Writing Books is Hard
- Joshua M Brown
- June 3rd, 2011
As you prolly know if you are a regular reader here, I am in the midst of penning my very first book. It is a pop-up book on the credit crisis for the 3-7 year old age group complete with fuzzy Bernanke beard and googly-eyed Barney Frank. Just kidding, it's about how products are made, marketed and sold to investors and I think it's going to be a monster when it comes out.
But writing it is not easy. I can blog standing on my head, but writing actual books is a very different thing. I am getting little pointers from my buddies James Altucher, Barry Ritholtz et al but ultimately I'm the one who has to turn these pages in.
I've been treating each chapter like a blog post mentally but it's just not quite that simple. Here are some ways the two art forms differ:
1. Length - I do an average post size of 500 words. The chapter size I've committed to is 6000 words. I've already asked the publisher if I could do double the chapters but do half the words in each as I want every single paragraph to impactful, smart and fun - I'm not one to write words for the sake of writing words.
2. Reaction - When I write a post in the morning, I click Publish, then tweet it and within 20 minutes I know if it was good or just whatever. I have zero feedback other than from the acquisitions editor on what I'm doing here. I'm accustomed to the response from hundreds or thousands of readers within 24 hours! I am totally flying blind. But I'm trusting my instincts, they've gotten me this far.
3. Attribution - Normally I just link to a source of information on TRB and grab the smallest excerpt possible to make my case or fill you in. How does one do this in a book? Will there be hyperlinks in the eBook format? Do I just paraphrase and make a citation? How many sources must I draw upon? What if someone who's written something doesn't want to be cited in my book? Why have I been stuck between a 36 and 38 waist size for the last 9 months no matter how much I workout? So many questions.
4. Humor? - I'm trying to be serious but there's this little man inside of me who keeps jabbing me and whispering "make 'em laugh, c'mon, go for it!". I'm trying to find that balance between a dry textbook and a typical TRB post. By definition, the book should be a bit more serious...but I have to be myself, right? I've settled on satire where necessary, the perfect blend of exposing truths and comedic relief. We'll see if it works.
5. Names - I'm not doing investigative journalism here or an exposé. I leave that to Gretchen and Diana. I would liken my approach to more of a roundup of everything that goes on and has gone on in the history or Wall Street - Main Street relations. I want it to move quickly, be fun and informative. I will be publishing some secret broker culture stuff you never knew existed but I'm not looking to get anybody in trouble or get myself sued. This balance is harder to find than you might think.
6. Shelf Life - Here is what I'm struggling with the most, at least mentally: How do I write this book in such a way that it is a classic, a book that people come back to a year, three years, five years or twenty years from now? I'm flattering myself even by thinking along these lines but bear with me here. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator never went out of style, even if everyone and almost every thing within the book is dead now. This is because the wisdom contained is timeless and the anecdotes were uncannily relatable to almost every generation of traders since. I've got to at least shoot for that kind of resonance, don't I? I'm not gonna be one of these book people that writes something every year just to have a book out. I want to write something that isn't dated immediately and can still be gone back to later on. Am I just drunk on my own bullshit?
Anyway, these are some of the conflicts I'm facing as I adapt my bloggery to a more respectable format. Wish me luck, I'm gonna need it.
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The Reformed Broker is a blog about financial markets and the economy. Joshua Brown is a New York City-based investment advisor for high net worth individuals, charitable foundations, retirement plans and corporations... More.