Why work on books? Here are 25 good reasons.

Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop

More than anything else, I work with authors on books. It is endlessly fascinating, deeply rewarding, and occasionally frustrating, but always, always worth it.

I have always loved reading. I have always wanted to write books. When I was 48, I said to myself, “If I don’t write a book by the time I am 50, who am I kidding?” So I gave up my day job and wrote one. It was successful, and I was off.

From that moment forward, I defined myself as an author. Since then I have written, coached, edited, ghost written, and shepherded books. This is who I am.


In a reflective moment, I asked myself, why books? What makes books so different from something else I could do, like writing code, managing people, helping marketers market, or giving speeches?

Here’s an incomplete and randomly ordered list of answers to the question, “Why do I work on books?”

  1. When I am working on a book — writing, editing, ghost writing — I am in a flow state. This is deeply pleasurable.
  2. I love words. So I love writing. So I love books.
  3. I love ideas. Books are about ideas, moreso than any other medium.
  4. I love stories. Books are full of stories. Stories are about people, and people are fascinating.
  5. Books expose you to the world, so you can grow.
  6. Authors are so ambitious, and yet so vulnerable. They need help, and they are worth helping.
  7. When you help an author, you not only help a person to realize their dream, you allow their ideas to get out into the world and do good. This is noble and rewarding.
  8. The world of publishing is perverse and full of hucksters and bad deals and disappointment. Authors need an experienced person to help them navigate that world. That’s a public service to good people.
  9. Book titles are a cool puzzle to figure out.
  10. Book covers are so diverse and interesting. I like working with graphical artists with talent to make a visual icon for an idea.
  11. A book is a big project. It takes months and years to plan, prepare content, write, edit, and publish a book. I like working on big projects where work over a long period generates a really worthwhile result.
  12. The research that goes into books enables you to discover wonderful things. Writing a book is, more than anything else, a learning experience.
  13. Figuring out the right turn of phrase — as an author or as an editor — is transformative. It turns a good idea into a great idea that is easy to spread. That’s a peak experience.
  14. Structuring a book is a puzzle. I like puzzles.
  15. Sitting in a library full of books — like my office — is an immersive experience. You can feel all the knowledge and talent surrounding you.
  16. I like seeing my name on the front of a book. Purely egotistical, sure, but it somehow says, “This is a person you need to pay attention to!”
  17. Books are physical objects. They have a heft to them. They seem substantial; when you help create one, you can point to it and say “I helped make this,” as you would with a piece of furniture. Other acts of creation, like coding software or making video, feel somehow ephemeral by comparison.
  18. Anyone reading a book is in a relationship with the author for at least a couple of hours. This is not true of shorter pieces like articles. Getting my brain to engage with yours for a few hours — well, that seems worth doing.
  19. Books change people’s minds. If they are successful, the reader does things differently after reading them. In other words, they have an impact that matters.
  20. They’re colorful.
  21. They require concentration — to create, to edit, and to read. Concentration is good for the mind.
  22. There really is nothing like seeing a couple hundred copies of your book stacked up somewhere so you can sign them for people.
  23. People who read a book will sometimes contact you and tell you how it made a difference to them. That’s an awesome and humbling thing to experience.
  24. If you work on books, you have an excuse to go into bookstores. And there is no store in the world better than a bookstore.
  25. Books smell good. The older they are, the better they smell.

Go ahead. Add your ideas in the comments. I’m sure there are more reasons to love books that I missed.

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One Comment

  1. What a wonderful paean to books and your relationships with those who create them, especially yourself. I immediately copied and posted above my workspace your “Rules for Radicals” writing real books. Thank you. As someone who knows the magic of coastal Maine more from sailing it than by land, I see that your move to Portland was so right for you and your family. Please, continue sharing the daily varietals of your journey.