I learned a lot in writing my one and only book, I Know You’re Dead But I Still Worry About You. My main lesson was this:
- Whenever you are “finished” writing your book — be that the third, fourth, fifth or whatever draft — then sit it aside for a minimum of six weeks, and perhaps even six months, and then edit it mercilessly, adding the important points you missed and taking out all of the fluff and the stuff that was intended to “sound smart and quotable.”
How do I know this? Because now when I read my book, a little over a year after its publication, I realize there are all sorts of useful points that I did not add and I see that there are several places where I tried to sound smarter than I am. I even see spots where I come across as being disrespectful of religion, which was far from what I intended. I had intended to be neutral to the whole issue of beliefs, but that’s not how it turned out.
This point was also driven home to me when I recently read Stephen King’s book on writing, which is where the “six-week rule” came from.
So now I am thinking of doing a second edition to my book. Of course, given that it’s not sold at all well so far, I have to wonder whether it’s worth the effort to me. I’m not a spring chicken anymore, having recently turned 65. I may do it just so I can be more satisfied with the book (in its updated form), but then again, spending the rest of my life trying to tweak my efforts of the past doesn’t sound like a particularly good thing to do.
I also learned, in spades, that one has to work hard to promote a book, and that is something I just did not do and am not inclined to do. I’ve never been much of a self-promoter. Not that I don’t love myself, but I just have this underlying belief that products should sell themselves. I fully realize they don’t but I still believe that a good product will sell itself. So, to those who are interested in really selling books, be advised that you may have to work harder promoting them than you ever worked writing them.
I have other lessons that I’ll likely share in another post. I don’t want to water down the above lessons by adding in a bunch of insights that are much less important.