Sorry, Virginia, There Will Be No Book

After reading the frank discussion yesterday about publishing a book based on this site, I have decided not to invest the effort in writing a book. That’s not to say the response yesterday was entirely negative – it wasn’t, and it’s clear to me that even those who were negative support this site a lot. It became clear after reading through those comments, however, that a book might not be a good place to invest a lot of effort.

However, there were several comments and questions raised that I felt might be of interest to all of the readers, so I thought I would address some of those issues here. If you find this boring or self-serving, just skip this one – I won’t write on this topic again, but I will probably be active in the comments here.

On the future I write The Simple Dollar as a hobby, and it has gone far better than I have ever dreamed. My wife and I have both entertained possibilities on where it could go that could financially support me enough to focus on this and perhaps another blog as a full-time endeavor, but so far we have not reached such a point. That also means that we’re being creative with ideas – what can we do to actually carry it to that point? The book was an idea, but not one that looks like it would make sense to follow. If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear them.

On writing I write a lot of content on here. Consider this: the time I spend researching, figuring, and writing for this site is compressed into about two hours a day, with about another hour for emails and “meta” tasks. That means that I write two or three lengthy posts every single day. Because of that, I have adopted a “blogging” voice that doesn’t reflect what my finished pieces of writing look like. I don’t sweat it too much if I repeat words or split my infinitives on occasion – it’s more important that I write things with passion and urgency and get them out there for you to read. What I’m trying to say is that if you ever read a truly finished piece from me, it will likely sound more … elegant … than a post at The Simple Dollar. The Simple Dollar is meant to be conversational and passionate, like a friend calling you up and chattering away – I think that’s why this site has worked. A book probably wouldn’t read like that – it definitely wouldn’t give you a chance to be a part of the discussion – and that’s another reason why it might be good to put aside the book idea for a while.

On donations Several people said that they would buy a book for no other reason than to give a “donation” to The Simple Dollar. While I appreciate the idea, I would feel pretty terrible if you spent $25 on a book, of which I would get $5 or so, and then proceeded to use the book as a door stop. If you really wish to donate to The Simple Dollar, there’s a donation button on the right menubar (you could donate $5 or $25, I guess, if you want an amount to donate), but I don’t expect or request donations from anyone. In fact, I only put up the button at the request of a few users who wanted to donate and thought that the button would be a good idea.

If you have any further thoughts, comments, or questions, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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35 thoughts on “Sorry, Virginia, There Will Be No Book

  1. Brad says:

    I paid my $10.00, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I’ve had more than $10 of knowledge absorbed into my brain from reading this blog. Now–what do you say everyone really think about how nice of a thank you this would be by everyone chipping in $10. Place a comment saying, “Here’s my $10 and Thanks Simple Dollar.” By the end of the day I hope this guy can go out and buy something really nice for his family. –Brad Franzwa, North Liberty, IA

  2. Jane says:

    I enjoy reading your posts and agree with your analysis of why you believe most of your readers do. I have an idea on how you could make money though and not change anything you currently do anyway.
    Mary Hunt has a website with a daily post that you can sign up and have it emailed to you. The daily post is simply the same blurb that she gets paid by a number of newspapers to write for them.
    I don’t know how you’d go about it but perhaps writing a short personal finance column that can serve a dual purpose by also posting it on your site would offer you a bit of extra income from your efforts without causing you any additional work.

  3. Andamom says:

    One idea is to become a CFP — Your idea and insight are great … and this certification might provide formalized indication of this. (Check out: http://www.cfp.net/) You could then provide individual guidance to people who really do need assistance.

  4. Chris says:

    I still think that as a long term goal a book about your personal experiences as related on this site but published to appeal to non readers is a good idea. The entire idea of self publishing and marketing mostly to current readers of the site doesn’t seem like a great idea though.

  5. Amanda says:

    @ Chris
    I completely agree. Even though it seems that the whole world is online, it’s amazing how many people don’t read blogs and would benefit from such straight-forward knowledge.

  6. Steven King made an attempt a few years back to sell an e-book at a chapter at time. I think he stopped after about 3 chapters because it didn’t work for him. I think it may be time for someone else (perhaps with a big web presense to give it a shot). The best part of this idea is that you wouldn’t have to have the whole book written at once. You also wouldn’t have to sell a huge 600 page book (sorry, I’m not picking up a 600 page book).

    I’m also betting that 10 chapters individually would earn a better profit than what you’d see after all the publishing fees.

  7. Kristin says:

    In response to: “My wife and I have both entertained possibilities on where it could go that could financially support me enough to focus on this and perhaps another blog as a full-time endeavor”
    Start that food blog you occasionally reference… you seen to have the interest, knowledge, and drive, and it would diversify your audience (more readers = more money! At least I assume that’s how it works). Just my two cents.

  8. drew says:

    I wouldn’t buy a $25 book but I don’t buy ANY $25 books. I do buy a lot of $15 books and I barely think twice (a bad habit) about a $10 book. So while $25 is a high hurdle, I would buy your $10 book on buying a 1st home, a $10 book on money and one’s first kid, a $10 book on student loans, etc.

    I’m a huge fan of your blog AND your writing voice and I hope the answer to the book question turns out to be “not yet” rather than “not at all.”

  9. 60 in 3 says:

    Trent,
    I think you provide a good deal of common sense advice. The book just didn’t work for me because it sounded like it would have too much overlap with the site. I don’t care about style (and to be honest, I never had an issue with your writing style on the site) so there was no reason for me to buy a book.

    However, have you consider other ways of leveraging what you’ve been doing? Some examples:

    1. I recently started a small blog. Would you be interested in a bit of consulting to let me know what I’m doing right and wrong? Would you accept payment to design wordpress themes or plug ins?

    2. I’m doing great financially, but perhaps some other people aren’t. Maybe some personal financial consulting would be another source of income.

    3. That other blog you’ve been thinking of. That sounds like a great idea. How about a book review blog? I’ve really enjoyed your reviews and I think I’d be interested in hearing your opinions on more than just finance blogs.

    Anyway, just tossing out some ideas.

    Regards,
    Gal

  10. Amy says:

    I still think you shouldn’t give up on the idea of a book. Something shorter and more focused could be very compelling. You have an interesting perspective on a number of personal finance issues and I’d be interested in seeing you explore one or two topics much more in depth and in a more polished format.

  11. Mary says:

    I really like the idea of wrting in the newspaper. I think people would really like a new approach

  12. Donna says:

    Trent — I stumbled upon your site a while back and I think you have a fabu blog. Obviously, cranking out content is what you’re good at, and I would suggest that instead of trying to distill your work into a book, you instead find another idea (or two or three) and create multiple blogs. Multiple passive income streams = good. Diversification = good.

    I also tend to think your book idea is too early. Generate more web presence and simultaneously write the book (while building the other blog presences I’ve suggested). After a time you’ll have enough web presence to make a book proposal work for you, I’d wager.

    As for me, I’m rooting for you. We come from similar backgrounds, and your written “voice” resonates with me. This blog is, of course, bookmarked, and I look forward to seeing what else you’ll be up to.

    Fondly,
    donna

  13. Lala says:

    Trent,

    I wouldn’t give up on the book idea quite yet. Why don’t you try something between a book and a blog?

    I’ve run across a blog or two – and the authors something of intermediate length (100 pages, but a lot of fluff) for free with follow-up pieces for money. They did not charge excessive amounts of money (25 dollars would be for a best-selling author).

    Anyway, there are probably some people on this sight that would purchase something you write – why not write an intermediate length piece (100 pages?) on how to make a budget or get out of debt, based on your experience? I think some of your points of view/and material you have written on the environment and how to buy still save money are very unique and would also find another niche/market.

    If that works well then you can try follow-up pieces. You would not have to use that special website for a book-make it into a PDF – have a button or link on the side of your webpage to purchase your piece. Since it goes to you directly, you can probably get most of the money so you could even charge 4 to 5 dollars for that short piece.

    You seem to have the ability to write a lot of material quickly – I don’t think it would take much time.

    Experiment. I bet you could find ways to find readers/buyers, and if it does very well, eventually a publisher interested in seeing additional material.

    Good luck.

  14. Jesus says:

    Trent,

    I’ve just read both of your post and I encourage you to reconsider and publish your book. Actually, publish several books. I’ve been in the book industry for the past 18 years and I believe that you’ll gain much with this. Although I only read your blog ever so often, I think you have plenty of ideas and material to put in a book format. Just some quick thoughts.

    - Make each book about 250-350 pages and around $14.95, trade paperback.
    - Don’t use Lulu but rather form your own publishing house or use another print-on-demand company (Lulu is one of the most expensive ones and they all use the same company). Read Fonerbooks.com for more information (I’m not related to them)
    - Each book should tell a story and a single concept (i.e. 31 days to fix your finances, 25 rules, parenting…).
    - Publish one title every 9 to 12 months and see how Seth Godin does promotion. Or in Spanish, Julie Stav.
    - The books won’t sell themselves (even if you go to a traditional publisher). The author sells them. So, promote, promote, promote.
    - The book won’t make you rich, but it’s just a presentation tool, similar to a business card. And you get paid everytime you hand out that business card.
    - Use the book to promote yourself at conferences and other venues where you can earn money.
    - Your readers said that they prefer to get the book at the library, well… sell to the library.
    - Your readers may not buy the book for them, but it’d be a great gift for their friends and family.
    - Publish also an e-book (PDF) and give it for free at your website. Or at least a shorter version of the book. Most of it would be already part of your blog, it’s just in another format.
    - Once you have the book(s), and the blog, go to your local newspaper and offer to write a column. If need be, you may even do it for free. Then, sindicate it.

    I hope you do it, but you may already have too many things on your plate. Good luck, and let me know if I can be of assistance.

    Jesus

    [Disclaimer: My company doesn't distribute or publish the type of book that you are looking to write and publish, so I don't have anything to gain by your book. I just love the fact that somebody is willing to dedicate their time and effort to write a book and offer their insights to other people.]

  15. Brian says:

    My suggestion was going to be similar to Lala’s. I think breaking things down into targeted, but in-depth pieces, and selling them as cheaper e-books could be a good option.

    I would be far more likely to buy a $5 e-book providing a detailed plan for setting up a budget (just as an example off the top of my head) than I would to buy another broad book on personal finance. You could provide much more hands-on, user-focused advice on a narrower topic than you could, or anyone else does, in a broader book.

  16. Jesse says:

    I like the Idea that others are suggesting, of finding a paid journalist position. Don’t most people spend time working as journalists before they write books?

    Regarding yesterday’s post, I think you definitely have skill and talent to write a book but you need to do something that has not already been done. Everything you write about is covered in books such as the Wealthy Barber, the Tightwad Gazette, and dozens of other books. What I think you do a good job of doing is fusing “paying yourself first” and the necessary lifestyle/mentality changes into actual choices and activities that average people can relate to. Personal Finance books tell you to set aside 10% and take it as a given that it will stick. Day in and Day out, you actually dig into into the meat of what makes this possible (and even fun).

    Another thing, I’ve not seen extensively addressed in other PF books is the change in ones mindset from needing to buy all of the best “stuff” whether you need it or not, to carefully examined purchases. I know I gain esteem from my Omega Watch, NorthFace gear, Polo clothes, etc. I’m sure most people deal with this need for prestige and/ or Quantity of purchases (e.g. 100′s of DVD’s) For me, having a high net worth, gives me all of the confidence I need “now”, but some words of inspiration would be helpful in terms of discipline and patience, to those just starting out.

  17. Gina says:

    Hey, if you had asked a hundred people last December if we needed ANOTHER blog on personal finance about 99 people probably would have said, bluck, just what we don’t need. If you want to write a book you should do it– you have something interesting and unique to offer and you should follow your dream. Don’t run your campaign based on a few opinion polls–

  18. David Hunter says:

    What about adding some money sources to your blog, for example using Amazon affiliate to sell some of the books you have reviewed. This seems a natural choice to me and you can use java script to make this unobtrusive by having a drop down box containing a list of books recommended by the Simple Dollar.

    Cheers
    David

  19. martha in mobile says:

    Trent,

    I may be in the minority here, but I actually think you post more entries than necessary. One entry per day would be great. I like to read everything you write, but I find myself skimming because of the sheer volume! Call me simple…but here’s my idea. I liked the suggestion above that you diversify; so how about 3 different blogs with (single) daily postings? You have a cogent, informed, earnest writing style that will work very well across the range of subjects in which you are interested. Good luck to you, and good for you for being so nimble!

  20. Stephen says:

    Trent,
    Remember, and this has come from you before, follow your passion! If you innately desire to be published, keep shopping until you are published. If publishers tell you it’s too big, talk to them about splitting it. But follow your passion! Do something you are good at and enjoy, and it will come back on you ten-fold.

  21. DJ says:

    I personally think the whole premise of asking for donations is a little bit tacky in my opinion. It seems that most PF bloggers do this and then say “in repsonse to readers who wanted to seek donations, I put up a donate button to PayPal…” Sounds like a sneaky way to do it in my opinion. Just voicing my thoughts…

  22. Liz says:

    I just discovered Yaro Starak, who focuses on producing money-making blogs. He teaches his own techniques & strategies as well as interviewing other professional bloggers who have become successful. Check him out at: http://www.blogmastermind.com and http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com

    No need to re-invent the wheel if someone else has figured out ways to make a living by blogging.

  23. Karen says:

    Trent– Perhaps another way to think about your potential book project is this: A book could provide you access to the twenty- and thirty-somethings who would benefit from your advice, but who are not part of the regular on-line community.

    It is easy for those of us who spend most of our time on-line, in front of a monitor, to forget that the vast majority of the American labor force does not. Thus, I suspect you are not getting the information you need about this project by asking your on-line readers: For all of the reasons outlined in the posts yesterday, your on-line readers are not the natural target audience for your book. (Publishing on-line, for this reason, is a less optimal strategy.)

    Granted, a book project aimed at securing a new off-line audience would require a somewhat different marketing approach. Maybe a step in this direction is to secure this alternative audience through magazine articles, or other print media, first, and then move on to the book. (Colleges are especially keen to offer personal finance courses: Could your book be written as a text?)

    Good luck!

  24. Russ says:

    Hi Trent,

    I’m one of the people that commented on repetition in your writing style. It’s not a huge deal, in fact most people probably don’t even notice it (I probably only notice because I am studying a lot of poetry at the moment, and am trained to pick up on repetition as it is a common prose tool for emphasis), but once you do notice it, it sticks out like a sore thumb. For instance, whenever you write about food (which you do extremely well), I’m literally counting the words until you say ‘delicious’. Seriously, it’s used at least once on every food post, and sometimes more than once in a single sentence! Nothing wrong with it as a word, but there are other superlatives you know ;-)

  25. betsy says:

    Trent,

    Have you heard of lulu.com? I recommend that as a start up point for you to publish … they print when orders are received! Great on-demand program.

  26. Tyler K says:

    “On Writing” – I really enjoy your tone, that’s one of the reasons I look forward to reading this blog every day.

  27. Harsh says:

    I have been keeping up with this blog via rss and should say, you are doing great.

    Few comments:

    1. Like the idea of ‘conversation based writing’ as opposed to formal bookish elegant writing.

    2. I would prefer reading atmost 1 article a day. 3-4 a week. Currently I feel I’m missing on something. May be other people have different thoughts.

    3. I like your writing style on the website here, inverse pyramid. Key phrases are highlighted. Don’t suppose a book will have the same would it?

  28. formul8 says:

    I like the simple, rather conversational writing style of this blog. I would not buy a book because I like your format here. Writing a book makes the info contained in it stale the day it hits the shelves and constant revisions are the only way to update it. I like that your topics can be any thing from day to day adds a dynamic to your messages and themes.

    Keep blogging, but save the book for your autobiography when you are blog-famous many years from now.

  29. PT says:

    Trent,

    You blog/write at a madman’s pace. You really should write a book and make some dough with your ability. Heck, you’d probably have it written in a week. Just start with a good outline and find a good editor.

  30. Lois says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for all your ideas. It has definitely been a rough time for myself and my family for a while. I ran across your blog purely by accident (you are the only one I read). I really enjoy your information, and feel the variety of info gives readers a chance to focus on what interests them. I have already started using some of your ideas, and am much more aware of the money I spend. My situation is such that I have already been using many of the hints in your writing, but it helps to reinforce them, and lets me know others are in the same situation. It also helps one to change their mindset, or to give them the conviction to move on. As for your book idea, I agree with another responder who said to follow your passion. Einstein would never have succeeded if he hadn’t failed so many times. I also agree that many people do not see your information as they are not into computers, and the web, using myself as an example. I will admit that I like the idea of smaller books, too, as busy people tend to like things short and sweet, and to the point. I like your writing style as it makes things easier to understand. Again, thanks for all your advice, common sense, and support. Thank your wife, too:)
    Lois

  31. nick says:

    Hello,
    I like the blog, but I’m from the UK and most of your advice etc. does not easily apply to me. The fact that I read it anyway will hopefully confirm that your ‘conversational’ tone hits the spot.
    Anyway – I was prompted to respond because there are many non-book ways of deepening & monetising your site; in the uk we have a guy who setup a similar site called http://www.moneysavingexpert.com about 3 years ago and it now has about 5m visits per month. His site evolved into seperate forums for different topics (getting debt-free, thrifty household tips, time-limited bargain hunts etc.) Check it out (I’m not affiliated with the site except being a fan) – the idea could really work for you if you choose it, as you’ve got just the platform with this blog. If you are interested he makes it clear what he does (and importantly what he does not do) to make money from his site with integrity.
    Hope that helps, and keep up the good work!
    Nick

  32. plonkee says:

    Nick is right about that site. Its amazingly successful, but I reckon it took a while before it made any money. I think that the guy funded it partly from his income as a financial journalist for a while. This might be easier to do in the UK than from Iowa if you want to get into tv/radio/newspapers as nowhere is that far away from London.

    I’m going to guess that you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket by relying on this blog, particularly as its quite new.

    Two hours a day is quite a lot on top of your job, and I guess you’d need to spend the same amount of time on any new blog. I reckon that it won’t pay off for a little while if it works out at all (i.e. you can’t guarantee it would be as successful as this site).

    Being a financial advisor might work out, are you near a sufficient population size that this would be feasible? (The only thing I know about Iowa I’ve read in Bill Bryson books – I’m picturing endless cornfields). The level of any success that you’ve had with your computing business should give you the idea about whether this could work.

    If the goal is to spend more time with your family, perhaps you should be looking into Home Depot as well. You could work there part-time, work on the blog and hang out with the kid(s). Sounds like a nice life (except for the kids, but you probably like them).

  33. Rob in Madrid says:

    I second the motion. A blog dedicated to good cooking and eating which you’ve often alluded to would be a great addition to this one. Considering you post faster than I can keep up with some days I don’t think you’ll have a problem keeping both sites going

  34. Helen says:

    HI Trent,

    A few thoughts from someone who has a website and a book: they are very different audiences. Your blog audience is likely not your book audience. I wrote a book as ‘work for hire’ for a set fee, for a major publisher. The deadline was tight and there were some major frustrations, but it was interesting, and I saw it as a ‘foot in the door’, and it has led to other offers. A friend self-published but he already had a big real-world interface through regular stands at expos and shows in his field, and he was willing to invest a great deal in self-promotion. His book had a very specific target market.

    I enjoy your blog very much and I’d definitely buy your book IF it is suitable for me (ie, relevant to an Australian audience without too much US – specific stuff, like whatevertheheck a 411A or such is)

    What makes your writing different is the personable, friendly, easy-to-read style, and the fact that it is ‘personal finance for the rest of us’. Ie those of us who don’t trust all those sharks who are out to get our money. I don’t want fancy investment negative-gearing strategies that I don’t understand and take loads of paperwork to manage.

    It can take AGES to get a proposal looked at. Have you researched good book proposal style, and have you directed it at the right publisher? You might be better off getting an agent first. Check out the Writer’s Market or Writer’s Digest.

    You’d probably also do well submitting short pieces to regular publications – what about approaching a magazine like Women’s Weekly to do a regular personal finance feature. Your blogging track record shows you can come up with the goods.

    Oh, and I agree with the person who suggested CPA accreditation or the like – quals are always handy!

    You may not want to ‘sell out’ but at the very least you should have an affiliate program (such as commission junction or Amazon) running though your website so you can get a commission from the books you review. If you are up front about it, there is no conflict of interest. IMHO. (If you write a bad review, you can add a link to say “buy this book instead!” to a book you like; that way, you don’t feel there is any pressure to make a positive review.)

  35. Cathy says:

    Hi,
    Where is the donate money on the right menu bar?
    Cathy

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