If you are a writer – by that I mean someone who has aspirations to write but publication has eluded you for the moment; then this book is worth the cost of 4 Venti Caffè Latte that will buy it from Amazon. The 20 page appendix will more than justify your investment. This volume however is targeted at non-writing seniors, to whom I have more to say.
The Writer Within You, is not a book in the literary sense. It is a product to be sold. Published by Mr. Jacobs’ Caros Books, and designed by his daughter Jodee, this beautifully presented paperback will jump off the bookstore shelf at you. It came to me complete with a color matching ‘press release’, and copious notes on all the excellent reasons why I should buy it – not to read, but to sell.
‘The Writer Within You’ is a business venture in the purest sense. Mr. Jacobs has correctly identified a potential market of 76 million souls in America, 81% of whom (apparently), have a desire to write. If only a minute fraction of these could be persuaded to buy his book, and better yet ‘self publish’ their own, then the considerable effort that has gone in to it will be well rewarded. It is hardly a coincidence that a majority of the favorable reviewers sited by Mr. Jacobs have a financial interest in ‘self publishing’.
I applaud Mr.Jacobs’ ingenuity and industry, but question his stated motives. If this was a book about publishing per se, I would have little criticism. But its appeal is to retired people who may aspire to write, and in that I do find fault.
There is no doubt that enormous effort has gone into this work. It covers in 25 chapters - albeit briefly, every aspect of producing and selling a book. The author is so confident that it will inspire seniors to write, he has included a disclaimer. Does Mr. Jacobs seriously believe that he is at risk from litigation if Mrs Miggin’s 30,000 word treatise on the fecundity of her Angora rabbits, doesn’t become an instant best seller?
Mr. Jacobs tells us that with his book he is satisfying a need. He suggests that most of the millions who want to write don’t know how to. A little patronizing don’t you think? He even suggests that they don’t know the difference between fiction and non-fiction, even though they have read “…many novels”.
Chapter one assumes that all these Hemingway hopefuls need to write to improve their self esteem, or their bank balance, or both. There is no elaboration on the fact that writing is a creative process engaged in for personal satisfaction and delight. But then, as far as I can tell, Mr. Jacobs is not an author. Although he tells us that he is an expert in the writing field, I cannot find any listings of his published books. He does mention that he co-wrote a novel, but adamantly omits to mention Paul Alongi who was the other half of this literary duo.
Mr Jacobs is a journalist: no doubt a very good one. He tells us he has had 750 articles published – but no books.
This fact does not automatically preclude anyone from benefiting from the information The Writer Within You, imparts. Unquestionably the volume is comprehensive in its scope. The side-bar Words of Wisdom, are apposite evocative verbal images. My problem is that the book (Words of Wisdom aside), devalues the art of writing to that of a craft. And worse still, sites all the wrong reasons for writing in the first place.
The work encourages new writers with positive statistics about new book sales. What it doesn’t share is detail of more than 120000 books published each year. Of which 80% are sold through agents, and the chances of a new (retired) writer getting an agent is pretty remote. I could be wrong. But I’m not wrong that the LA Times receives 600/700 books every week for review, and 40% of all books never sell.
So my point is? For the majority of retired first time writers, there is more chance of winning the Florida Lottery than writing a book, getting an agent and selling it to Barns and Nobel for a profit.
But that should (definitely) not stop you doing it. But it should be for the right reason. Not just to see your name on a book spine, or have people talk about you. And even less to make your fortune: the average royalty is less than 11% of the net selling price. Even if all the hurdles mentioned above were cleared, the return on a successful non-fiction paperback book (5000 copies), would be around $2500. This figure could be disputed up or down depending on a number of variables; but it’s not far out.
I do not know Charles Jacobs. But there can be no doubt that he is a very astute and professional businessman. The production, promotion and presentation of this work are stellar. He has followed every bit of his own advice to the letter. By this standard alone he deserves to succeed.
If you are already writing, this book, with its profundity of publishing know-how, could be useful and well worth the money. If you are starting out, there are other books that will better help you develop your talent and release the writer within.