Media Moves

Daily writing is a sprint, but book writing is a marathon

March 28, 2014

For journalists used to the sprint of daily newswriting, writing a book can seem like a brutal marathon, a panel of journalists said Friday.

“Your body’s wrecked, your mind’s wrecked, you think, ‘why did I ever do this?’ A couple of days later, you say, ‘I want to do another one,’” said John Wasik, the author of 14 books, including the recent “Keynes’s Way to Wealth.”

Wasik joined Beth Macy, a reporter at The Roanoke (Va.) Times, and Thomas Lee, business editor and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, in a panel discussion at the annual Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference, being held Friday and Saturday at Arizona State University.

Macy wrote a book called “Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town” coming out in July.
“My agent sold it as ‘Moneyball’ with furniture,” she said.

Lee’s book, which will be published this fall, tells the story of Target and Best Buy’s transformation to the digital age, called “Rebuilding Empires.”

He said he originally pitched the book as the story of the death of Best Buy’s empire, but his agent said that was too depressing. Ultimately, the story of Best Buy’s rebuilding turned out to be more counter-intuitive and went past the sound bites, Lee said.

Writing a book can be more satisfying than daily journalism, Wasik said. Expanding a story and creating a narrative is rewarding — but a lot of work, the panelists agreed.

“It’s a lot of time commitment —you don’t do it out of a sense that this is another hobby,” Wasik said. “This is a real commitment.”

Wasik said journalists should consider a few points when selling a book to publishers: what’s the pitch, why they’re qualified to write it and who will buy it. Working with the publishers to create a marketing plan for the book is key, they said.

It’s hard for journalists who are still working at their publication to make the time to write a book, the panelists said.

“You really, really, really have to want it,” Macy said.

Lee agreed: “It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.”

But Wasik said writing a book is worth it in the end.

“If you have a burning idea, put it together, think of it as something people need to read,” he said. “It’s the reason to exist.”

Maddy Will is a senior business journalism student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication attending the SABEW conference on a Talking Biz News scholarship

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