I talk to a lot of women who say they want to write a book. There is a sparkle in their eyes as they talk about the topic of the book. It's always, 100%, about the work they are doing (or want to do) and how that work includes their passion for helping others. But almost all of them back away when I push them to talk more about the writing.
My book, written in 2004, came about during a conversation with a man I'd interviewed for a story in a local news magazine. I was writing for the local publication and they wanted a story about him and his new internet security company.
He was a techie kinda guy. But, his background was in marketing. I remember his bright smile and the way he tackled challenges without a thought of failure. In his mind he was superman and there was no kryptonite in sight.
We dated for a short time after that initial interview. It was during a lunch date at a local restaurant when he asked what I wanted to do with my life and my answer surprised him.
"I want to write a book," I confessed. I felt as if it were a confession, not a declaration. Being a freelance writer was not as fulfilling as I'd hoped, and helping local small businesses with their website content was also not getting me out of bed in the morning with a smile. Mostly, I got up and did what needed doing. That included networking, which I am not all that fond of (have you read Katherine Patterson's book yet?), although at that time I did it several times a week.
My desire to write a book was a secret I'd not told anyone, yet. I blurted it out to this man and knew it for what it was - the confession that I was wasting my life on work I did not care about, when I should be doing what I love. Writing a book!
"You should write a book," he agreed. I wasn't sure he was agreeing because he thought I was capable of writing a book, or if he was trying to weasel his way into my good graces.
Turns out he was doing both. Smart man.
I told him what I wanted to write about - I wanted to write a book that would help small businesses online work with and sell to women. No one was giving women their due back then. Although I knew women were using the web to shop, they were being ignored in marketing pushes.
He laughed, a good laugh and said, "Great idea!"
"I will write it from the perspective of pulling people out of the 20th century," I told him. "I'll talk about how we don't live in a Dick and Jane world anymore. Jane is not an afterthought as she was in the 1950s. She is independent and confident and she spends online. The small businesses who sell product online should be marketing to Jane, not Dick," I told him.
"I know what you can call it," he said, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "You can call it Dickless Marketing."
After we both laughed uproariously for several minutes, I sat back and said, "I'll do it. I'll write it and I'll call it Dickless Marketing, Smart Marketing to Women Online." And so I did.
The ONE Reason Most People Write a Book
Too many people I meet say they want to write a book to become rich and famous.
Let me correct that, most people say they want to share a story of their vast experiences in life, and that writing a book is their release, that they are sure once the book is written publishers will beat a path to their door and their book will be a best seller, and this will make them rich and famous.
You see how one thing leads to another and another until… the author has become rich and famous, and can now go on speaking tours throughout the country (or the entire world) commanding great fees and addressing large audiences and basking in the glory of having written a book that everyone raves about.
Let me disabuse you of this idea, right now. (yes, this is my angry face)
Writing a book is not a means to wealth and fame. Yes, it's true, your book might be the next best seller on whatever list is most important to you, but it probably won’t be. Your book might attract millions of readers, and pad your bank account with millions of dollars, but it probably won’t. Your book might generate the kind of media attention that gets you on Ellen, or CNN or FOX News, but it probably won’t.
The Vast Majority of Books...
I am not trying to discourage you or make you angry. I am being honest.
I often see anguish in the eyes of women I've said these words to. She is taken aback. She sometimes wipes a tear from her eye. For a moment, she is speechless.
My goal is to help you understand - the vast majority of books written do not become “best sellers”. The vast majority of books written and published do not garner millions in royalties. Few books, in the overall mix of the thousands of books being published every week, make their authors rich.
And yet, I believe many good books, even great books, that sell small amounts but make huge differences in the lives of the people who read them are important. I believe you have such a book in you. I believe if you take your idea, your passion, your experience, your story and put it in print, you will make a difference.
Let's talk about your book. Let's talk about the book I want you to write, despite the fact that you may not show up on the international or national best seller list. I say, best seller lists be damned! Plenty of writing never strives to be among the best sellers, yet is as excellent as any book on any best seller list. I have read my fair share of best sellers and closed the cover of the books only to wonder, Why? How? Why, again?
Not all that glitters is gold, if you know what I mean.
The Delight of a Good Story, Well-Told
Stepping away from the best seller table, let’s peruse the shelves of our local book store, or even more excitingly, the shelves of our local library.
What delights await us there? The vast majority of books we will see are from authors we have never heard of. These are serious writers. These are writers who had a story to tell and told it. It matters not that one book is a business book full of advice on how to be successful in life or business, or that another is a saga of another world where the Queen has four eyes. What matters is the story. The well-told story.
In your book, your story needs to be authentic, interesting, and have a moral.
“The moral to the story is…?” we hear our English teacher intone, during senior year in high school. He then gives away the answer because while he is very smart, he is impatient.
The moral of most business books is – you can do this, too.
The moral of most novels is …more complicated because the human condition, also known as 'the hero's journey', invites a long, serious discuss on morals as presented in novels - which we don't have time for here.
Make no mistake - your book is welcomed and necessary, if you truly have a story to tell. And, your book doesn’t need to be a best seller. What it needs to do is serve its audience. Do that, and you will have a success with your book. You may even create a successful writing career. One where your readers love you.
I will submit here that I read between one and two books a week. Most are fiction. When I am engrossed in the story and it finally ends, I sometimes sigh and wonder what happens next for the characters in the book. That is what you want your readers to feel. Yes, even if the book is non-fiction.
You want the reader to close the book and say, "I wonder what's next." Because at that point, she is in charge of what's next. If you've done your job, she will be filled with inspiration and energy, and she will make 'what's next' happen.
Riches and fame are fleeting, do not chase them
I applaud all writers but especially those who tackle the writing of a book. It’s a big task. It can take a year or more out of your life. The rewards are many, or few. It all depends on your commitment to the written work, to the story, to your readers. Until you become a household name, and yes, I think some of you will become a household name, you should write your book with a slave’s devotion to the reader. Come to think of it, even after you become a household name you should write with the reader in mind, at every moment.
Your book is not yours. It’s not for you. It belongs to the readers. This is why I often turned away clients back in my publishing days. And why I won't take on a new client, as a book coach today, if they profess to chasing riches and fame.
If you come to me today, all full of yourself and your story, and you tell me your goal is to get on television or in the Huffington Post, to garner amazing speaking engagements for thousands of dollars in speaking fees, because your book is going to be a best seller, I will wish you all the luck in the world and send you on your way. My book coaching services are not for those who put money ahead of people.
The delight of a good story well-told cannot be measured in dollars, or in people shouting your name at the airport.
The delight of a good story well-told is in knowing your experiences can help someone else make a better life for herself.
The delight of a good story well-told is a note, or an email, written by a fan - saying thanks for the sharing of your story.
Tell a good story. If you need help, that's one of the reasons I'm here. Nurturing Big Ideas will help you write a book or build a business. Because writing a book is a business, and it can enhance the current business you're struggling with now.