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Why a Book is Not the Best Way to Tell the World About Your Message

Anna Leinberger Posted by Anna Leinberger, Editorial Manager, Acqusitions, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Anna is a writer and editor for Berrett-Koehler in Oakland, CA. More on killer book proposals and writing can be found on her BK Blog.

Why a Book is Not the Best Way to Tell the World About Your Message

With A Megaphone By A Wall

Coming from a publisher with a mission statement about changing the world, this blog title might confuse some. Our whole existence is ostensibly to change the world by publishing books, so shouldn’t we think that books are the best way to change the world?

Turns out, that would be a no.  Books are one very important element of creating change in the world, but too often I receive book proposals that say “I want to change the world!  Here is my idea for implementing it!” but without any indication that the prospective writer has actually gone out and done anything about the change they want to see.  I have written extensively about why getting out into the field is one of the most important elements of writing in publishing books, so I want to focus more on the reasons books don’t work for message spreading.

The State of the Industry

Hands down, the biggest barrier to relying on a book to spread your message is the fact that people are just not reading them anymore.  That is right- people don’t read books anymore.  Last year, the number of books sold in the USA was roughly the same as the number of citizens.  One book per person.  Compare that to the number of swiffers sold, and you have a very depressing statistic. Although I believe we are reading more than ever- considering that reading words is one of the three biggest methods of transmitting information over the internet- we are doing the bulk of that reading online, not on books, digital or otherwise. When you want to make a point to someone else, you send them a link to a news article or an op-ed. Generally book recommendations are much less likely to end up read by the person they are recommended to.  Literally thousands more people are likely to read a successful op-ed or magazine article than will read your book- and with a 10th of the time and effort, enabling you to write many of these and get your message in front of lots of people.

So What is a Book Good For?

What a book WILL do is amplify your message.  A book is credibility.  If your publicity is good, it will get in front of important reviewers. It can go deeper than an article, and it can start a national conversation.  None of this is possible without the groundwork of having already gotten your message out there- and being the recognizable voice on the topic.  Without that, no one will be willing to put in the time investment that a book demands of its reader.  A book can open doors that would otherwise be closed to a change-maker, but you need to have an established record of successfully making change in other ways before a book will help you. Write articles, find groups who share your dreams, create projects, record podcasts.  These are mediums that people will consume willingly, and will give your message the kind of legs it needs to pave the way for a book later on.