So you’re thinking about writing a book. As you should, if you know stuff, know how to know more stuff, and know how to get others to know stuff.
There are ethical, valuable programs and ethical, talented people out there that can help you write your book, but there are also programs and people that will take your hard-earned money and give you very little in return.
They make me very angry, these programs and people. Because we all have a desire to communicate our thoughts and ideas to the world, you know? For people to facilitate this is great, but for people to take advantage of it? Pfff. I fart in their general direction.
If you are looking to buy into a “Write Your Book” program, here are the ones you should run away from – fast.
The “I Can’t Believe It Is Butter!”
This program will try to sell you something that is literally too good to be true. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s the world’s best-kept secret. The marketing will be so compelling and intriguing that you’ll buy in, only to find that the advice and training is like Monty Python’s “How To Do It” sketch. Sketch is the operative word here because that’s the only kind of training or information on writing a book that you will get: sketchy.
This is not the kind of train you hop on. Rather, you’re on the tracks, with the train hurtling towards you with tremendous speed and power. When it hits you, you’ll find that you have been divested of many thousands of dollars, and have no particularly useful or new skills or information. Worse still, you’ll have a hundred copies of your book, which, for some reason, no one particularly wants to buy. But here’s a hint at the reason: the useful skills or information they neglected to give you may include the need for market research, or making the writing fit for human consumption. The final insult is that in many cases, as part of the amazing deal you got, they have applied for the ISBN on your behalf. Because ISBN and ownership are connected, this means that they, not you, now own the rights to your book.
The “Best Selling Author”
This program is brought to you by someone who tells you that they’re a best-selling author. They’ve never appeared on any bestseller list anywhere, and all you’ve got is their word… but that’s OK, because they are so good at winning your trust. A well-meaning best-selling author might genuinely believe they’re best-selling because they’ve shifted 100 copies of their book or something, unaware that for a book to count as a best seller it needs to shift at least 5,000 copies. The not-so-well-meaning one may be peddling a book that was written by a ghostwriter long ago, and sold on and personalized by thousands of people ever since, making it a best seller in a weird but infuriatingly literal way. (Often, all this writer has done is adapt this book over a weekend, which means they can then tell you that it’s possible to write a book in a weekend.) Other programs guarantee that you will become the best-selling author. How? By getting you – and other contributors if it’s an anthology – to buy the requisite 5,000 copies, with the idea that being on the bestseller list drives sales. It doesn’t. So then you have to concentrate on shifting the copies, which is a hell of a challenge.
This isn’t my way of telling you to come to me, instead – even though you know I’m one of the ethical, talented people, right? – but my way way of pointing you in the right direction, away from the cons above. There are other ethical, talented people out there who can help you write your masterpiece. And there are books you can read – always books. But now that you know what to watch out for and what questions to ask, you can concentrate on what matters: communicating your thoughts and ideas to the world.