On writing a book

Maybe I should write a graphic novel?

About 6 months ago, myself and a very close colleague of mine signed a contract to write a book for a publisher (of course, all names are being withheld because this is my own view and not any other party’s view).  When our proposal was first accepted, I was jazzed.  I wanted to sing the praises to the world!  I AM WRITING A BOOK!  FINALLY, MY LIFE IS VALID!  PEOPLE CAN ADD ME TO THEIR LIBRARY ON LIBRARYTHING!  I dug deep into writing the book.  Me, my laptop, and Google Docs became great friends.  I thought about nothing other than my topic (which I’m withholding as well because, well, you’ll read this post and see why).

And then I just stopped writing.  Cold turkey.  Here’s what got to me.

  • It’s a book and it’s 2011.  It’ll be published and out of date by the time it hits stores (do those exist anymore?).
  • Can’t it be a blog?  Should it be a graphic novel?  What about an instruction video game?  Or maybe a short movie?
  • Can it be something that transcends a book?  Can it be a living, mutating, always growing document? (also, see above)
  • I’m terribly sorry, but I want this book to be hilarious and informative.  I’m so afraid that it’ll all be edited out and it’ll be boring.
  • Money: Am I selling out by writing a book that others will have to pay for?  Aren’t ideas free?  Isn’t that the reason I started blogging in the first place.
  • I ran out of things to say…and I’m like 40,000 too short of a book.  Can’t it be a library novella?  A grand PDF?  I don’t want it to be all filler and no killer.
  • Sources and citing: That kind of stuff bores me.  Eli Neiburger and Beth Gallaway have already written awesome books full of grand ideas that you should just buy anyways (I mean it!).  What if I just had a chapter in the book that said YOU SHOULD READ THESE BOOKS BECAUSE THEY HAVE AN INSANE AMOUNT OF GOOD IDEAS IN THEM.
  • I want the chapter names to be in all caps.
  • I want the cover to have video game 8Bit representations of the authors riding a unicorn and have the color scheme be rainbow.  We would also have life meters on the cover.

Now, keep in mind, all of these worries are in my head and nothing has been confirmed/rejected/denied by the publishers (who, by the way, have been nothing but amazing and nice).

So what do you think?  Have you wrote a book?  What has been your experience?  If you haven’t, what would you say to perhaps purchasing a book full of stuff that came out of my head and was printed?  Would you buy it or should I just keep blogging and sharing ideas like they were meant to be shared (FREE!)?  Am I a sellout?




  1. Justin,

    E-books are here and they are here to stay. The best resources and materials I read are in electronic format. For instance, I bought this e-book for $9 (the print version is $18) http://books.alistapart.com/products/the-elements-of-content-strategy

    I’ve been reading it on my laptop AND on my iPad.

    The Kindle is the #1 selling thing on Amazon.com and if you’re worried about “selling out” put the pdf version of your book on a torrent site and let people get it for free.

    Also, if you make your book into an iPad app, you can have interactive features and all the dancing robots to your heart’s content.

    Write your book. Write your blog. Keep producing content. Whether people pay for your ideas or not, you’re getting them out there, and that’s all that matters.



  2. I think you are experiencing what is known in the trade as “author neurosis”.

    I have a drawer full of dark chocolate for this very purpose.

    Eat the chocolate and repeat to yourself: “This, too, shall pass.”

    And then get back to writing.

  3. What about pulling a Cory Doctorow and offering the book for free as an ebook, alongside traditional publishing models.

    Also, the picture with this post should totally be the cover.

  4. You do it because damn it, it’s important to DO SOMETHING. And you can blog as well as write.

    I made sure to address that issue in the contract with my publishers, because Strange Maine (the blog) is all about the free dissemination of information. You can have both worlds. And books are important, to a lot of people. Just because things are changing doesn’t invalidate them.

  5. I agree with the Cory Doctorow idea mentioned by Kate. Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear and others are doing a similar model with the Mongoliad collaboration.

    There still is a place for books – sometimes for bigger ideas, sometimes for detail.

    Could you explore different ways of moving your writing forward? Brainstorming for 15 minutes a day, then 20, then 30… Writing down, and saving, edit later – not as you are actually writing or you will lose good ideas. Try dot points not sentences. When you are looking back at what you have written a particular format may seem better than another, and you could end up with a few blog posts as well as a book out of this.

    Write the book you want to write, and then talk to the publishers. You have said they have been amazing so far – they may continue to be. Give them the benefit of the doubt. They signed you for the kind of book you would write, not the kind of book someone else would write. Keep hopeful.

    • Nice. Thank you Ellen. I’m really inspired by this:

      “Could you explore different ways of moving your writing forward? Brainstorming for 15 minutes a day, then 20, then 30… Writing down, and saving, edit later – not as you are actually writing or you will lose good ideas.”

      I think I got into the habit of writing the FINISHED book before it was actually finished.

      Thank you!

  6. I see nothing wrong with choosing to share your ideas for free, or to sell them. I think that, in large part, it’s the execution/presentation we pay for when we buy a book, not the idea itself — or any sort of artistic medium.

    This may not be very coherent, as this is a topic I’ve only started to broach myself. I’m writing a book — well, a few books, all interlinked and interdependent on one another — and the main question I’m coming across when I dream about publication and being on Librarything and being on a panel at Readercon is how to present my story in a way that makes it worth buying…which begins to open up new problems for aspiring artistic types.

    Maybe this is really reductive, but I say write your book and offer it for sale if you think the material is worth buying, and leave the decision up to the potential buyers, while continuing to blog about the process of doing so. I would probably buy a book of things that come out of your head, but as a nerd more in love with books than with people, I am your target demographic.

  7. I have been thinking about this post as I study to take my final comprehensive exam for my MLS. I keep going over intellectual property rights, copyright, yada, yada, yada…and I think of your question of money – “Money: Am I selling out by writing a book that others will have to pay for? Aren’t ideas free? Isn’t that the reason I started blogging in the first place.”

    Yes, ideas are free and blogs are great, but you also deserve to write a book and profit from it!

    Just my two cents 🙂

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