When you encounter a person who is an incredibly talented woodworker, designer and teacher, it’s natural to wonder, “Why hasn’t this person written a book and become a famous author?”
I’ve met a lot of these people. I’ve attempted to get some of them to write a book. I’ve succeeded a few times and failed at least 100 times in my efforts. The next time you think, “Why doesn’t this person write a book?” here are some reasons I have encountered in my career.
- They are perfectly happy with their life. They are plenty busy. They make enough money. They are not interested in becoming better known. You can’t argue with this. Writing a book can make you and your family miserable for a couple years.
- They don’t have the organizational skills, focus and stamina to complete a book. A good book can require two years of work. It’s easy to get distracted or bored by the project. Especially if your day job is already a challenge.
- They have no confidence in their writing skills and they fear the book will not find an audience. Basically, fear of failure. A related reason: The person is functionally illiterate. This is more common than you think. The smartest person I’ve met in my life was functionally illiterate. Writing a book will expose this fact to others, which can be embarrassing.
- They know they have a problem calling a project “finished.” They will work and work on it, and it will never be good enough to release to the world.
- They cannot afford to gamble spending two years on a project that might only pay them pennies on the hour. Many books do not make economic sense. If you do the math, it’s easy to conclude that only successful authors can afford to write books (a paradox).
- They aren’t interested in sharing their methods of work with the entire world. Some authors fear their furniture business will be ruined if they share plans and their real methods with the public (John Brown was this way).
- They feel like a fraud for some reason, perhaps a valid or invalid reason. Writing a book will expose them.
- They distrust publishers. It’s a fair criticism; a lot of them are snakes.
- The person is a complete jackass. Publishing a book is a team effort. If the author cannot take constructive criticism or they belittle everyone else in the project, their book is unlikely to be born.
I’m sure there are other reasons I haven’t yet encountered. Bottom line: It takes a special kind of maniacal, well-organized, generous optimist to write a book. Oh, and they have to have some talent, too. Honestly, the process is so fraught, it’s a miracle we have any woodworking books.
— Christopher Schwarz
41 thoughts on “Why ‘So-and-so’ Doesn’t Write a Book”
After seeing that book cover, I am going to sell all of my tools and give up woodworking.
I want to design book covers now.
What topics do you think are missing from woodworking texts? Has there been a subject that you haven’t found a contemporary practitioner for?
For anyone who’s interested, Internet Archive has a scan of the book: https://archive.org/embed/artdecorationapp00spof. It has lots of rather breathtaking illustrations.
That was fun to flip through. Thank you for posting the link.
You’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it!
This list is no joke. I am still struggling to wrap my head around the economics of it.
The publisher I worked for on my book with wanted me to create projects, write them and shoot them all in 3 months. That was a simple book and it took me 4 months. If it hadn’t have been for my wife and friends helping, I would have been left with a broken brain.
So true. I have experienced each of these feelings. Instead, I pushed through, set time aside and persevered. One more. Each time I write a book I tell myself it will be my last as it can be very draining. Looking back, this hasn’t been the case, seven books later…lol
Not that I have much to say, but pretty much all of those reasons would keep my from writing a book. But I love to read books. Classics, sci-fi, woodworking, travel, hiking, various things. Just glad SOMEONE is writing them!
Yes indeed. Woodworking and writing are two different skill sets, not unlike woodworking and teaching.
Than their is a lot great books that I love and find informational and I thank you people very much keep on wiring
I wrote and published a very silly science fiction novel which did reasonably well, but the job of writing, editing, publishing, and then relentlessly marketing that book was so erosive to my love of writing that I fear the effect such an effort would have on my love of woodworking. No thanks.
So glad that the ghost of Douglas Adams is a commenter!
My favorite Douglas Adams quote:
I’m still heartbroken that we lost him so young.
“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” – Douglas Adams
Wow. Déjà vu. I can personally identify with your list. Not for writing a woodworking book. I was once encouraged to do porn professionally. Your list really applies to both fields.
I have met you. And the your kind of porn must be VERY specific.
There’s a market for everything.
I love the insights you provide on woodworking, publishing, and business in general.
This list reminds me of Kafka and Virgil.
And some of us are just naive the first time and stupid the next. 😂
So how stupid am I? Duhhhhhhhhhh.
My lifetime dream has been to write a book on restoring antique woodworking tools. Similar to Michael Dunbar’s book, but one that is updated with new techniques. But then I think, why do all that work and spend all that time to sell only 50 books. lol
Atleast you can say you wrote a book. I, for one, would buy one if there really were new techniques, but by the same token I’m not interested in acquiring anymore new tools.
That’s why it’s still burning a hole in my gut as I’ve always wanted to write it. I don’t even care if I don’t make any money doing it.
Then do it my friend, I’m encouraging you to do it and I will buy it if for nothing more than to support you and the new knowledge gained would be priceless. Having said that, not earning any money from it would eat away at you. You have to prepare yourself mentally that there is a possibility of not earning money. Somehow though I believe you will make good coin out of it.
I’d buy your book, so make that at least 51 copies sold.
All joking aside, that book cover is one of the most beautiful of all time.
That’s a beautiful book
I buy woodworking books, subscribe to video instruction and yes even buy high end high quality tools that I really don’t need. I do that just to support talented people to let them continue the craft or business. Plus I am fascinated at how things are made and how different tools work, it keeps my brain energized!
No one in my family is interested in my hobby so I will give everything away someday in the hope I can support someone in the pursuit of woodworking for a living or hobby.
I guess I could have collected old eyeglasses or pez dispensers, it would have been cheaper.
I just hope I can find someone out there who will appreciate what I have collected and restored even if some tools were used or books read. Then when they are done with them pass them on.
I suppose it my way of contributing to the craft as I sure won’t be writing a book anytime soon.
I’m veering a bit off topic, but since several people mentioned the binding and how lovely it is, I thought I’d share a site devoted to the art of bookbinding that I ran into recently. As is usual with artsy things, the French did (and still do) it very well. This is a direct link to a favorite of mine. http://www.virtual-bookbindings.org/tenschert/douceur-mosaic-1745.html
Be prepared to fall into a rabbit hole of wonders if you go to the home page or just start randomly clicking on the numerous links. Someone has done a staggering amount of research but has lots of eye candy for non specialists like most of us.
I’m waiting until I can have every copy hand bound before I write my book on woodworking.
I remember hearing about a few publishers that were a real pain in the ass to work with…….
I’m having anxiety just reading these reasons. That is a wonderful cover.
“A good book can require two years of work.”
Ha! Only two. Mine took more than ten years, and that was just to complete the manuscript. After that there was a period of frustrating dickering about between myself and publishers until you guys at LAP picked it up and ran with it, for which I’m eternally grateful. So, in total, between me typing the first few words and release of the book the gestation period was something like thirteen years.
Everything you’ve written Chris is the truth, and I’m all those, except for 6.7 and 9.
Chris, untold numbers of us remain thankful that you possess all the the positive skills skills to write, teach, and enable others to do so through Lost Art Press! Long Live LAP!
Sometimes I think you are writing directly to me—this is one of them. I’m 4 years in to my book with Lost Art Press. I was chuckling and nodding at a few in the list. Soon…I keep saying. But realistically its the kind of soon when you expect fruit after you plant a small apple seedling.
There is a woodworking book my friends want me to write. I want the book(s) to exist but I know I don’t have the focus to see it through.
I wrote a book yea so many years ago. Then I rewrote it. Then I rewrote it a second time. I’m considering a 4th edition now… please, someone stop me…
I was gifted two of the anarchist’s series for Christmas. Well done! I was inspired. Particularly by the workbench book. The way story and project were woven together was brilliantly executed. That book served to validate some ideas I had rattling around in my head. Then I read your blog post from 9/February. Is writing a book really that heinous? If so, then why bother? What would compel a person to endure such hardships and uncertainty? My conclusion is love. Love of craft. Love of teaching. Love of the challenge. Love of self and the desire to hold that proof copy in hand and say I did that. When others couldn’t or wouldn’t, I did. It seams to me that is a powerful motivator. Am I wrong? Is it enough?
Thanks for your time and attention.
I wouldn’t call the process heinous for me. But writing was my training and I wrote professionally every day for 17 years before I wrote my first book. For most woodworking authors, writing for an audience is a new thing to learn. So it’s kind of like starting your first day as a woodworker and you are going to build a Chippendale secretary. You have to learn EVERYTHING quickly and produce something enormous.
Understood. Thank you.
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