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I Wrote a Tiny Book and Want You to Realise You Can Write One Too

What you need and don't need to become a tiny author

Photo of my book next to Derek Sivers' book
My book next to the one that inspired it

4 min read

You don’t need to have a talent. You don’t need to have an extraordinary life. You don’t need to have a big audience. These days you don’t even need a contract with a publisher.

I had none of those things, and yet I published a tiny book — one of my proudest achievements in 37 years.

Tiny Is Okay

How long is a good story? How long is a good idea? How many pages should a book have to be worth reading?

Mine is about 80 pages, and some of the best books I’ve read are about the same length.

  • Anything You Want by Derek Sivers is 96 pages.
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell is 93 pages.
  • Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson is 97 pages.

Don’t feel intimidated by the big books you’ve read. You don’t have to write that much, and your ideas and stories don’t need to fill a minimum number of pages to be worth our attention. 

When I first had an idea for my book, I didn’t know how long it was going to be.

I just knew who the book was for and what it was for.

Who’s It For? What’s It For?

Knowing my audience and the purpose of my book helped me focus my writing and write with intention.

But I didn’t consciously ask myself those questions.

I had spent a good chunk of my life learning and teaching English, so I had many stories to tell about language learning. The answers to “Who’s it for?” and “What’s it for?” were clear in my head from the start.

I’m going to write a collection of personal stories to help language learners learn a second language.

That’s all. 

It didn’t need to be more complicated than that. I didn’t spend hours drawing the avatar of my ideal reader or doing market research to discover what book language learners wanted to read. 

Who is your book for? What is your book for?

You probably know that already.

Having Something to Say Wasn’t Enough

You may already have enough material for a book. Despite what you believe, the container of your opinions, ideas, knowledge, experiences, and stories is already full.

It’s overflowing.

Mine was too. But that wasn’t enough for me to start writing. What really got me to put my stories on the screen was a strong desire to be useful to others, a desire to send out a message that would make an impact on another person.

Do you have that desire?

It could be one to scare through a horror story, to teach through a manual, or to enlighten through a collection of poems.

The main difference between authors and non-authors is not that authors are more creative, have more ideas, or have more knowledge. The main difference is that authors decided to share bits of their hearts and minds and serve others through their words and sentences. Non-authors, for whatever reason, decided not to.

Writing a book is not an essential requirement to be a good person, and not everyone loves writing.

But you?

You have a desire to be useful, a passion for writing, a message, an opinion, a story, or a creative thought you want to share.

Decide.

What Format?

Here is a 2-star book review of Seth Godin’s The Practice.

“It’s not that it’s a bad book. It’s just that it’s not really a book. It’s shaped like a book. It looks like a book. It’s printed like a book. But it’s not actually a book. It’s just a concatenation of various blog posts from him. Then those pages got organized into chapters. And then it got a cover. So now it’s a book. Yay!” — Eric Johnson on Goodreads.com

I’ve seen many similar reviews about other books.

“This isn’t a book! It’s a collection of blog posts! 1 star.”

I don’t understand this. No one complains about a recipe book being a collection of recipes, or Several Short Stories About Dogs being a series of unrelated tales about dogs.

Apparently, some readers think every book chapter should present an idea and extensively develop that idea. If your book doesn’t have that format, then “it’s not actually a book.”

I discourage you from thinking that.

Your book can be formatted in any way you like and doesn’t have to adhere to any conventional standards.

Mine is a collection of personal stories that contradict one another, a format inspired by Derek Sivers’ How to Live and Anything You Want. 

Yours could be a polished collection of unrelated blog posts you’ve already written, a series of photos with a 50-word story next to each one, or a compilation of lame jokes your dad tells you every time he sees you (that could well be my next book project).

Choose the format that excites you most.

The Deadline?

I had no deadline. And I didn’t need one. I knew exactly what my book was going to be about, so every day for a year I couldn’t wait to sit and type. I procrastinated at times, like every human being does. But few things are more rewarding than seeing your name on a book cover. 

I’ve sold 325 copies so far and made less than 1,000 euros in one year. 

Peanuts. 

I didn’t do it for the money. I wrote a book to (a) be helpful and (b) engage with thinking and writing —  two of the activities I love the most in life.

When will we see yours?

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