It's been said that 80% of Americans want to write a book someday. Some do it, many do not. Just over 21% of writers are able to sustain a full-time income from book sales alone, according to Statista.
For other writers, they may write a book "on the side" or consider it a "hobby" project that they work on in their free time away from other writing projects.
Sometimes, a book comes from a place completely unexpected, as it did with Walt Meyer, whom I recently interviewed about his new book "If You Weren't Here This Would Not Be Happening: plogs from my life" (Maxm Ltd.).
We first met Walt when he responded to a question about how the Coronavirus was affecting writers. Walt said he had never been so prolific as when he was forced to stop traveling due to the Coronavirus.
Walt says that during the Pandemic lockdown, he started posting stories on his Facebook page about funny and crazy things that have happened during his life. Each day, he posted a different story. People enjoyed the stories so much that after a couple hundred entries, Walt decided to compile a book.
"A friend of mine posted something on Facebook back in March about Charlton Heston, and I responded with my brief odd contact with the actor, but it kept getting longer and longer," says Walt. "Eventually, I ended up posting the whole story on my Facebook page, and then, one thing lead to another, and I ended up writing another celebrity encounter story, but then it just kept growing and mushrooming. I was writing stories about all the odd jobs I've worked over the years to support my writing habit."
During a time when most of us have been unable to travel due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Walt says it was a great escape to relive some of his past trips and adventures from the comfort of his home. "I took so many photos over the years; this gave me an excuse to go through those and pull out the good ones," he says. "There's a lot of photos in the book. So, it's been armchair vacations for me since I can't leave my armchair."
With this new book, Walt says he wants to promote the idea of telling your own story, and being open to new experiences. "It's a matter of being available for things to happen, and going places and doing things, and not being satisfied with watching the world pass you by," Walt says.
Walt's book is published through Maxm Ltd., Walt's small, independent publishing house, where he also helps other local authors publish their books. "I've gone the traditional publishing route and the indie publishing route. It depends on the project," says Walt. "I've been trying to sell one book to agents and publishers for about eight years now. I still send it out. At some point, as a writer, you get frustrated hearing no and running into obstacles. So you just say fine, I'll do it myself."
When deciding between pitching large publishers or going the small/indie or self-publishing route, Walt believes there's a bit more control when writers go small. "When I've dealt with bigger publishing houses on book projects that others have hired me for, the publishers don't generally want to hear your opinion on the book cover or the marketing," says Walt. "With an independent publishing house, you also have more control over when the book comes out, whereas with a traditional publisher, they need to stick with their calendar."
Publishing a book doesn't stop with the writing. Marketing is one of the most important--and least fun--aspects of creating a book. To put things in perspective, Walt says that 99% of first novels will sell less than 500 copies. It can be difficult for new authors to market a book if they don't already have a large social following or connections in the media.
One of Walt's book marketing tips includes finding and exploiting a topic that's already in the news. One of the books that Walt co-wrote for a business consultant was called "The Respectful Leader." Every time there was a news story that somehow hit upon the topic of leadership, the author would send out a press release or contact the media and ask if they'd like a guest to talk about how to handle leadership situations. This can work for many situations, including how Walt's new book addresses all of us going through lockdowns, the current limitations of travel, revisiting old memories, and more. "Think about the elements in your book and just become a part of the conversation," says Walt.
For writers who have the desire to write a book, but consider themselves "too busy" to sit down and write one, Walt says that writing a book can provide writers the chance to tell the whole story. "When writing articles, you're always constrained by a word count," says Walt. "You end up having to cut out a lot of the fun asides and details."
Writing a book isn't like writing an article, however. Walt says that writing a book takes time and patience. "You can't be intimidated by the size of the project," he says. "Just tell yourself that today you'll write two hours, a thousand words, or tell one story."
Click for more about Walt's new book: "If You Weren't Here This Would Not Be Happening: plogs from my life" (Maxm Ltd.).