The Book Business of Writing

Every step in the book publishing process is an aspect of business. Let’s take the author’s role for a moment. Authors provide both a product and a service. The product being obvious, a written book, and the service a bit more subtle, the reader’s reaction.

The product of a book can be easily measured by volume of sales or acquisition of rights. If an author is simply desiring to move product, then the requirement is simple. More units of books need to reach more willing purchasers or the book itself needs to appeal to a wide variety of rights acquisition strategists. The reaction a reader experiences, as a service from the author, is a bit more complex.

The best books, the classics, from picture books to easy readers, MG to YA, high fantasy to non-fiction memoir, provide a service to the reader. These wonderful books birth an emotional, mental, spiritual, and often times physical response. Need an example? Crying. Laughing. Staying awake all night to finish Harry Potter as fast as humanly possible. Camping in front of stores to be first in line to purchase a sequel. Books that sway opinion on politics, religion, child rearing, marital growth, health, fitness, and the like. These effects are much more than a transfer of product. These are services provided by an author. The best services often are supported by others, an illustrator for children’s books, an agent for pushing the story beyond the reach of a traditional author, a publisher who has the pockets to get the story to the consumer, marketers, editors, planners, lawyers, etc.

Writing books is far more than baking a pie and hoping someone will purchase it and consume it. Writing books is a complex business. It’s an infinite argument through the written word that continually aims to provide not just a product but a service to every reader. Readers want this service, nearly always more than they want the product. Readers want to feel something, anything. Readers want to be lifted emotionally, carried physically, challenged mentally, and enlightened spiritually. A book is so much more than a product.

Some authors stop at product, however. They aim to create, market, and distribute lots and lots of product. And often times, they find some level of success through enough hard work and advertisement. Unfortunately, the outcomes are typically the same. They aren’t really remembered. Sure, a handful of greenbacks found their way over to them, but not enough to make a life altering difference. On the flip side, the authors who’s passion for books manifested itself into a service to readers have found tremendous success not only financially but through deep satisfaction in their craft.

I encourage and challenge you to focus your best efforts on the service of a book. Let everything you have, everything you are, be poured into the effect it will have on a reader. Let it fill a family’s home with laughter. Let it bring forth a rush of tears from the single reader. Let it spur someone on to make life changing decisions. Let your book make someone sit back, close the cover, nod their head and say to themselves, “Wow. That was a good book.”

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