This might not work

I’m launching a new publishing experiment. I do so with an exciting thought in my mind: “This might not work.”

The idea of what a “book” is has changed. Many books are 250 pages of filler around one idea.

This is because of printing costs, and old ideas like having the spine display well on a shelf at the bookstore. Old economic rules that are no longer true.

It’s too bad because there used to be a vibrant “pamphlet culture.” Pamphlets powered the English, American, and French Revolutions. They not only helped ideas spread, but they also helped make a living for their authors, who often funded the printing costs for themselves.

For example, Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” sold an estimated 100,000+ copies — one in every five households in colonial America.

Blogs have been compared to pamphlets, but I think we’re learning that free models of distributing information aren’t sustainable. They force writer’s hands to “click bait,” “rage porn,” and “fake news.” Or they need to have a pop-over with the hopes that .05% of readers will subscribe and eventually buy a course.

Meanwhile, more and more authors are making a living self-publishing on platforms such as Kindle. You can upload a book of any length and have it ready for sale in hours.

I posit that the thing holding back many authors from publishing shorter works is pure ego. “Books” carry so much mystique. It seems like it’s not a “book” if you didn’t torture yourself for two years of your life, and drop to the floor into a heap of exhausted flesh after a highly-coordinated book launch.

Here’s what I hope to be true: Writing a book doesn’t have to kill you. Launching a book doesn’t have to kill you. A “book” can be short. It doesn’t have to be a free blog post for the sole purpose of harvesting eyeballs.

Recently, I was writing a blog post. I wanted to share what I wish I had known before writing my two books, Design for Hackers and The Heart to Start.

But that blog post became very long. Over 7,000 words long. Personally, I would prefer to read such a long blog post on my Kindle, where I could highlight it.

A long blog post makes a short book. So, today I’m launching my new “book” (a short read), called How to Write a Book.

Buy it now on Amazon »

But, this might not work. Let’s see.