Is there anyone who hasn’t written a book (besides me)?

I feel like I can’t shake a stick and not hit someone who has just published a book. It begs the question, “Is there anyone out there – besides me – who hasn’t published a book?” And the obvious followup question arises: “Was it worth it?” And then the next: “Should I do it?”

When I began writing my blog, I wasn’t sure anyone would want to read it. As I continued to write post after post, I found some posts focused on the audience, and others were more about personal expression. Balancing the content so that there is enough of both allows me to continue to connect with an audience and express myself.

That’s not the case with a book. A book is all about the people who will read it. They will spend a healthy amount of time with it, so it shouldn’t disappoint. Orbit Media’s Annual Blogging Survey, now in its 8th year, shows average blog post length to be rising year over year. Still, the per post length for 2021 is estimated to be just over 1,400 words. Blog readers may give five minutes to a post. Masterclass estimates an average book is around 90,000 words depending on genre, or six hours if you did nothing but read cover to cover without a break.

Books also present the need to engage readers’ interests through or between disruptions, to inspire them to return often enough to read through to the end. While a blog post is short enough that it may not fight for attention once a reader begins, reader distraction for longer pieces is real. It’s been attributed to an increasing loss of “reading habit” prevalent in those raised in the digital age, the prevalence of multitasking, and even a fear of missing out. Universities and their faculty are exploring ways to support “engaged and active reading” and to promote a “reading culture” to offset the trend, which has a significant impact on learning.

One thing that many people who feel they have lost the ability to concentrate mention is that reading a book for pleasure no longer works for them. We have got so used to skim reading for fast access to information that the demand of a more sophisticated vocabulary, a complex plot structure or a novel’s length can be difficult to engage with.

“The lost art of concentration: being distracted in a digital world”, Harriet Griffey, The Guardian, October 14, 2018.

With all of the challenges presented by longer pieces, it’s ironic that more new authors than ever appear to be emerging. It’s very difficult to get any reliable statistics on newly published first time authors, but the growth of indie publishing platforms in recent years seems to indicate a growth in authorship. Statista research into 12 independent publishers indicates a median growth rate of about 77% for indie publishers from 2018 to 2020, with some doubling and tripling their sales growth during that period. The pandemic and access to self-publishing platforms is thought to have increased indie-publishing in 2021, as well.

The answer to the question “Should I do it?” is simple for me: If I have something of value to share, then I should. But whether the road to writing and publishing the average book is worth it or not is something into which I have no personal insight. Written Word Media’s 2021 survey of indie published authors found that the median number of books per author was 10. At some point you would think that if it wasn’t worth it, authors would simply lose interest or momentum before reaching those numbers.

In terms of worth or return, it doesn’t appear to be about the money. Most authors don’t make a living on book publishing alone. And the road can be extremely long. Take Nancy McCabe, whose 2020 book Can This Marriage Be Saved: A Memoir was 30 years in the making. So what is it that sustains authors on the long journey from blank page to publication? Was it worth it, and why or why not?

If you’ve written a book, I’d love it if you’d share in the comments below whether you feel it was worth it, and why. It’s the story that statistics alone can’t tell.

14 thoughts on “Is there anyone who hasn’t written a book (besides me)?

  1. Interesting, well-researched, part-personal post, Donna!

    I’ve written two books (one, a memoir, published by a small press; the other, featuring literary trivia, self-published).

    Why did I write them? There was much I wanted to say that couldn’t fit into a blog post. (BTW, my literature posts tend to run about 600 words — I’m well aware of short attention spans and readers’ time constraints.) The hope of selling a lot of copies and making a lot of money was just that — a hope; I knew that was the longest of long shots.

    Was it worth it? I’m certainly glad I wrote the books — after the fact. 🙂 During the fact, it was a mix of thrilling and painful. A lot of hard work.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dave, thanks so much for sharing! I didn’t know you’d written a memoir. Was it easier to write the literary trivia book than the memoir? I can imagine much emotion and self-discovery makes the memoir effort even tougher.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re welcome, Donna! Yes, the trivia book was easier — a lot of research, but the format was very short chapters. 🙂 And you’re right that there’s a lot of emotional stuff going on when one writes a memoir, especially when dredging up the segment of memories that are painful.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks so much, Donna! Glad you like the title. 🙂 And so kind of you to read the book. 🙂 It does take an interesting look at the world of syndicated cartoonists and columnists, in addition to the personal stuff. Sorry about the price — the small press that published the memoir set it high, against my wishes. One of several things that publisher did that disturbed me. I had a much more pleasant experience self-publishing the literary trivia book five years later. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sorry for your publisher experience, but it’s nice to know that you enjoyed the self-publishing route better. No apologies necessary for the price. Really, you give so much to so many in your blog writing. And you put a lot of work into the memoir. I didn’t even blink. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. I don’t think many readers (especially first time ones) would go that long. I also find that if I see very long paragraphs on a blog post I am somewhat deterred too, unless the story is compelling — and there IS a story!! Not just “what I am doing today.”

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Agreed. I preview my blog posts in mobile view, and try to reduce or divide paragraphs that require significant scrolling. I guess the result is that each paragraph has to be good enough to make the reader continue, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

        Liked by 1 person

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