because he has found his community.

Do you know where yours is?

Build a Platform
More marketing efforts will undoubtedly involve The Twitter, Book of Face postings, LinkedIn updates, and whatever else you can stand to do. Just be sure you have something interesting to say, other than “buy my book.” You want people to like you, after all.

They are far more likely to buy a book written by someone who helps them and whom they like, than from someone who merely bludgeons them to make a purchase.

And remember, marketing and selling a book is a long-distance run, not a sprint. Your publication date is only the beginning of the journey to make your book count.

Good luck.


The Official Book Trailer for “Street Light”

New reviews are in for my latest novel, “Street Light.” One is from Top Book Reviewers and the other is posted by Readers Favorite. I’ll let them speak for themselves.


My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

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2 Responses to “Why Write a Book in the First Place?”

  1. Ron Herron Says:

    In truth, there are far more “John Smith’s” in the bookstore…folks who are not well known. I always used to envy them…going through the traditional publishing routine and getting one of the big box stores to put their lone, dusty book on the shelf. Barnes & Noble (are there any other big box stores left?) will carry my books online, but won’t put them on the shelf, because there’s no major publishing house behind them to guarantee buying them back. I’ve been in independent stores, and I’m still negotiating with an independent B&N, but I got the writing monkey off my back…I wrote award-winners, and published them myself. Still at it. 😉


  2. bookshelfbattle Says:

    I used to go to bookstores, you know back when they existed, and I’d see Stephen King, John Grisham, James Patterson, etc. And then I’d see someone like “John Smith.” And I’d think, John Smith isn’t well known. I don’t know him other than seeing his book on the shelf in the store. There’s only the one dusty copy that looks like its been here awhile. I’d love to be Steven King but if at least I could be John Smith and have someone decide my one copy deserves to be here then at least I could get the writing monkey off my back and check something off my list that I’ve wanted to do.

    Liked by 1 person

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