I enjoyed reading Geoff Livingston's recent post, "Everyone Has Written a Book."
In the post Geoff describes a popular meme at social media conferences that everyone has written a book about social media. However, Geoff doesn't think the meme is true, one, because it’s tough to write a book, and two, it's tough to market the book.
Having written my own book, I agree on both counts. Though I did reuse some of the content I'd developed on this blog and in other places. 90,000+ words in a couple of months is one project I will not be attempting lightly again!
I think part of the secret to success with book writing comes from the design of the book. How you design the chapters, and how content is presented. That influences both the readability and the marketability of the book. For example, if you ask colleagues to contribute, or interview them for quotes, not only will you enhance the value and credibility of the book, but you will also increase the chance of those who contributed, promoting your book because their content is in the book. I think this is one reason Seth Godin writes so many forwards for books, what a great way to gain a little publicity by helping out a fellow author.
Geoff went on to say that personal publishing makes more sense given the declining power of publishers. I think the reality for elite authors is that there will always be publishers willing to publish and market a book. Rather the decision for most book authors has become is it more profitable for me to publish on my own?
Perhaps the real dilemma for the average author is to get help with editing and publishing their book. Sites like Self Publishing Review can help. And Amazon.com has CreateSpace, part of the Amazon group of companies, which helps people self-publish and distribute books.
One question for me I've been thinking about recently is 'are books the right medium?' If everyone is reading online, whether is desktop, mobile, tablet or ebook. Perhaps you don't have to write a book to get published, instead the format, and reader's attention span means writers have to think about alternatives to books in size and scope.
I'm reading a book, on Kindle, called "The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our Brains," by Nicholas Carr, and the research cited in the book suggests we may be all becoming hardwired to reading digital content through our online activities, and this change in reading habits makes us less willing to return to the long form. Interesting, and gives us all food for thought when it comes to designing content for books or marketing.