Earlier today, Trent at The Simple Dollar explored the question, “Why would a blogger write a personal-finance book?”
Trent does a good job of covering some of the reasons a blogger might write a book: to reach a different audience, to expand on topics, and so on. I agree with him. I especially agree that writing a book is no way to get rich — slowly or otherwise. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’ve earned less than minimum wage from my own book project, and that’s not likely to change. Plus, I gained twenty pounds. Plus, I gained a cranky wife. Plus, I lost mental balance. You don’t write a book for the fortune and fame.
I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I did write Your Money: The Missing Manual, and why I wrote that book and not something else. (Translated: “Why didn’t you write Get Rich Slowly: The Book?”)
It took me a long time to find a book project that made sense. I thought that maybe there was a book in me, but I didn’t know what it was. Over the past few years, I connected with a number of agents and publishers, but it wasn’t until O’Reilly came along with the concept for Your Money: The Missing Manual that everything clicked. When I heard their pitch for Personal Finance: The Missing Manual (which was what they wanted to call the book), I knew that it was a great fit. I knew my wait was over.
Writing Your Money: The Missing Manual offered a number of non-financial benefits, including:
- A chance to present my Grand Unified Theory of money. One of the great things about writing a blog is that I’m able to riff on whatever strikes my fancy from one day to the next. I’m not tied to a Master Plan. If I want to spend a few weeks writing about frugality, I can. And then I can move on to writing about investing or entrepreneurship. The disadvantage of this method is that while there’s a lot of information in the Get Rich Slowly archives, there’s no way to get a unified Big Picture view of the contents. (I’m working behind the scenes to change that, by the way.) With Your Money: The Missing Manual, I was able to spend 300 pages putting all of my best ideas in some semblance of order. I was able to give a sort of Grand Unified Theory of money including all of the best stuff I’ve found over the past five years.
- Space to really explore topics. At the same time, I didn’t want Your Money: The Missing Manual to just be a re-hash of the blog. I’ve read a lot of books by bloggers that are nothing more than “blog-dumps” — they’re a collection of slightly revised blog posts. I intentionally set out to create something that was not just a re-hash of Get Rich Slowly. Yes, there are a lot of the same ideas, and regular GRS readers are sure to recognize some of their favorite bits. But the book is 75% new material — maybe more. It took a hell of a lot of research and writing. You can’t get all of the stuff in Your Money: The Missing Manual on this website. And you certainly can’t get it here in a cohesive, organized fashion.
- Experience with the publishing process. One reason I took so long to write a book was that I was scared. That’s the truth. I was afraid of failing. I wanted my book to be perfect. Eventually, I had to take my own advice about building confidence and destroying fear: I had to just dive in and learn to swim. Most of the time, the only way to gain experience (and to overcome fear) is to actually do something, and this was no different. Along the way, I learned a ton about how the publishing process works. I learned about working with an editor (and how to better edit my own writing), about marketing and PR, and about the economics of the book industry. I also learned discipline. Most of all, I learned that I really can write a book, and that it’s nothing to be scared of.
- Perceived legitimacy. Publishing a book gives a blogger increased credibility with the traditional media. Sure, there are some mainstream journalists that “get” blogging; they understand its strengths and weaknesses. But for each reporter that knows how to tap bloggers for information, there are dozens that think blogs are home to hacks. For good or ill, publishing a book makes a writer “official” in the eyes of traditional journalists. Since Your Money: The Missing Manual came out in March, I’ve had dozens of interview requests, requests that never would have come along without the book. This has given me a chance to spread my message to folks who otherwise would never hear it.
People have begun asking me about a second book, and I’ve been contacted by a couple of publishers regarding other projects. Again, none of them really match what I want to do. Now that I have some idea of the publishing process, I want a second book to actually be Get Rich Slowly: The Book, just as some expected the first book to be. I want the next book to be story-oriented.
So many personal-finance books are written in a vacuum: They’re filled with theoretical Best Practices from economists or financial planners or brokers who don’t really have a feel for real-world personal finance. They don’t take into account the very real impact of human emotions and psychology. I want Get Rich Slowly: The Book to feature stories from real people — not just from me, but from you, as well — dealing with real situations. I want it to highlight successes and failures. I think that’s a large part of what makes this blog unique and useful, and I don’t think there’s another personal-finance book out there like that.
But, as I mentioned recently, I’m on a self-imposed hiatus from Big Projects. I’m taking some time for myself. The soonest I’d start on a second book is January 1st; if I don’t find an interested publisher, it may take longer than that!
So, why would a blogger write a personal-finance book? There are as many reasons as there are bloggers. But for me, it’s because a book lets me expand on my ideas and present them in a unified fashion, because I wanted experience with the publishing process, and because writing the book created perceived legitimacy among traditional media. I certainly didn’t write Your Money: The Missing Manual for the money. In fact, focusing on the book instead of the blog for so long cost me a pretty penny!