Why Bother?

Sleeping_at_the_bookshop_crop“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” –Cicero (Roman statesman, died 43 BC)

“Maybe I shouldn’t even bother trying to get published,” said a writer I met at a writers conference with more than 700 women in attendance. “There’s a lot of competition, and you have to work so hard to build a platform, come up with a fresh concept, and write well. It all seems so hard.”

Have you ever had thoughts like this? As an agent, I’ve even had them myself. After all, there are more experienced agents out there—some who’ve been agenting for decades. Though I don’t have to worry about developing a national speaking platform, I do have to be known. It’s in my authors’ best interest for me to cultivate relationships with publishers and editors. I may not have to come up with a fresh concept, but I do have to recognize one when it comes across my desk. I also have to write well enough to interest an editor in a book proposal.

Why should any of us bother? In the world of book publishing, it seems like it’s all been done before, in one way or another. And then there are the numbers of books being published. Did you know that between the years of 1880 and 1980, there were about 40,000 books published in the English language? That’s 40,000 books in one hundred years. Then, between 1980 and 1990, about 40,000 books were published—in ten years. In 2011, more than two million books were published in the English language (counting both print and ebooks). With all that competition, it’s easy to get discouraged.

What happened to increase book production like this? Most people think it was the internet, and that’s certainly part of it now, but initially it was due to the fact that personal computers went critical mass in the 1980s. Word processing got faster, printing became more frequent, and distribution of printed materials sped up. It seems there is more supply than demand now.

If “it’s all been done” already, why would anyone bother writing one more book? Interestingly, statistics show that 80% of Americans feel compelled to write a book. That’s more than 200 million people. And thanks to modern technology, anyone can publish a book any time they want. Currently, there are 1,748,230 book titles available on Amazon! In order to be found there, you have to write well, develop a fresh concept, and build a platform.

It’s true that doing all of that isn’t exactly easy. But hasn’t life been hard since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden? Sometimes hard things are worth the effort. Here are a few reasons you should (we should) bother trying to get books published.

  1. People love to read. As long as there are readers who will pay money to read, publishers will publish books.
  2. Only you will say it your way. If all the problems in the world were solved, we wouldn’t need another book. But all problems are not solved, and you may have a message that will make a difference for someone who is struggling. Yes, there is a book for every problem you can think of, but not every book says what you would say or says it the way you would say it.
  3. Somebody will. Problems aside, if the world didn’t need another story, people would stop reading and watching movies. But the world is still hungry for stories, and people will always want the experience of a new story. Somebody will write the stories people will love to read, so why not you?
  4. Your heart says so. If you feel called to write a book, and you don’t do it, you’ll never know what could have been. The world will never know what you have to contribute if you don’t write. So follow your heart.

Maybe you won’t get a traditional book publishing contract. Maybe, if you’ve been published, you won’t become a bestselling author. But maybe you will. Your book may reach the multitudes, or it may bless only a handful of people. Why bother? Because your heart longs to know the difference your words will make in the world.

Question: Are you willing to do what it takes to find out what difference you’ll make?

6 Replies to “Why Bother?”

  1. Alice, thank you for this timely and authentic challenge. You have no idea how much I needed to read it and soak it in…seriously, no idea.

  2. Love this post! I have to admit that I have felt really discouraged thinking about the publishing process and the odds of actually being successful. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. I love your last point. I definitely have felt called to write books. That fact alone has kept me pushing past rejections, fears, a flooded market, and my own laziness. Thanks for a great post!

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