Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thinking about Writing a Book?

Have you been thinking about writing a book? Most people that I talk to say, "I want to write a book!" when I tell them what I do. Having published three books, I would encourage you to look first at why you want to write a book. Because it is on your bucket list? Because you seek fame and fortune? Because no one else has written on the subject you are passionate about?

The second thing you need to consider quite seriously is who is your audience? Despite what you might think, the answer is not "Everybody!" Even the Bible is not read by everybody. If you intend to make money from your book, then it is important to know who will buy it. Because the reality is that writing a book takes an enormous investment of time and energy, not to mention expense. Yes, there are ways to minimize the cost of producing a book but there is no way to generate a quality book for free.

Because I write books that are geared towards a very specific, niche market I know that my books will not make me rich. Or get me on any best-seller list. And I am okay with that, because I think they contain information that is useful to the market for whom they are intended. But that also means I am going to be smarter about how I approach my books in the future. For example, I have been researching John Murdoch for several years, and have a sizable amount of information and documentation about his life in St. Louis from 1838 until 1880 when he died. But I have to ask myself a) is it enough for a book and, b) who is the audience for the book?

At this point I believe a print book is out of the question due to all of the expenses involved. An ebook might be a possibility, except that I would want to include the maps, deeds of trusts, plats and other documents that really help to tell the story of John Murdoch and early St. Louis history. Ebooks are not quite there yet, with the exception of those in PDF or Apple  product formats.

Gateway Magazine
What I am considering at this point is submitting a story for possible publication in Gateway, the magazine of the Missouri History Museum. On their website they offer submission guidelines, but I also wanted to see the actual magazine to get a feel for what their articles look like. Unfortunately they do not have any past issues online, so I went to the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park yesterday to purchase a copy. What I found in looking at the magazine is that it is only published once per year. I suspect the 2014 issue will be chock full of articles about the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis, so it might be difficult to be published this year. But I believe I can put a spin on the article to make it fit. After all, Murdoch was an early settler in St. Louis.

So if you have a story but are not sure that it is ready to be told in a book, I would encourage you to look at newspapers or magazine as an option for publication. It gets your story out there, and you can gauge interest in your topic to help you determine if a book is something to consider down the road.

While I was at the Missouri History Museum, of course I had to photograph their Cakeway to the West (as well as a few others in Forest Park). If you are unfamiliar with the cake project or all of the other activities taking place in St. Louis this year, head on over to

Missouri History Museum

No comments: