More lawyers should self-publish. Also, fewer lawyers should self-publish. Let me explain.
We lawyers become experts in our areas of practice and learn a mountain of useful information over our careers. It’s natural to share that information with a wider audience by writing a book.
It’s natural, but it isn’t easy. Especially for busy professionals. So when attorneys do write, it’s usually for traditional publishers who can take care of some drudgery and drive the process forward. Bringing a book from manuscript to published-and-marketed work is a huge project; few lawyers take on the entire thing themselves.
But that’s changing. Self-publishing is becoming a real alternative to traditional publishing.
Reasons to Write and Self-Publish a Book
I believe there’s a wealth of information in attorneys’ brains that could help people. But it tends to stay there, only coming out to help clients or other attorneys one-on-one. Writing and publishing can deliver those valuable insights to many more people.
More lawyers should self-publish because lawyers have valuable things to say. And that’s the first, best, and only good reason to publish.
Although having something valuable to say is absolutely necessary, the rewards justify the time and sweat it takes to publish something good. Writing a book can develop and establish your expertise, build your reputation, and provide a superb marketing tool. Lawyers who struggle with marketing can really benefit from writing a book.
Writing is Hard
The thing about writing is: it’s hard. Even Justice Scalia said, “It’s hard as hell.” If writing isn’t hard for you, it isn’t good. So if you’re a lawyer who thinks writing is easy; who can’t follow through on a year-long project; who thinks you’ll just type up a draft that’s “good enough” and self-publish without professional help—please don’t.
You should expect writing a book to take at least a year. Even then, it won’t be easy to find time; you’ll have to be deliberate about blocking time on your calendar and setting word goals. You can’t just pay someone to write for you—the words must be yours.
In fact, you can’t take shortcuts if you want the benefits of publishing a book. Establishing expertise, boosting your reputation, gaining a great marketing tool—all these require not just any book, but a good book. If your book isn’t good—if it’s just “good enough”—you could actually hurt your reputation and put off potential clients.