Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

What Writing a Book Could Cost You

Editor’s note: This is a guest article from Anne Peterson. Anne is a poet, speaker, and author of 42 Bible studies, 25 articles, and her book Broken. Find out more at Anne’s website, blog, or Facebook page.

Okay, let’s be honest. Most of us would love to see a book out in the world with our name on it. We’d imagine book signings, interviews, and all the wonderful comments. You know we would. Or at least I have.

What Writing a Book Could Cost You

Photo Credit: Lívia Cristina via Compfight cc

So what does it take, and what will it cost to write a book? These are two very different questions.

What it takes

Writing a book takes a lot of work. Believe me on this one. You do not just sit at the computer and say to your inner self, Go, watching the words magically run onto the paper, careful not to bump into each other. Words don’t dance onto your screen in perfect rhythm.

It’s more of a stampede, where it’s every word for itself.

Then you have to choose which ones to take out. And they do not leave peaceably. They shout, demanding they have a right to be there.

Wearing the editor’s cap you become heartless. Lining the words up, you dismiss them one by one. Sometimes a whole group. And a lucky few may hear, “I may use you later, I’ll keep you on file.”

Enter technology

As you go through your piece many times then you move onto formatting. Your manuscript has to be presented in a certain way. We’re not handing little dandelions to our moms. Presentation counts.

Plus now we are engaging the other side of our brains, the technical side. And you want it that way. First we let the thoughts just flow out of us, then we choose who stays.

If you have the financial means there are people you can hire for this part. But until you are in that position, it’s your responsibility.

Hit submit

Then you sit with your manuscript completed. Now it’s time to invite other eyes to see it. Fresh eyes. It’s at this point you invite feedback. You’ll hear where your writing stopped flowing. Your mistakes will be illuminated. This is where you’ll learn how teachable you are.

Once changes are made, you’re ready to submit. Resistance is the greatest as you near the finish. Expect it. Fight it with everything you’ve got. Then you’ll move onto the next phase.


Holding the proof in your hand, you’ll see it was appropriately named. It is proof. Proof you worked hard, proof you stuck with it when you felt like giving up. But you’re not done yet.

If there are additional changes to be made, you make them. And if you’re happy with what you have, you approach one more button. Approve.

Once again resistance shows up. And there you sit feeling the weight on you. But somehow you remind yourself why you wrote the book. You ignore your fears and get ready to press the button. Don’t think you can postpone publishing till you no longer feel afraid.

It won’t happen.

Your book is now visible to the world. For some, this is the gravy part. The part you’ve been waiting for. For some. But what if you took Hemingway’s advice?

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
Ernest Hemingway

What if everyone is looking at you all bloody?

Some books are about impersonal topics, or they are instructional. While those books take the same amount of work, writing a personal story is different.

It’s not just your book that is exposed. It’s also you — you are out there. Now before you say, “Well why did you put yourself in your book if you didn’t want to be exposed?”

Let me just say this. Sometimes we’re called to write the painful things.

What it cost

Putting yourself out there will cost whatever you have. Why? Because you’ve taken a risk.

  • People could like it.
  • People could love it.
  • You could receive praises that expand your head like a balloon.
  • You could receive no comments.
  • You could receive harsh comments.

If you’re serious about getting a book out there. You need to expect all of those. And when the harsh comments come, it’s okay. Everyone has a right to their opinion — everyone.

Note: you may find the harshest comments are written from those who are not authors. Just give grace to others. You have opinions too, we all do.

There you have it. All in a nice package with a bow on top. At least, that’s my experience.

Special Announcement: Tribe Writers, my online writing course, will be opening for registration later next week. If you are a writer wanting to build an online audience and give your writing the attention it deserves, this course is for you. To find out more and get a free lesson check out tribewriters.com.

Do you have what it takes? Will you spend what it may cost you? Share in the comments.

About Anne Peterson

Anne is a poet, speaker, and author of 42 Bible studies and 25 articles with Christianity Today as well as her book, Real Love: Guaranteed to Last.

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  • Love it, Anne. Great reminder here to keep going…”Resistance is the greatest as you near the finish. Expect it. Fight it with everything you’ve got.” Thanks!

    • Thanks Eileen, and just so you know I meant every word about the monster of technology. Every word. 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  • Len Woods

    Very funny and very practical, Anne. Great post!

    • Len,

      Just saw your comment now. Thanks for reading and for your response. I appreciate it.

  • I remember all that you describe. It was hard. I have found the selling to be as hard hard as the writing. Selling 1-2 books a day is not what I had in mind when I put forth all the effort.

    • I hear you Tom. Yes, we did have something quite different in mind when we started this journey. I launched a book, Broken, and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. And I’m not just talking about the technology. And since it’s a hard subject matter, I can’t seem to market it in the same way. Still, I know I was to write it. I hope your book reaches many.

      • And yet, I didn’t go into it blind. My expectations were/are low. Still, I can’t help but hope that the right person will find it, like it, and recommend it in a way that helps it take off. There are a whole lot of bad meetings in the world. I’d like to think my book can help solve that problem. Helping the need and solution find each other is the ultimate challenge.

        • Tom,

          I’m doing some research to find the best places for Broken. I don’t mind doing this because it’s that important to me to get this book in the hands of those who need it. Many an important book sits on a shelf unread, dying a death no book should have to die.

          You’re right it is the ultimate challenge. One I’m up for. I did not write this book to sit in my office.

          • Good for you Anne. One thing I thought of was licensing content. Not sure that would fit yours, but it could.

  • joshua

    True. Thanks

  • Caroline Starr Rose

    Even books that might seem impersonal very rarely are. I was telling my critique partner yesterday about some unflattering things I learned about myself with my first book — sitting with it day after day revealed areas in my teaching days where I’d sorely come up lacking. But I had to go to that place of ugliness to write my character’s experience most truthfully. I had to be vulnerable and honest to make the story work.

    • Caroline,

      I agree. There is part of us embedded in any book we write. I’m finding that in the children’s books I have just started writing. How could it not be true.

      Love what you said about going to that place of ugliness. I don’t love that you had to do it, but I love that you were willing to, to help your readers see what ugly looks like.

      Vulnerable is the other key. Writing Broken, put me out there. And honestly, it’s sometimes scary to let others see inside you. And yet, when we’re vulnerable we are giving others permission to be vulnerable too.

  • There are two things that were particularly hard for me when I was writing my book. The first was three paragraphs that took nearly a whole afternoon to write. They were heart-wrenching, a very ‘public’ admission of my hurt and pain. The second was hitting ‘send’ to see the final manuscript off to my publisher. Would it be accepted? What changes would I have to make if it was? Then? It was crazy! There were many challenging moments, but these two stand out a shoulder above the others…

    • And I’m curious, Kimunya, did those heart-wrenching parts make it in the way you wanted it presented. Or if they were changed, did the changes still reflect your intent? And I agree, hitting SEND rattles our nerves a little. Love it when we get a case of the guts and just do it. Then of course doubt says, “What were you thinking? What have you done?

      Yep, writing is really us having dialogue with all our many parts.

      • They did make it in! There was only one change, but it wasn’t significant enough to sweat about it.

        And you are so right! I wrote my book to heal and get release to become what I was created to be. However, and this is a big HOWEVER, the questions you note kept ringing in my head… “What were you thinking? So you think you are significant, eh?”

        Actually, I am working on a blog post titled “Click! Why is Change That Difficult?”

        • How great that it made it in, with little change. That probably felt so good. Those questions are significant because they are repeat questions. Questions that try and keep us back from what we can become. Have you read the book by Bryan Hutchinson, entitled, Writer’s Doubt. It’s excellent. We all have doubts. We just try to silence them, but they are persistent and want to be heard.

          Your post sounds interesting. Would love to read it, as a person that finds change excruciating. For me, it’s because of a difficult upbringing. Any change we had was bad.

          • No I haven’t read Bryan’s book. Should look for it…

            Talking of difficult upbringing, you should get a copy of my book “Down But Not Out: Becoming A Significant Leader At Home”. That’s where I wrote those three difficult paragraphs… And found peace 🙂

            • Just read about it a little on Amazon. It looks good. And I see you also coach in this area. That’s great. I wish you great luck with your book. May it bring hope to those who need their way lit. I found it challenging to get reviews because the subject matter is difficult. You see Broken was about my sister’s death to domestic violence. And then, I added my story as well.

  • “And they do not leave peaceably. They shout, demanding they have a right to be there.” – so true, so true

    • Thanks Jon. Sometimes I wish they didn’t shout so loud. Actually, no one hears them but us. it’s just that when I shout back…well that, everyone hears. Thanks for the read.

  • Well said, Anne. Lots of cost involved. But without cost, there is no value. Thanks for reminding us of both.

    • Kent,

      Yes, without cost there is no value. Thanks for reading. When we look back at our lives and see the things that truly mattered, there was effort expended.

  • Lynne

    Currently writing my first book. At the point I’m letting others see the words on the pages. Thank you for your truth. Your insight. Your encouragment.

    • Lynne,

      Congratulations with being willing to share your words with the world. Scary to let others see your words, but SO worth it. Only you can write the story you’re writing the way you’re writing it. Thanks for reading and for your comments. Go get ’em Lynn.

  • Kurt

    Thanks Anne! Awesome as always. Blessings….. Kurt

    • Kurt,

      I appreciate the encouragement you are. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

      • kurt

        I’ve been much too busy lately. I feel like I’ve been letting some folks down in the encouragement department. Hopefully that will rectify soon. 🙂

        • Busy with good things I hope. Then it will further motivate you to pass it along. It’s amazing how one little comment can lighten someone’s day. And we can all do that.

  • Hey Anne! Thank you for your testimony and authentic look into the reality of writing/publishing a book. What a huge undertaking that you are all too aware of. I pray that this well encourage AND help many, just as your writing will!

    • Hi Matt,

      Thanks for reading. I hope it will encourage people. It helps to know when we struggle that we are not the only ones who do struggle. At those moments, it’s easy to believe the doubts and negative thoughts that pester us like gnats. I have a children’s book launching on Monday, Matt. Seems the children’s books were just waiting to emerge. They were hiding in the pain. Another reason to persevere. You never know what’s next. But some places are not accessed till you walk through other rooms.

  • Anne, your willingness to make changes, put in the work, and write from the heart are evident in your book. It is excellent work! I pray it helps many people.

    • Eva,

      Thank you. It definitely was a challenge at times, as you know. But there’s something about moving forward with what you feel strongly about. And even more than that, something you feel called to write. In that case, numbers mean little. It’s just that I don’t want anyone to have to go through what we went through when my sister disappeared. Hard journey. Thanks for reading and yes, please pray.

  • Kendra Burrows

    What a great article Anne! I love your writing style. I’m at the early stages of book writing, but after getting encouragement about my proposal, I’m wrestling with whether I want to wrestle with these things. It’s easier to just not write the book. And yet… Thanks for the perspective, Anne. It’s great to hear these tings from folks like yourself who have been there.

    • Kendra,

      I guess you need to determine why you want to write the book. In the case of BROKEN. I felt called to do it. It was a deep conviction. And if you don’t have that, then when those doubts and negatives come at you, it’s harder to keep going.

      Thanks for reading and for your wonderful encouragement. I appreciate you.

      Don’t you think it’s interesting that the wrestling started AFTER the encouragement? I’ll be anxious to hear about it more.

  • Julie-Anne Mauno

    Anne, this is so great! Loved every word. Thank you for giving us an inside look into the process of writing a book. With grace and courage and time, I hope to find myself at the end of that process some day too! I agree with Kendra, I love your writing style! Thanks for being real and encouraging at the same time!

    • Hi Julie-Anne,

      Thanks for reading! Since you have a desire to enter the process, you will be there. And hopefully you won’t be surprised when the negatives try to stop you. I think being aware of them helps tremendously. It’s the things we thought were going to be easy and are not, that trip us up. And personally, I’d rather know how difficult something is so I can gear up.

      Thanks for your encouraging words. Each time you encourage someone they can stockpile those comments and have some reserve for when the negatives happen. And as much as we’d like to believe they won’t happen. They will.

  • Oh Anne … this relentless call is so exhausting, rewarding, exhilerating, paralyzing. I’ve read your heart-words with great interest today.

    • Linda,

      You are so right. All those adjectives fit. And the ones like exhausting and paralyzing for me are mostly tied in some of the steps that this process takes. But when I realize that someone might be helped by my book Broken. That someone may actually take steps to prevent it from happening to them. Then I feel exhilarated, I feel rewarded. For me, it’s like taking my sister’s death and seeing something good come out of it. Keep writing.

    • Krithika Rangarajan

      A beautiful comment, Linda! #HUGSS

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Hey Anne

    Well, I’d say the ‘words danced in perfect rhythm’ in your article! #HUGSSSS

    Thank you for this educational and entertaining peek into the process of writing a book.

    BTW, when did you experience the most fear: while starting your book, somewhere midway, before you hit Publish or after you had the book in your hands? (Sorry, if this is a silly question 🙁 )

    Much love and BEST wishes

    • Krithika,

      Thanks for the Hugs!

      Since my book was about my sister’s death and then my story as well, can I say the second part was scarier. We show people who we are, but as much as we want revealed. But to write this story. I had to open my heart really wide. And there were pages where it brought it all back. My husband’s suicide attempts, my sister’s murder, loss upon loss. Hemingway was right. we bleed our stories out. But lest you get the wrong idea, I felt strongly about writing this. Convinced it was to help others. That is my intent. I think the fears grew as I realized this book would be a reality, not just an idea tucked in the back of my brain. We can say we’re writers, but putting a book out there makes it a reality instead of a dream. And I appreciate your great question. The closer we get to the end of a project, the stronger the resistance. Expecting that really helps. Thanks Kitto.

      • Krithika Rangarajan

        Thank you so much for the timely response.

        All I will say is: ‘you are a beautiful soul’.

        Rest assured that your heartfelt words WILL help others #HUGS
        (I enjoy doling out hugs because of my innate belief that they are the purest expressions of love :-))


  • Anne – Having read your books I know it did make you bloody to write them. It takes courage to put so much of yourself out there. Keep at it. You are doing the hard work with your words to help others.

    • Jody,

      Thanks for the read and for your encouragement. It means a lot. And it’s funny the harder some things get, the harder I try. To help someone who has gone through difficult things in their lives seems to somehow make sense of things that don’t make any sense.

  • La McCoy

    Dynamite Anne!

  • Well said Anne. You’re an inspiration to others more than you know. Thanks for having the tenacity to finish and share your words. Because they are more than words they are your life and those around you who have walked through the fire, pain and suffering. Continue sharing your gifts with us, we need them.

  • Troy,

    Thanks for the read. And for your kind words. I’m kind of excited as to what is coming out of me as a result of writing BROKEN. I will be releasing my first children’s book on Monday. I have written two others and am working on a collection of stories for Children. Troy, I think of all of these were beneath the pain. If I hadn’t written my book, maybe I wouldn’t have discovered this love I have for writing for little ones. I’ll be releasing a short trailer for book, Emma’s Wish, on Monday.

  • maxwell ivey

    Hi Jefrf; You are right, the process isn’t easy. I recently wrote a very successful blog post about life lessons from a blind blogger. I’ve been working to turn it into a short ebook say 25 pages. I’m up to 13 so far, but I’m finding the process of editing such a large document with a screen reader being more difficult than I expected. and when you press publish you do open yourself up to criticism both positive and negative. I hope you will be one of the people who I can count on to review my book when I am ready. thanks again and take care, max

    • Max,
      Thanks for reading. I think it’s great that you know what you want your ebook to be about. If you make yourself available to others you may find others will also be available to help you, when the time comes. I admire your drive.

  • sasha ramr

    This was a nice article, and really helpful. I had doubts, I always have doubts if I should write a book, but this helps a lot. Thanks 🙂

    • Sasha,

      Let me recommend a book to you by Bryan Hutchinson. It’s called Writer’s Doubts. I think we’ll always have doubts, but we can learn to talk ourselves out of those doubts. Glad to hear you found the article helpful. Thanks for reading.

      • sasha ramr

        no problem, Anne. And I’ve heard of Writer’s doubt!!! I even follow his blog, and I’ll check out the book soon. thanks 🙂

  • maxwell ivey

    hi anne; i agree with your suggestion completely. the best way to get help is to offer to help. just like sharing content is the best way to get yours shared. and if anyone here would like feedback from the blind blgoger, I’d be happy to read passages and give them my opinions. I may not spot technical flaws, but I can certainly help with flow and readability. good luck, max

    • Maxwell,

      That’s great that you are offering, I hope you get some takers.

  • Brenda McGraw

    Hey Anne. Great post and congrats for the Guest Post on Jeff’s site. You go girl. I could resonate with everything you said. And once again I say thanks for helping me when I was beginning Tribewriters. Can’t wait to meet you in person some day. Blessings. Brenda

    • Brenda,

      Thanks for reading. Speaking of going, you sure are moving. I’m so glad you are recognizing what you have to offer with words. I look forward to meeting you some day as well.

      • Brenda McGraw

        I have tried to listen to the best in the business and apply what I have learned. Thx for sharing your gifts with others. Love you girl.

  • Deepa Susan

    Jeff, i love all what you put out via your blog. The guest posts too resonate so much with your own. Thanks for the great work you are doing. Thanks to Anne as well. very informative

    • Deepa,

      Yes, Jeff sure does provide us with what we need, doesn’t he?
      Thank you for reading and for your comment. I appreciate it. Hope you are enjoying your writing journey. It’s such a privilege to write, don’t you think?

  • Delightful writing, Ms. Anne. First time I am reading your words. I’m going to be looking for more.

    I love your animation of the words on the page, extending them lives of their own:

    “It’s more of a stampede, where it’s every word for itself.
    “Then you have to choose which ones to take out. And they do not leave
    peaceably. They shout, demanding they have a right to be there.”

    Thanks for giving a balanced and realistic perspective on sharing words. It seems when harsh comments come, it’s a good sign you’ve touched a nerve that needed touching. No? Isn’t dogmatism often the sign of some unsettled struggle brewing. And the words may have stirred it up and brought it to the surface to enable us to deal with it? Never thought of it like that until now—as I’m writing. 🙂 Your writing called forth a realization in my own heart. Thank you, Ms. Anne. Thanks, Mr. Jeff for introducing us to Anne’s writing.

    • Arlen,

      Thanks for your encouraging comments. I think you’re right sometimes harsh comments do signify a we’ve touched a touchy nerve.

      I’m going to guess it’s somehow tied into our passion. I say that because I remember a speaker talk about one way to identify our passion is to ask ourselves, “What ticks me off?” And for those who cannot readily figure out what they are passionate about, I bet they can tell us what gets their blood boiling. I can.

      • Interesting indeed. That sounds telltale. I’m going to try to watch closer for the blood gurgling. 🙂 Thanks, Ms. Anne.

  • “Writing a book takes a lot of work.” Amen.

    Okay, I need to get back to work. Thanks, Anne.

  • It’s the bleeding that I’m concerned about. I’ve been putting off “the book” for years now. Dabbling in writing to satiate my need but still coming up short because I was avoiding “the book”. Just last week I decided it was time and as I bled through my keyboard it dawned on me ‘what if no one likes this?’ But as they say ‘haterz gonna hate’. So I write on- courageous and strong.

    Thanks for your timely post! This is a great post.

    • Bleeding sure isn’t fun. But it can be cleansing in a way. Sometimes.

    • Nick,

      Love that line “haterz gonna hate.” Go for it. If you’re avoiding it, I’m sure it’s going to have a lot of passion in it when you do write it.

  • Thank you for this, Anne. I was contacted out of the blue by a literary agent this spring, and my first proposal is due at the end of the month – a memoir about growing up in an abusive home, and rising from those ashes to Hope. I’ve prayed a lot about it, and believe that this is the time and place, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared half to death, too. I won’t just bleed on the page; I’m safe, but this will cost me.

    • Alena,

      How exciting! That’s how I felt about BROKEN. It started out being the story of my sister, who was the victim of domestic violence, but then I felt God prompting me to add my story as well. And we too, were raised in an abusive home. Still, I have to say as hard as it was to write it, I’m very glad I did. Now I’ve got children’s books coming out of me. Congratulations on the journey you’re on! Buckle up.

  • Thank You Anne! Simple and to the point! I’m still encouraged to write and not run away! 🙂 And it’s true, You put together a great package with a bow on top. 🙂

    • But a gift isn’t a gift till someone receives it. Thanks for taking the time to open it. 🙂

    • Chelsea,

      I think anything we write that will bring value to someone may tempt us to run away. We’ll hear things like, “Someone already said that.” Anything to get us to grab up all our letters, bunch them up together regardless of their screaming and high-tail it out of there. And yet, hearing that our words seeped into someone, got them to change their view, or widen their focus just a tiny bit. Or hearing what we wrote made some journey easier. Well, it makes all the difference in the world. Then when the doubts come, they seem a little less loud.

  • Russ Slater

    Having just published my first book this past April, everything you say is true.

    When I was feeling the height of anxiety prior to release, a good friend of mine (who also designed my cover) gave the best advice possible; “F**k it.” Eloquent, yet simple 🙂 Expect all those things and more. The legitimatization that comes with a published book had been one of the most amazing things to experience. The feedback is the best part and makes all of the blood, sweat and tears well worth the effort — yes, some will be negative, but hearing how people share your work with friends and family (and buy copies as gifts for special people in their lives), and how some re-read the words many times brings its own sense of satisfaction.

    All the motivation I need to release the next title… and the next one… and the one after that. Astonishing on it all takes on a life of its own.
    Thanks for the great post. Good luck to everyone!

    • Russ,

      Loved hearing your experience. The anxiety will be there, but to look to how it could impact others. Well, it pushes you when you feel like you’re losing gas. I have to write. It’s who I am. And meeting other writers is so encouraging. Thanks for the read.

  • Loved this post! I really like how you personify words. They don’t always leave willingly. 🙂 Insightul.

    • Sara,

      Thanks for reading. I guess I see words as living beings. In fact, I love words. They are the only thing I can manipulate without protest.

      Thanks for reading and for your comment. I appreciate it.

  • kathunsworth

    I know how hard it was for you Anne, but many will be blessed reading it.

    • Kath,

      Yes, you do know how hard it was. Thanks for all your encouragement. It has meant so much to me. And I hope you’re right. That many will be blessed by it. I just wish no one had to go through what we went through.

    • Agreed.

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    • Guest

      Thanks Kath, You DO know how hard it was. I hope many will be helped.

  • harivind007

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  • Doris Haugen

    How exceptionally well expressed, Anne Peterson!

    • Doris,

      Thanks for coming over and reading. I appreciate your comment.

  • I am blessed by your honesty and insight Anne! I thank you greatly for sharing.

  • Melanie,

    Thanks for reading. What a wonderful thing to say. Thank you.

  • Sal

    great post Anne!!! this bit stuck out the most “learn how teachable you are”.

    It’s so important to adopt that attitude if you want to be the best writer you can be.

    • Sal,

      It’s painful to find out you’re not teachable. It just means it may take you longer as God gets you to a teachable place. And that may not be a fun process. You’re right Sal, it is important to have that attitude. It comes out in your words, even if you try to hide it.

      Thanks for reading, and for your comments.

  • Anne – I LOVE it! There’s a big difference between those who “write” and those who “submit.” That’s a huge step and my biggest challenge with my writing. A blog post, sure. But finalizing the book and getting it out there is BIG. Looking forward to following in your footsteps.

    • Thanks, but I can’t bring myself to call you a Terrible Husband. 🙂

      I think knowing what a BIG job putting a book out there is, will help. At least that was my intent. I’m the kind of person who likes to know what’s ahead. Never did like surprises, they were always scary.