Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Don’t Publish Books For The Money

In 1969, Lawrence J. Peter wrote the hugely successful book, The Peter Principle. While a game-changer, it could have easily been reduced to a two-minute sound bite or an article on Medium.

In case you don’t know, The Peter Principle argues that successful employees get promoted, and promoted, and promoted, until they reach a position which demands a skill set they don’t possess. Now the once successful employee is reduced to a bumbling oaf. 

A common example is the seasoned salesman who gets promoted to manager. Sure, he can sell a Celtics jersey to a Lakers fan, but he has no idea how to manage a sales team. So he bumbles around until he grows tired of the job or gets fired.

Even if you never read the book, you can probably agree that Peter’s concept doesn’t need 200 pages to explain itself. Even a blogpost would suffice.

The best non-fiction books, however, do contain a difficult enough message that demands more space and attention than an online article can give. Although a webpage can go on indefinitely, it can’t hold the reader’s attention long enough to deliver a complex idea.

No matter how evocative and eloquent an online piece is written, the siren call of memes and cat videos will eventually pull the reader away. A book doesn’t have that struggle. Giving it plenty of time to tell the reader its arguments.

The kicker?

If you can’t reduce your book to a one-liner, it won’t do well. People demand a blurb. Because without it, nobody knows if they’ll like it.

The trouble with blurbs, excerpts and summaries is that they hardly ever do more than catch the gist of your book. Yet your book will be judged on just that, the gist. Years of hard work reduced to a couple of sentences.

And it gets even worse. 

It used to be you who gave people the snippet of your book. But today, YouTubers and other content creators are giving people the condensed version of your book.

Now people are rating your book based on the CliffsNotes of a stranger. (Sorry, Peter.) 

The point? Publishing books for money is tough.

Unless you’re already making money selling books, don’t try it as a way to pay the bills. Only give publishing books a whirl if you’re in it for fun, building trust, or making a difference.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach