Best Thing/Worst Thing: Writing a Book

Kicking off my new series with something near and dear to my heart: writing a book.

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I tend not to like anodyne things.

Let me explain.

My favorite bands, movies, TV shows, and books often have one thing in common: They polarize. For instance, I don’t know too many people who are on the fence about Rush. You either love Canada’s finest power trio or hate it.

And that’s fine.

So, in the spirit of polarization, I’m going to be writing a number of posts over the next few months that take something and crystallize it. I’m even using a hashtag: #btwt. I suspect that I’ll cover a wide range of personal and professional topics.

I’ll kick off the series with something near and dear to my heart: writing a book.

Best Thing

It’s tough to pick a single best thing about creating a text from scratch. To be sure, for digital men like me, it feels great to hold one of my books in my hand. I’m not a carpenter or mason. There’s a feeling of accomplishment that I just don’t get from blog posts. And, at speaking events, book signings are great. Few people stand on line to tell you how much you suck.

And writing books helps increase your industry credibility. There are worse things to tell people that you write for a living. (Hey, at least I’m not Ryan Braun or Alex Rodriguez.) Monthly royalty checks don’t hurt, although some people believe that there’s no such thing as passive income.

At least to me, the ability to connect with completely random people represents the best thing about writing a book. I was reminded of this on Saturday here in Las Vegas. I met with a representative from Vista Expo, a conference that I will be keynoting in October. Attendees will receive copies of The Age of the Platform. Without the book, I don’t get the speaking gig. It’s that simple.

Of all of the speakers in the world, a conference organizer picked you.

I’m always curious about a how conference organizer finds out about me, and every speaker should ask that question. Someone at DSS had heard of the book and, yadda, yadda, yadda, there I was. It’s downright amazing to think about the fact that, of all of the speakers in the world, a conference organizer picked you–and bought a bunch of copies of the book to boot. Adding to the ego boost, it feels good to have written a tech/business book that others still deem relevant nearly two years after its publication.

Listening to people talk about how they’re trying to implement your ideas is an extremely powerful rush, maybe even meth-like.

Worst Thing

In a word, uncertainty. Irrespective of genre, writing a book is a great deal of work. Publishing options have proliferated over the past decade, it’s never been easier for anyone to get published. Because anyone can do it, just about everyone is.

Unless your name is Stephen King, getting your book noticed is no small endeavor. Most books sell fewer than 250 copies. All else being equal, authors who sell more copies actively market themselves and their work. If you think that a major publisher will spend thousands of dollars promoting you, think again. And speaking gigs, while potentially lucrative, are not guaranteed.

Put differently, there’s no guarantee that any of this will pay off: interviews you give, the freebies you send, the characters you tweet, the guest posts you write, or the PR firms you hire, and the time you spend. While I write with a purpose, on occasion I envy those with steady paychecks. If they work 40 hours, they’ll get paid for 40 hours. Writing a book offers no such guarantee.

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