Imagine if it were possible to produce an independent copy of your mind. This disembodied version of you could move around freely from place to place, even across foreign countries, and communicate fluently in other languages. Imagine it could be multiplied millions of times over, so that entire populations of people who would never have had the opportunity to interact with you could now do so at their own pace, in their own environment. Imagine that entire generations could continue to talk to you long after you are you’re gone.
This is the amazing opportunity that writing and publishing a book presents to everyone, yet few published authors even realize the significance of what they have accomplished. Self-published authors tend to focus on the more visible and immediately rewarding aspects of having produced their work. They approach their book projects with a specific intent in mind, so they overlook any other long-term consequences or philosophical significance to their actions.
The Many Reasons to Write
The reason why you’re writing your book will determine the success of everything that follows. If it is as basic as a desire to see your name and face on the cover and the glory of all that implies, stop right now. Books that exist solely to promote their authors can be successful, but only in a limited domain. It’s more difficult—but more deeply significant—to present yourself with a unique message. Align your words with your values and identity, and your book will be more than mere words on a page.
Of course, the major reasons for writing and publishing a book are well known, and they’re largely economic, not philosophical. A book that sells even moderately well can earn ongoing passive income for many years to come. For many people, it’s the first time they’ve ever had something they created work for them to bring in revenue on its own merits. Even a little bit of money means a lot when you’re earning it in your sleep for something you created years ago.
In addition to earning immediate income from book sales, nonfiction authors are in a position to turn first-time readers into long-term clients and customers of whatever products and services they offer. Maybe you only make $10 on the sale of a single book; that’s okay. The buyer of that book might be so impressed with what they read that they go on to visit your website or contact you about something for which you charge many thousands of dollars. Qualified lead generation can be an expensive process for any business, but writing a good book turns the tables so that you are making money where others usually spend it.
There are countless other ways that writing a book can improve your reputation. Building a brand means more than having a familiar logo or color scheme show up every time someone mentions your name. Personal branding involves creating an association between yourself and an idea (or a series of values). In the deepest sense, it is about showing the world what you stand for, so that people know they can count on you to always be true to your stated intentions.
Your Book’s Hidden Purpose
There is one reason to write and publish a book that trumps all the others that relate to profit and professional growth. Writing a book is the most convenient and effective way to encapsulate a unique, long-form message for mass consumption. It’s the best way to be in many places at once, sharing the products of your mind with anyone who may find them valuable.
The history of education is the history of communication. Whenever we consciously communicate with another person, we’re trying to convince them of something we feel is important. The more complex the idea, the harder it is to transmit it accurately in its entirety.
Until relatively recently in human history, preparing a complex message for mass transmission was basically impossible. We communicated through our words, telling stories one at a time to small groups. Books were the medium that took us out of the age of storytellers and into the age of scholars. Finally, in modern times, this technology makes it possible for anyone to share their unique message with the world.
There are many who will claim that “everyone has a book in them,” if only they are willing to undergo the great effort to get it out on paper in a coherent form. Whether or not that’s true, there are certainly a great number of people who have lived and died who had interesting and valuable things to say, but never got the chance to say them in any meaningful way.
Famously, Isaac Newton left behind more than 10 million words of unpublished written correspondence after his death, on topics ranging from revolutionary mathematical and scientific concepts to controversial views on Christianity. His groundbreaking principal work, Principia Mathematica, was only published at the insistence and expense of his friend and fellow scientist Edmond Halley. Many historians believe that this single publication is most directly responsible for the entire Industrial Revolution which occurred less than a century later.
So you see, the power of publishing your message really can’t be understated.
Finding Your Authentic Message
You don’t need to be a genius physicist to write a good book. Valuable messages can be the result of a lifetime of unique experience or even a single extraordinary event. You might have expertise on something rarely discussed or a unique take on something seemingly familiar. Maybe you’re just better at explaining things than others who have come before you, or the unique combination of your personality and knowledge is entertaining.
You may have even figured out the meaning of life, and now you need a vehicle to convey it. Because of self-publishing, today you have a realistic, and potentially highly profitable mechanism to accomplish this.
You don’t need to be a genius physicist to write a good book.
Even the process of getting your message out on paper can be deeply therapeutic for writers with busy minds who lack the company of other thinkers with whom to converse. Maybe what you have to say makes sense in your head through an assortment of intangible connections and imagery. However, going through the process of verbalizing it can allow you to see the holes that personal bias enabled you to overlook when it was just in your head.
Furthermore, the feedback of early draft readers (and, of course, actual buyers who leave public reviews) can give you valuable insight into how to improve the reception of your message.
Each person who reads what you produce will come away with a unique interpretation of your words. Because no one shares your exact mental state at the time they begin reading, they could not possibly react to your work exactly the way you intended when you wrote it. If they did, they wouldn’t need to read it!
But that’s the magic of publishing. The most amazing part of authorship is seeing how different readers change after being exposed to your work, guided along by how you chose to disclose information in a specific order. You’ve now become a living figure in your reader’s mind. They will never be the same because of you. If your message is truly impactful, people who have never even met you may never forget you.
Creating a message that is simultaneously accurate to who you are and impactful for readers is not easy. It rarely happens as a pure stream of consciousness. More often, it involves countless iterations: outlining the important parts of your message, expanding them, and then checking them against the critical feedback of your intended recipients. The production process takes a long time and forces you to proceed in stages. It can be meticulous and frustrating.
However, done correctly, the final product is a polished work much closer to the exact communication you intended. You will have tailored your message to the mind of your ideal reader.
Whatever you choose to write about, it should be for the purpose of educating your audience. If you’re an effective writer, you will be doing one additional thing, too: convincing your readers to act differently as a result of what they have learned. Changed actions are the true test of transmission and they’re how impact is measured.
Your words mean something when people change because of them. Businesspeople call this the sales process. For everyone else, it’s inspiration.
Owning Your Author Brand
If you have enough creative output, you will become known for your words. People will be attracted to you for more than the topics you cover. They will identify you by the vehicle of your voice. Some readers will start to feel like they actually know you.
Each new book you write is an opportunity for a different kind of conversation. You control of the flow of information to the reader’s mind, and so you guide them to the ideas you consider most important.
The lasting impression you create is your author brand. It’s your intangible, infinitely scalable double, and it persists long after your book has been put back on the shelf. You must not be afraid to stray from simple and commonplace writing styles if your goal is to be memorable. There are always two ways to say something: the way that delivers the information, and the way that makes the reader feel something. Do both, and you will earn a lasting place in others’ minds.
Most people are afraid to limit themselves, and this stifles them. They feel that as soon as they get too specific about anything, they shut themselves off from opportunities. They either never get started, or they follow a path of minimal resistance by emulating other successful authors. They don’t communicate in their own voice because they don’t have the bravery to try. They don’t know how the market will respond. They pay more attention to the people who might not like their approach than the small group that will deeply appreciate it.
As you step away from the norms of your genre, your appeal will be more specialized. You will stand out above the rabble of your competitors because you will be different in a measurable way. Whatever they are, ensure that your differentiating factors are authentic to you. If your tone is direct, let yourself be direct. If you approach writing pleasantly, be the pleasant writer.
Write what you want, how you want, and for whom you want as the person you really are. It’s the only way to be memorable in a sea of writers that expands every day.
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