July 31, 2009 Tony Morgan

Don’t Write a Book

Since I’ve been involved in several book projects, I’m frequently approached by aspiring writers who are interested in the process. I’m certainly not the expert on getting a book published, but I have learned some things over the last number of years that might be helpful for you.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts for you to consider…

Don’t write a book. Begin by writing in your journal. Write blog posts. Get your article published in a magazine or on someone else’s website. If your idea and your writing aren’t strong enough to be published in a magazine or on a website, it’s not strong enough to be published in a book.

Don’t assume if you have a book, someone will publish it. People who get published rarely go looking for a publisher. Typically, the publishers go looking for the authors. Or, the authors have literary agents who handle those conversations. If a publisher isn’t approaching you about writing a book, that’s a pretty good sign that you probably don’t have a book to publish.

Don’t start out to write a book. Start out with something to say. For lots of people, the goal is to get a book published. That shouldn’t be your goal. Your goal should be to spread good stories or ideas. If you don’t have a good story or idea to spread, you need to start there.

Don’t write a book if you’re not a writer. At the end of the day, if you can’t write you can’t get published. And, just because you can get up in front of people and talk, doesn’t necessarily mean you can get behind a keyboard and write. There’s an art to writing. Some people have it. Most people don’t. (If you have a strong idea or a good story, you may need to find a writer to help you get it published.)

Don’t try to write a book if you’re not willing to get disciplined with your time. Manuscripts just don’t drop out of the sky. You have to outline. You have to draft. You have to rewrite. You have to edit. You have to promote. You have to sell. It takes time. If you’re unwilling to prioritize your time, you shouldn’t write a book.

Don’t plan on making money. Unless your name is Rick Warren or Joel Osteen, you’re not going to make money writing a book. At best, you may get a platform from writing a book. Of course, the challenge there is that you have to have a platform before a publisher will even consider your book.

I know. You’re skeptical. So, for those of you who write books or publish books, I’ll let you chime in and tell me where I’m wrong.

Until then, don’t write a book.

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

Comments (17)

  1. My wife’s written four, and we’d agree. Good stuff, Tony! It does create a platform, but authors aren’t rich! I’ve compared it sometimes to musicians. If you don’t love it, don’t even try. Nice job with the post!

  2. Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt. You nailed it. (Want to trade books.) see: Compassionate Confrontation at Amazon.com.

  3. You’re right on that one! I can agree by experience. Before I got my first book published I had sent proposals to 22 publishers- 23rd worked. But did it? Compared to the time I put into it I made very little. And the editor/publisher made major changes without letting me know- even changing the title- but I could do nothing about it. Now I have one book ready for publication and two more getting close. I love to write but hate the publishing process. Maybe I’ll self publish, but then there’s this whole platform thing. Life goes on.

  4. Heather Armstrong, Editor

    Nice post and very true in many aspects… While I agree with the second bullet point itself, I don’t agree with the last sentence of the second bullet. Most of the somebodies in today’s publishing world started out as nobodies and had to beat the doors down at houses to make it in.

  5. The honesty with which you approach this topic is truly commendable. As with many others, I like the sound of my own voice; however, people are not beating my door down to hear it. Until then my notebooks are still screaming for more thoughts and ideas! Thanks for the insights!!!

  6. Great post, Tony. I especially like the first (Don’t write a book) and third (Don’t start out to write a book) points.

    Have something interesting to say/write. Be faithful to communicate it. Let the market respond.

    I’d also say to publishers: if someone only has one book in them, even if it’s a great one, don’t milk them for more. See point #3.

  7. Writing for magazines also improves skill for writing a better book. Great points. Write well, write often, build an audience. The book will wait and be better for it.

  8. This is dope Tony, as with any form of art that is consumed by the public, density and substance are what make any form of work really matter. You pretty much explain in this post in a very creative, honest, realistic way…

  9. My wife Sharon writes cookbooks and we are on the 2nd one. I would say that unless you have the relationships and people who know you ahead of time, it’s a lot harder. All those people who bought the 1st already want to buy the 2nd. And there’s no money in it. Our best bet has been video and TV.

  10. Great post, Tony. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve written 26 books, and I think your most important point is “Start out with something to say.” I would simply add: “….that hasn’t been said.” Far too much of Christian publishing today is simply what I call “feeding the monster,” releasing books that say nothing new…and don’t say it nearly as well as books that have already been written. I wish we could just shut down most of Christian publishing for about a decade so we can all catch up on the great books we haven’t read yet, before writing and publishing more!

  11. Tony,
    I agree. It seems the same parallel exists in the music industry. Major labels hear about great bands from other great bands.

    Here is a question.

    What percentage of books written with some sort of christian leadership or tone have been written by guys who have ‘established’ themselves and earned credibility; not taking away from their ability to tell a great story..

  12. Mark Allison

    I wish someone had told me this before I wrote my first book!

    I was under the false notion that writing a book would be easy, enjoyable and would make me plenty of money. I was wrong on all accounts.

    Writing a book is difficult, frustrating and generally not very profitable – I would not consider doing it again, and would recommend to anyone to consider this very carefully before putting pen to paper.

  13. Mark Allison

    One other thing to consider…

    Even though you may be a novice writer, even if this is your first book, it will be compared to the ‘best of the best’ in the genre.

    Inevitably this means the critics (and there are many) will rip your book to shreds unless it is oustanding.

    If you dont want to be subjected to this type of very harsh criticism, which can often destroy the success of any book – they do not write one. This comes from experience.

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