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Today is part two of five in a series on writing, launching and selling your first book, where we are digging into what we learned in the process of writing my first book Living in an RV and what helped this book reach and stay at #1 in RV Travel and Camping.
In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about why you should (or shouldn’t) write a book.
Writing a book is a heavy undertaking. I have very simple criteria for if you should write a book or not. It’s two simple questions:
1. Do you want to write a book?
If the answer is yes—specifically if the answer is still yes when you feel that little seed of doubt that the question really? always plants—then you should write a book.
I’m pretty firm that these are the only two questions you need to ask before deciding to write a book. But in today’s podcast, we dive a little deeper into the reasons why you should—or shouldn’t—write a book.
Why You Should Write A Book
1. If You Want To
Desire to write and publish a book will be your biggest motivator when you’re in the trenches of writing.
Writing a book takes days and weeks and months of relentless pursuit of getting words on paper. Unless you really want to make your book happen, it’s easy to become discouraged or distracted throughout the process. Which is why wanting to write a book is perhaps the most valuable or essential requirement before you decide to write your book. When you hit a wall writing, it’s that dream and desire to be published that will help push you through the stress and the fear. (How obvious is it that I’m speaking from experience?)
If you’re a blogger, you’ve probably thought about writing a book a few times. Actually if you’re American, you’ve probably thought about writing a book. According to the New York Times, a supposed 81% of Americans admit that they want to write a book. That’s 263 million people! Probably you included.
For years, I’ve kept a running list of my book ideas in my OneNote journal (AKA Microsoft’s version of Evernote). I probably have six or seven book ideas sketched out there.
Now choosing which of your book ideas to chase is tricky—especially if you’re like me and you’ve partially written or sketched out multiple books (likely before getting distracted by a shiny object).
I’m a firm believer in timing. While I have a lot of book ideas floating around, it was the right time for the book all about RVing. Our audience wanted it, I had the knowledge and experience, and it was a book I knew I could write. RVing is grown in popularity over the past few years and there are more people than ever considering the full-timer lifestyle. It was the perfect time for my book to be published.
2. If You’re an Expert in Something
Maybe it’s yoga or sailboats or real estate. It’s probably that thing you’re always writing about, that thing people are always asking you about, or that thing you could talk about for three days straight without running out of things to say. That should be the thing you write your first book on.
With over four years of RVing experience now, we get upwards of 15 questions a day from readers about RV life. Most of these questions are the same: how do you get mail, how do you get internet, which RV is the best, etc.
Replying to all of these questions was taking hours out of my week and the need for all of this information condensed in one place was apparent. This was how I knew it was the right time for me to finally write and publish my book. (Plus if you want to get really nerdy, these past two years have seen the best RV sales ever so it made sense to publish the book while the market is hot. A perk of good timing, but not a reason in itself to publish a book.)
Really, you should only write a book if you’re already an expert in something or have experience in an area. If I had tried to write my book after one year of RVing, the result would’ve been very different than waiting for three years of experience. My book is much higher quality and filled with more accurate content because I waited to learn the expertise before pursuing publishing.
If you want to write a book, blogging is the best way to hone your writing skills and grow an audience of readers who will buy your book once it’s published. (We have a free course on how to start a blog here, if you want to get started today!) Blog about your chosen topic, research it, become the expert, build your email list. Then you’ll be set up for when you start writing and publish your first book.
3. If You Want to Create Your First Digital Product
It’s my personal belief that books are the best first product for bloggers to create.
Most people follow your blog to hear your stories or learn from you. With a book, you can combine those two things into an amazing first product. Plus, publishing a book is a million times easier than you think. Whether you go the route of self-publishing on your own website, or if you chose to publish on a powerful search engine like Amazon.
Books are low cost to write and are sold at a low price point, making it the perfect entry-level product for customers.
Plus, you learn a LOT launching your first product. Marketing strategies, copywriting, pricing, customer service, etc. Even though I’ve worked with authors and entrepreneurs on various book and product launches, my book was MY first product launch and it was a totally different ball game. There’s a difference between knowing what you should do and being able to execute on it with your own product (emotions like fear and stress like to get in the way).
Learning the skills behind launching a product is invaluable for entrepreneurs, and because writing books offer such a low cost of entry, it’s a great product for learning these skills.
Why You Should NOT Write A Book
1. If You’re In It For The Money.
There’s a certain romanticism around being a writer. It sounds so prestigious and undoubtedly cool, like you spend your days hanging around indie coffee shops sipping flat whites and writing the next great American masterpiece. But writing books is nothing like that in my experience…though Heath makes an excellent latte.
When I first started blogging, I constantly sought advice from published authors about how long they blogged before writing their book, how they found their niche, how big their email list was, and so on and so forth. They all graciously gave me amazing advice, but this one has stuck out to me the most: don’t write a book for the money.
I’ll admit, I was bummed when I heard that. Without consciously saying it, I pictured authors to have a certain level of prestige, fame, and yeah, money. But as I learned, books notoriously pay very little.
If you have a bigger audience and go the traditionally published route, you can get a book advance and make a little from royalties over time. Most of my friends said their first book advance was $5K. But if you self-publish, you’re looking at getting paid royalities—and as I learned, Amazon pays out 60 days after your book launches, so while my book launched mid-November, I didn’t get a check for my November royalties until the last week of January.
So not only did I not make money for the year and a half I spent writing the book, I also didn’t get paid for two months AFTER I published the book. This was a bit of a letdown, but I had already learned from friends: don’t write for the money! Because you’ll be disappointed.
2. If You Don’t Like Writing
Too many people tell me “I really want to blog, but I hate writing!” If you hate writing, don’t write! There are so many different ways to share your message: audio, video, art. If you don’t like writing, you’re going to hate writing a book. And if you hate the entire process, you’ll likely never finish.
There are options for publishing books if you hate writing. You can hire a ghostwriter or record audio versions of your book and have them transcribed (although that route will require heavy editing later).
There is a difference too between not liking writing and not feeling like you’re a good writer. Heath struggled with this with his book. He will still tell you it “just isn’t good.” I think it’s important to remember that you’ll face similar self-doubt in the writing process.
Just like with traveling, getting married, or having kids, I don’t think there is ever a perfect time for writing a book. Life doesn’t stop when you start putting words on a page and you may never be confident your book will be the success you hope it will be.
But for now, if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I want to write a book,” regardless of if you have a topic, a title, or an audience, then you should write a book!