What do these famous authors have in common?
Multiple titles, sure.
Substantial books sales, check.
Earning money from their writing, undoubtedly.
But the one thing you might not realise they have in common is not so much an element of their incredible success, but rather a decaying element of it.
Recently I went to an enormous secondhand book festival, reportedly the largest of its kind in the world.
Books on every topic under the sun. Religion, military history, Australiana, cookbooks, biography, spirituality, dictionaries, travel, self-help, health, art, sport. And that’s just the non-fiction.
In three halls the size of football fields, rows and rows of tables piled with rows and rows of secondhand books await eager readers.
It’s a heart-warming sight to see books having a new lease on life, in such a thriving environment.
As I browsed the $2.50 hall, I saw such great titles on my long long long list of desired authors that I decided to check out the cheapest section. If this kind of quality is available for two dollars fifty, maybe the dollar tables will have some gems too.
And they did. Old editions, scruffy covers, outdated versions, yes, but still the famous authors you know and love and respect.
They all have books on the dollar table at the world’s largest secondhand book fair, the Lifeline Bookfest in Brisbane, Australia.
I mean, come on! Owning that moustache!
But do you think he cared?
In 1976, do you think the thoughts in Wayne Dyers head were...
What if I change my mind about what I’m saying?
What if I write this book and then want to change my message?
What if I don’t know enough to write a book on this?
I can’t speak for him, but I’d bet not.
Certainly, if he did have resistance like this, he got over it anyway. And wrote and wrote, dozens more books in his body of work.
The message I want you to take away from this is that we’re all going to end up on the dollar table.
But that is not a reason not to write, create, produce, express what you have to say right now in this moment.
Often, I come across entrepreneurs and small business owners who are toying with the idea of writing a book but don’t think they can or should. Why? Because they’re worried about saying something that they believe wholeheartedly now, but through their own growth and development will become incorrect in some way.
Certain subjects are particularly prone to this. Ever picked up a computer coding manual from the previous year? How about flicking through a 2006 travel guide in 2017? A marketing guide written anything earlier than a couple of years ago? If you haven’t, then take it from me these books make for hilarious reading sometimes.
Totally and utterly irrelevant!
But worth writing?
Because they contributed to and caused the progress that led us here, beyond the time when they were written. They educated and informed. They performed their function.
We have this idea that books should be permanent, but writing is not a forever legacy.
Writing is as fluid and transient as life itself.
That can be embraced. Life changes. People change. Society changes. Places change. We move. We move on. We transform and develop and progress.
We are relevant for such a brief moment in time. And if our wisdom and knowledge and books do their job and help people, we should be glad that they have become irrelevant, because the world has moved on, hopefully for the better.
The other good news for authors is this...
There are some precautions you can take to give your book longevity.
Here’s what you can do to extend the shelf life of your book.
- Self-publish: By publishing yourself, you have full control over updates. In particular, if you are new to publishing and want to test your material, then self-publish.
- Updated editions: When there is enough content that you wish to change or update, you can create a new version. You don’t need to do this for any tiny typo you spot or if a small unimportant detail or example needs changing. Just when you have something materially significant to alter.
- Go digital: Ebooks are clearly a lot easier to update than print books. Although even new editions of self-published print books are straight forward. Remember that each new edition of a book needs a different ISBN.
- Write evergreen: As much as possible, make sure the content isn’t attached to a timeframe. It’s okay to use specific dates, such as “in May 2017”, but avoid words like “recently”, which depend on the reader knowing when the book was written, or examples that won’t stand the test of time.
Most of all, let go of the fact that this book is your sole legacy and will outlast your lifetime.
Wayne Dyer had over 32 non-fiction titles in his career.
And if one tatty old copy of his very first book ends up on the dollar table at the secondhand book fair, it doesn’t speak to his legacy. It speaks to him focusing on service, changing people’s lives and influencing them with what he knew at the time in the best way he could at the time.
Erroneous Zones is still in print and is one of the top selling books of all time. The most recent edition was published in 2001.
And yet, it’s still on the dollar table.
He didn’t fail.
If anything, it’s a measure of his success.