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Why Do Freelance Writers Want to Write Books? Why Do You (if you do)?

why do freelance writers want to write booksWhy do freelance writers want to write books? At least it seems most, if not all, writers have a desire to write at least one book.

The reasons run from a vague sense that a book is probably a good way to make money, or at least get better known to a passion about something.

Making money / getting better known

Writing a book only to make money or to build authority – aka get better known – doesn’t usually work very well. While it’s true, writing a book and having it published and sold can build credibility for you as a writer, it’s a whole lot of effort that may or may not get your the results you want.

Sure, maybe we all dream of best sellers, with New York – the picture is from Wikipedia and is of folks waiting in line for a Harry Potter book. It can happen, but it takes a lot of luck as well as great writing and usually a good, executable marketing plan.

“They” say I should write a book

By nature, we writers are great storytellers. Many of us, given half a chance, happily regale anyone who will listen to stories about our life. I’ve even known truly shy writers to get involved with telling their own stories.

One of the results of this storytelling is folks tell us we really should write a book. A non-writer friend of mine tells me with great regularity I should write a book. It’s flattering, fun to hear and an absolutely horrible reason to write a book.

If all or even a good portion of your motivation comes because people tell you you should write a book, please don’t – not unless their urging truly matches your own passion.

While writing a book can be one of life’s great experiences, it’s also hard. There’s no guarantee your effort will be rewarded. None.

Write a book from passion

If you want to write a book, write from a passion of yours. Find some internal vision that will sustain you through the writing process and guarantee the best possible book you can write.

Talking about JK Rowling, her website hints at her passion for the characters and the stories she created. Not directly, but according to her bio there,

She started writing the Harry Potter series during a delayed Manchester to London King’s Cross train journey, and during the next five years, outlined the plots for each book and began writing the first novel.

Think about it – over five years she outlined the plots for her Harry Potter books – that’s dedication and I would say passion. Something was driving her.

The books I’ve written for myself have been like that. I simply had to write them, that’s all.

Could I have been smarter about the marketing? You bet. But the sales of the books aren’t even the point – I had something I needed to say and it took a book to say it. That’s the fun place to write a book from, and I think, the place that is most apt to be successful.

What about writing a commercial book?

Obviously you hope your book will be a commercial success. But when ‘success’ however you define it is your prime motivation I suspect the quality will not hold up.

This seems to be true of both fiction and non-fiction.

For example, with the advent of ebook readers, we’re seeing a ton of free and almost free books in every genre available with the click of a button.

I’ve found that even if I stick to the books with 4 or 5 stars as reviews, rarely results in what I consider a good book. But folks are writing them and apparently getting huge satisfaction from making them available for others to read. By far and away the majority of these will never break out to make any money because they’re no darn good.

Is it possible to write a bestseller and make money without passion? Probably, but I don’t know of any.

Is it possible to have the passion and write a mediocre book? Sure.

Bottom line: When you’re thinking about writing a book, be totally honest with yourself. What’s your motivation? If it’s anything but true, heart-felt passion coupled with a lasting sense that you simply must write this book, I suggest you don’t.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Let me know in comments.

If want more info on writing and publishing books. Join the All About Books email list – it’s free and informative.

Write well, and often,


{ 6 comments… add one }
  • frankenwriter

    Oh if only more people listened to this most excellent advice – I wouldn’t be forced into going to readings and buying terrible books and pretending to like my relative’s really mediocre books! I love her, I just cringe at her writing. She’s busy publishing her 4th book and none of them have sold or gone anywhere. She has a passion for being a writer I guess – but she is NOT a writer!!!!

    • I guess you could slip her this article… she probably wouldn’t get it even if she did read it. Does she read well? Maybe someone will have to tell her the truth, or not. I’m sorry, and good luck.

  • The good news: you can print up copies of your novel (with a little skill) for as little as $4 each on Lulu. (Higher, if you lean on Lulu for help or are verbose.)

    The bad news: anybody can print up copies of their novel on Lulu cheaply. No matter how bad the book is.

    The result: there are jillions of book out there. If you don’t have a platform, no one can find you. No one will slog through thousands of competing works to find yours. You need a thousand or two or three thousand people who already know you and are likely to buy your book.

    Yes, if you have phenomenal luck, you might self-publish successfully. Might. And even if you find a publisher, publishers today don’t do a lot of marketing. It’s mostly up to you. Which gets us back to platform. Or phenomenal luck. Or maybe you just want to write a book. At least you don’t have to buy 5,000 of them, like in ancient times. (1970).

    If you are an expert on some subject and can speak to large groups, you can generate your own market, create a platform, by registering with speakers’ bureaus. Non-fiction is a much easier sell, but you’d better have some credentials to ease the way.

    • Hey, Jorge, forgive the delay in my response… you’re right on! Sums it up very well. Thanks.

  • Hey, Anne
    As we’ve learned to expect from you, your advice is right on track.

    I couldn’t possibly write a book without passion for the topic. However, as you succinctly pointed out, passion alone does not make a bestseller, nor does it even make a good read.

    Count me in on your email list!

    Franny Syufy
    About.com Cats Expert
    Email: cats@aboutguide.com

    About.com | Do More

    • Ah Franny, and I turn to you regularly about cats! We’re a pair to draw to!

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