My ego just got so big my head can’t fit through the door.
I’m not sure how I feel about it. I should be excited, right? Many of you have this exact dream to publish a book with a well-known book publisher and get a juicy advance.
Let me dissect how I’m thinking about it to help you.
How it went down
I’m at home. Daughter has been screaming for the last 12 hours. An infant with gas isn’t a pretty thing at all.
An email comes in. Looks like a generic “can we chuck a backlink on your website mate and get a freebie” type email.
I nearly deleted it.
Then I saw the famous logo on the bottom. I thought it was a scam. I looked up the website address. Check. I did a LinkedIn search of the employee. Legit. I made sure it wasn’t a middleman. Check.
The emotions I felt were mixed. For years I’ve often felt like platforms such as LinkedIn haven’t really valued my writing. I’m just a dude in an unironed t-shirt who writes on their site and whose content they sell ads against.
They get big dollars. I get $0 and a few likes, plus some email subscribers.
Still, I did feel a rush of adrenaline for a few hours.
I texted a few of my best friends to gauge how I should feel about this. They were wrapped for me.
They sent me kind messages such as “no surprise here. You’re one of the most entertaining dudes online.” My face went red, as I hate compliments.
Hours later the excitement wore off. Who knows if I’ll actually do it.
Most writers dream of this opportunity
“You entitled piece of crap, Denning!”
That’s what you might be thinking. I’ll cop it. It’s my job to stand on this internet stage and get bananas thrown at my big ugly head.
The thing is I always thought in reverse about writing. I thought a social media audience converted to an email list mattered much more than a book deal.
Traditional, romantic writers think in reverse. They think if they write a great book they’ll get a book deal and then get access to an audience.
While it can happen, it’s rare. So I never chased that false idea. It’s always felt it’s like permission-seeking or playing the lottery.
I’ve never written a proper book because I don’t consider myself a professional writer. I just throw words up on the internet for sh*ts and giggles and to share my thoughts.
Writing has always been a form of therapy. It’s how I overcame dark mental illness and rebuilt my life. I’d probably be dead if I didn’t write online.
Why most writers dream of a book deal, I’ve always dreamt of staying alive and doing work I love. That’s what writing is to me. So I feel like I’ve already won the game and never needed a book deal.
Why they offered me a book deal
You might think I got a book deal because of how many views I’ve got or how many silly followers I amassed. Nope.
They offered me a deal because they think I have a unique writer’s voice. For the last 8 years I’ve heard this repeatedly.
Several famous authors have said the same thing. One even asked me if I could coach them 1–1 on how to improve their writer’s voice.
Takeaway: focus on your writer’s voice to stand out.
What if they find out I’m writing retarded
Publishing a book requires many edits. You get an editor.
This scares me because I have no clue about the mechanics of writing. I don’t even know where to put a comma or how to structure a sentence.
I still struggle to know what’s a verb, noun, or adjective. No joke.
Writing a book may expose me to a famous book publisher as being an imposter. I can picture the email now…
“It happened again. He doesn’t even know how to spell. He thinks ‘less’ is the correct word, not ‘fewer.’ Are you sure we should publish his book?”
Fears are a b*tch.
I can write blogs. Even listicles. So what?
Writing a book for a major publisher seems like an advanced form of writing.
All I do is write blog posts. I can write a mean listicle too. Many times I’ve had well-known leaders in digital media criticize me for this.
- They say it’s clickbait.
- Or it’s chasing trends.
- Or it’s growth hacking.
I’ve never thought so. I believe copywriting is a crucial skill, so I learned it to make my writing more appealing.
Apple, Amazon, Tesla — all use copywriting techniques to attract a loyal audience of customers. That will never change and anyone who thinks it will likely thinks they are the smartest person in the room.
But the old guard wants to hate on you for using copywriting.
Meanwhile their own books make $0 in sales.
They think their elitist version of writing is better and that the TikTok generation will magically invest a chunk of their life in some random piece of writing with no subheadings and huge walls of text they can’t read on their phone.
Book proposals scare the pants off me
A good friend of mine recently went through the wringer with a book proposal. The conflicting advice he got made no sense.
They’d tell him to write more like another type of book. Yet that book had 3 reviews on Amazon. Is that really the best example to follow?
The whole process left him disillusioned. This isn’t the only horror story I’ve heard about book proposals. People told Tim Ferriss his famous book “The 4-Hour Workweek” was a piece of garbage.
The only reason his book came out is because he has thick skin and can’t take no for an answer. If it weren’t for that … we’d never have heard of him.
I don’t want to write a book proposal 🙁
A multi-year commitment
Writing a book takes a huge chunk of your life.
Time is the one resource I value the most. I want to spend the next few years prioritizing my newborn daughter. A book could get in the way of that, and I can’t relive her childhood again.
No clue how parents balance goals with their kids.
My silly face in a bookstore. Really?
This is a genuine thought.
Not sure I want my ugly mug in bookstores. The idea of fame, to me, is a nightmare. I don’t want to be known.
I want to make enough money to buy a house in a crappy suburb of Australia and then piss off and play drums again. Is the bookstore life really worth it?
Are there even bookstores anymore?
(Except for Ryan Holiday’s legendary Painted Porch Bookshop in Texas.)
What matters most about books…
Many people have been fooled.
They think the future is tweets and 53-second hopscotch videos on TikTok. Nope. Short-form content doesn’t hold the same value and create as loyal audiences who’ll buy newsletter subscriptions from you.
Books = depth.
And depth always wins (if you can get people to buy your book). If I do write a book it will help to deepen my reader relationships.
It’s also a lower price point than my other offerings, such as courses, which means more people can learn from my life experiences.
A deeper reason to write a book
Another thought crossed my mind.
If I write this book it becomes an example for my newborn daughter. “Look what you can do sweetheart when you put your mind to something and reject the critics.”
That appeals to me the most.
I want to be the best leader and teacher I can possibly be for her. If her dad can achieve a big goal like this, it opens the door for her to dream big, too.
And when I’m gone one day, my daughter can read my book and still remember her father who loved her very much.
(I had a tear in my eye writing that last line.)
It might sound like I’m being a Karen about this whole book thing.
So let me give you the upside. When you build in public as I have with online writing, the right people notice.
People who can change your life buy proof-of-work over proposals, nice words, or big visions. Perhaps if you want a book deal you can write online, too, as a first step — instead of the old way.
I’m a smalltown boy from the Australian outback. Going to the big smoke to write a proper book feels scary. Will I do it? Lots to think about. Right now some level of reflection and gratitude feels most appropriate.
Sometimes when you don’t feel worthy, it gives you the greatest lessons. That’s how I feel about getting offered this book deal.
Perhaps you can relate.