On Publishing a Book—Four Years Later

In 2011, high on being a college senior, I was invited to write a book for my college’s publishing wing on some research I’d been doing on social media and spiritual formation.

I. Thought. I. Was. Amazing.

On paper, it was—I wrote a book at 22, got it published, and get a check from royalties every six months. (Let’s just say it’s usually enough for my wife and I to have a meal at the local diner. I’m not talking Scrooge-McDuck-swimming-in-money royalties here.)

To be honest, I’ve not read the book since it was published. When I try, I usually can’t handle more than a paragraph, because it induces that feeling I get when I listen to an audio recording of my voice: ew. 

Today I spent a couple of minutes Googling the book, and did what I shouldn’t do—read some reviews on Amazon. Here’s what I learned.

Taylor Swift is right: haters gonna hate. Seriously, people are nasty online. Good reviews are even a little tepid: “It was OK.” When it’s a bad review, I sound like a luddite ogre who thinks far too much of himself. Writing a book is hard—getting feedback is harder.

Once the book is done, it’s done. I look back and sometimes feel like people are right: I do sound like a luddite ogre who thinks far too much of himself. When I wrote the book, I was proud, I thought I was all that. I was a second-semester senior at a school of over-achievers given a chance to achieve big when I was given the contract. So of course the book drips with a sense of certitude. The problem is, I would write it differently now, but I can’t. Books are weird because they so reflect where you were in that particular stage of life, and the tone seeps through. Now it’s just awkward because people think of me as the me I was four years ago, not the me I am now: (hopefully) more nuanced, humble, and measured in my opinions.

Writing a book isn’t that big of a deal. People are publishing books all day, every day. What was once a stellar accomplishment, achieved by only a few, is now something any guy with a computer can do. So while writing a book feels like a big deal, it’s not. So if you’re an author, simmer down. If you’re a wannabe author whose blogging like crazy, don’t let a published book be the goal post. Because it will hit the shelves, you’ll cash the advance—and you’ll still be you.

Let’s be clear about something: I am tremendously, deeply grateful to those that picked my book and made it their project. But it didn’t change me the way I thought it would, and I’m still me—living my life, which is a mixture of up and down and great and OK and, sometimes, not great.

But every once in a while, I get a check in the mail and take my wife out to dinner at the diner down the street—and it’s always a good date.

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