You Should Write a Book!
Several people have commented lately about how their friends and family don’t quite understand the process of publishing. Teri wrote:
“If you even mention an agent or editor is looking at a proposal, they want to know when the book is coming out! Or since my family tends to be supportive, they talk about having a famous relative! Hold on folks, it’s only a proposal and a rejection could be on the way!”
Many of you have experienced similar things. The minute you have an agent, everyone wants to know when they’ll be able to get your book at Barnes & Noble. It can be difficult, and a little humbling, to try and straighten them out on the facts.
There’s another scenario that illustrates how most people really don’t get it about publishing. This usually happens to people who have never even thought about writing. It’s when you’re sitting around shooting the breeze with your friends, telling about something that happened to you, and the friends start saying, “You should write a book!” Maybe it’s because of an amazing incident or an inspiring life journey. Maybe you’re funny or have a way with words. Whatever it is… it causes otherwise totally rational people to begin chanting “You should write a book!” I get several query letters each month that begin with some variation of: “For years, all my friends have been telling me I should write a book. So I finally did.”
Even though most people don’t know anything about publishing, it sure is flattering when they say, “You should write a book!” We tend to want to believe them. If we hear it often enough, we start to take it seriously.
In many cases—yours, probably—it turns out to be good advice. Who knows, maybe J.K. Rowling’s son said to her one day, “You should write a book!” But for many hopeful writers, better advice would have been something like, “You should keep a journal!”
The way I see it, the whole “you should write a book” thing makes about as much sense as watching your friend shoot hoops in the driveway, seeing them sink five in a row, and exclaiming, “You should play for the NBA!” In reality, you know nothing about what it takes to play in the NBA. And five baskets does not a Michael Jordan make.
But everyone is familiar with books. We’ve all been reading them our whole lives. So it’s easy for people to feel like they “know books.” And it’s easy for people to believe there’s nothing difficult or specialized about writing a book and getting it published… after all, so many people do it, right? (It can’t be as hard as training to be a professional athlete.) And people don’t understand the business aspects and the daunting competition, let alone the difference between being able to write, and being able to write something people will actually want to read. Most people simply have no idea what they’re talking about, whether they’re asking when your (unwritten) book will be released or saying you should write a book.
What’s the point of this blog post? I’m not sure! Maybe it just cracks me up that people who know nothing about publishing even say things like, “You should write a book.” Or maybe it’s distressing to me, because it convinces people who are not writers (but surely are talented in other areas of life) to write books and send them to me, making it necessary for me to be the bearer of the bad news… and truly, I hate ruining people’s days.
Let’s just end with this: Are you a writer partly because others told you that you should be? True confessions, now. Was it anyone with knowledge of writing and publishing? Share your story.