Books Are Not Lucrative
My editor is in my inbox. Again. She gently prods me a couple times a year about writing another book. Or updating an old book. Or writing anything besides newsletters, really.
I’m so resistant.
Writing a book was such a “Should be on my bucket list” notion back when I was in grad school. Before I published a book. Before I knew how much work it would be.
When I was contemplating whether to write it, I was in Indianapolis at a dinner for the keynote speakers of a conference. I was deliberating about this with another keynoter, who told me “Books are your best business card.”
He handed me a copy of his book (yes, he carried copies).
He explained that the book itself won’t make you much money.
Royalties are crap.
Way more recently, I saw this tweet, which validated that things haven’t changed much since then.
By contract, my royalty payments amounted to 14% of sales. Just 14%. For writing the whole damn book (and doing most of the promotion, I might add).
So Mr. Keynoter was saying that the book won’t make you money. But it will open the door for bigger opportunities. You’ll be invited to give keynotes and workshops. You’ll be asked to consult. You can immediately double or triple your prices.
All of those things are 100% true. Publishing a book will not make you rich. You aren’t Stephen King. You don’t get advances. You’ll wait years – literally – after signing the book contract before you’ll see your first royalty check and it’ll be nice but you can’t quit your day job on those dollars.
Writing a book makes you more visible. So if it’s something on your bucket list, the moment you send the manuscript to your editor, you need to start preparing the services (workshops, keynotes, etc) you’ll sell to your new audience.
Books aren’t lucrative.
The opportunities you get from publishing are.
Of course, not everything has to be lucrative. You can write for the pure joy. You can write because you have something to share with the world.
But you don’t need a book to do those things.
See, Mr. Keynoter was advising me at that dinner back before social media became A Thing. Before anyone could start a podcast or a newsletter and grow a following of thousands. Pre-Tik Tok.
15 years ago, books may have been your best business card but now your social media could be even better.
If you want to write, start writing.
Don’t wait for the book deal. Your social media or blog or podcast will likely be the thing that attracts a publisher anyway. So just get to the writing.
Your writing, no matter where you do it, will open up opportunities that make you a lot more money. Writing a book takes months to years of intense focus, patience, and organized thought. Most people underestimate the amount of time and energy required. If you put the same time and energy into your podcast/newsletter/Tik Tok, you’ll get the same opportunities.
If, after reading all of this, you still want to write a book – awesome. Prepare for the opportunities. Get your promotional house in order. Keep writing – that online course, that pitch deck, that story for Forbes.
Once you see that career growth doesn’t come from the book itself, but from the promotion and offers that stem from the book, you might even consider a popular route among many authors I know – self-publishing. Where you keep 100%, not just 14%.