It’s thought that around 80% of us want to write a book, but of those books that are actually started (and who knows how many people get beyond just thinking about it), 97% are never completed. Which suggests that fewer than 1% of people actually successfully write and publish a book! There are many reasons why that is the case, but one of the biggest is lack of motivation. Writing a book is not easy. It involves time and effort. And quite often, people know they want to write a book, but they don’t ever explore why they want to do it. Yet when you know the reason behind your desire to become an author, you feel more motivated to get on with it and complete the book, because you have a vision in mind of the end result.
However, ask ten authors why they write and every one will have a different answer. Some of the most common reasons to write a book are:
- For your own personal pleasure
- To achieve a dream
- To boost confidence
- To become known as an expert
- As a business marketing tool
- To open doors to new opportunities
- To create a source of income
- To become rich and famous!
- To share your unique expertise, knowledge and experience
- To help other people
So let’s go a little bit deeper into some of those reasons.
Millions of people write simply for the fun of it, with no particular desire for their work to reach a wider audience. And that’s absolutely fine – but I have to warn you that while writing can be a pleasurable activity, writing with the aim of publishing a book can sometimes feel like hard work. Disciplining yourself to sit down every day and write, even when you’re not in the mood for it, can feel like a real chore. And once you let other people see your work, you need to be prepared to accept their feedback – and it won’t always be kind! If you’re a hobby writer who wants to take that one step further, you need to develop a thick skin. Writing is like putting your heart and soul out there for everyone to see, and if you don’t want to expose yourself like that, then maybe becoming a published author is not the right direction to take.
However, once you start to write you may harbour a secret desire to share your stories with the world. Hands up if you wanted to be an author when you were a child? It seemed like such an impossible dream back then, but today it’s within the reach of everyone to have their work published (although that’s not necessarily to say that everyone SHOULD be a published author – but that’s a discussion for another day!).
Being able to say: “I wrote a book; I am an author” is a confidence booster and even now, when technology makes it so much easier for us all to publish our work, it still carries some kudos. Tell people you’ve written a book and almost without exception they will be impressed and want to know more!
Writing a book is also a huge personal achievement because it’s not as easy as people think. Yes, you might have really good ideas, but to actually be able to put those into some sort of order, and then sit down and write enough to constitute a book, and edit it and format it and design a cover and find a way to publish it – that takes hard work, and dedication, and time, and, depending on how you go about it, money.
Another reason to write a book is to raise your profile as an expert in your field. For some strange reason, even if you self-publish your book (and we’ll talk more about that later), being a published author raises your status and sets you apart from all the other dentists / marketers / accountants etc. in the room. Some of my clients use their books as marketing tools for their business – by giving away a chunk of their knowledge for free to prospective customers, they hope those people will appreciate it so much they come back as paying clients. And you know what? It works!
One lesser-known reason is that writing a book opens up opportunities. In fact, many people don’t realise that writing the book can be just the start of the adventure – if you want it to be. From media coverage and book tours to writing commissions, speaking gigs and even whole new business opportunities, writing a book can be the catalyst to a whole new life. Of course, it’s entirely up to you to look for and take up these opportunities; if you simply want to publish your book and be done with it, that’s perfectly okay too.
So write your book for fun, for the experience, for the kudos, the raised profile and potential opportunities – but PLEASE don’t write a book for money! The average book sells just 1000 copies across its lifetime, so even at the highest level of royalties you may not even cover your costs, once you’ve paid for editing/proofreading, formatting and cover design. Okay, if you’re the next J.K. Rowling then maybe you will be able to retire on the profits, but otherwise, it’s unlikely your book is going to make you much money.
Talking of famous authors, if you’re writing because you want to be famous, then ask yourself what you define as fame. You’re unlikely to become a household name but it’s perfectly possible to become famous in your particular field, if that’s what you want. It’s all a case of positioning yourself as THE expert and making the most of the opportunities that come your way.
For me, the most important reason for writing a book is to share expertise, experiences and knowledge in a way that can help other people. I truly believe we are all wonderful fascinating beings and we all have something amazing to say. “Oh, but there are already a hundred books about starting a business / training dogs / running a marathon,” I hear you say. “Why would anyone be interested in reading mine?”
And my reply is always the same. “People will want to your read your book simply because it’s written by YOU! And there is no one else in this world that has your unique combination of experience, opinion and knowledge, no one. And that means you can say things that no one else has ever said, or ever heard – and you never know, what you say might just make a difference!”
When I wrote my first book, about raising a child with ADHD, my aim was that by sharing my own story, I might be able to help other families. However, the overwhelming thought running through my mind was “Who on earth cares what I have to say, anyway?” Within days of publication, I received an email from a parent who said: “Thank you for giving me hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.” WOW! If that was the only feedback I ever received, I could die happy! Sharing your unique story is one of the most motivating and rewarding reasons to write a book.
I wrote my book simply because it was something I’d always wanted to do. You may have a totally different reason for wanting to become an author – and if it’s not on my list, please do let me know your motivation for writing!
Thanks to Unsplash for the image