Last week, I came across an article that got my attention. How could it not have? Seeing just the title: Dear Entrepreneurs: Please Don’t Write a Book—We’re Begging You, I was hooked. After all, I’ve spent a lot of time telling entrepreneurs they should write books, and now Ryan Holiday, an author for whom I have immense respect and admiration is saying they shouldn’t? I had to know why.
As I got into it, I realized that I actually agree with a lot of what Holiday says in the article. I agree that entrepreneurs should be focused on running their businesses rather than wasting time learning the ins and outs of writing and publishing. I agree that there have been a lot of poor-quality books published by entrepreneurs and other professionals who are not authors by trade. I also agree that there are a lot of predatory publishing companies out there who take advantage of starry-eyed prospective authors and that they should be avoided at all costs.
But I profoundly disagree with his assertion that it all adds up to “entrepreneurs shouldn’t write books.” I think most business owners have an incredible story to tell, and I think those stories should be told. I think the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, both for the business owner writing the book and for the people who read it.
The question is: How do you do it? As an entrepreneur, how do you write a book the “right” way and for the “right” reasons, while avoiding the pitfalls Holiday pointed out in his article?
Don’t Do It Alone
One of the great things about the rise of digital publishing is that the barrier to entry is essentially gone. If you want to write a book, all you have to do is write it. Yes, there is a learning curve to self-publishing (and it’s a big one), but it is possible to do it on your own. The query process—in which you send your manuscript to agents and publishers—is no longer a requirement for becoming a published author.
But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. First and foremost, you are a business owner, and unless you’re on sabbatical, your top priority should be running your business. I’m in the unusual position where writing and publishing is my business, and let me tell you—it is challenging to do both. I am constantly balancing and re-balancing my time between publishing activities and business-running activities.
If writing and publishing is not your business, don’t prioritize it like it is! You have a business that needs your full attention, and there are plenty of people who can help you with the various pieces of writing and publishing a book. Think of publishing like any other professional trade: If a pipe burst in your office or store, you wouldn’t start knocking down walls and trying to fix it yourself, right? No! You’d call a plumber.
Now, when Holiday says in his article, “And you shouldn’t pay someone to write one for you either,” I understand what he means. He’s delivering a warning to would-be authors that nothing in life is free, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a publishing company is telling you that you don’t have to write a single word and that they’ll turn you into a bestselling author, run for the hills! That is not how it works in reality, and if you fall for the pitch, you could find yourself out tens of thousands of dollars and left with a book that may not even feel like it’s yours.
In fact, it’s companies like that that inspired us to start doing what we do at Maven Publishing. We know that there are certain pieces of the publishing process (editing, book layout, etc.) that everyone—even professional authors—need help with. So we do all of that, of course. But because business owners are busy, we know they might need help with other things, even writing. Our goal is to meet you where you’re at so that you have enough help and support to get to the finish line, but to also make sure you’re not paying for anything you don’t need. The process is individualized for everyone we work with, and for every book project.
So, should you pay someone to write a book for you? I don’t know—I wouldn’t. But I think it’s very wise to pay a professional to write a book with you.
Consider Your “Why”
The “why” is just as important as the “how” when it comes to writing and publishing. In his article, Holiday talks about the value of books and how there is a level of respect that comes with being a published author. His argument is that since the traditional gatekeepers of the publishing industry are no longer in charge, people are writing worse and worse books, bringing down the value of all books.
Again, he’s not wrong. Going through Amazon listings can be discouraging. I admit that I’ve said more than once, “Who thought this was a good idea?” in reference to a poorly-written, poorly-presented book. And I agree that it makes me wonder about books in general.
But not all entrepreneurs fall into this category, and the difference almost always comes down to why they wrote the book in the first place. I believe that when an entrepreneur has a genuine story to tell—whether it’s the story of their business and how it became what it is, or whether it’s some particular business philosophy that sets them apart from others in the industry—it shows. Genuine passion comes through the pages and is always a worthwhile pursuit.