Way back in 2002, I wrote a book and, as something of an experiment, tried out what it would be like to be an author — you know, more full-time. (Every professor is at least a part-time author.) My book, Getting a Grip on Your Money, was a faith-based approach to personal finance. It’s still available on Amazon and if you’re looking for the support files, I’ll email them to you. Here are a few lessons I picked up from this authoring experiment:
- People think books are a big deal. In economics, journal articles are highly valued and books not so much — but my friends and neighbors were impressed at knowing an author.
- Mass-market books are driven by marketing, not content. In working with my publisher, I was close to signing a contract — my editor told me things looked favorable — and he said he was soon going to get around to reading my manuscript. What? Reading the manuscript was an afterthought? Yes, he explained. The book would sell based on the marketing, not the content. He only wanted to read the book to ensure that the marketing wasn’t wildly inaccurate.
- It doesn’t take many sales at all to zoom up the Amazon ranks. Sell 12 books on a single day and you’ll go up thousands of ranks.
- Publicity sells. I did a talk radio show on a Chicago station and sold a few books that day — and zoomed up thousands of ranks. As the talk show was aired on a delayed basis around the country, I sold even more.
- Websites are difficult. I started a website at plainmoney.com to support the book. It worked well for a number of years but then became highly vulnerable to hacking. For some reason, hackers’ bots got in — nothing good there, no personal information, no credit card numbers. My advice: Unless you’re willing to spend a lot of time on the web, do sites only at places like wix.com and sites.google.com. The major hosts of packages like WordPress basically leave you on your own if you get hacked.