We counsel our author-clients to think about their book as a business proposition: It’s going to take your career to the next level, help get you more business, increase sales, support a promotion or a better job, even add cachet to selling your company. Regardless of the reason, we encourage our author-clients to think carefully about a book’s opportunity costs.
You already work 60, 70, 80 hours a week. When are you going to find time for another full-time profession – writing a book? OK, you need someone to write it for you. That makes sense, because now you’re a consultant to your ghostwriter. You can afford the few hours each month to discuss the book’s content and review chapters.
Some feel they can write it themselves to save money. Is that what you do with your business finances, do it yourself? Your website administration? Is this what you do with any other professional services you need? No, because it’s not your expertise and you know it will take too much of your valuable time, even if you could do it yourself.
You could also end up making a big business mistake. Flub your taxes. Launch an expensive marketing campaign that bombs. Write a bad book. They all happen, and they all have disastrous results. Any mistake in today’s dog-eat-dog competitive business environment can cost you a lot of money.
Write a good book and the world will beat a path to your door. Write a poor one and you are reviled on Amazon and in your profession. You only get one shot with a book. It’s an investment, and you want a return. Why would you not hire a professional to increase your potential for success and return?
The opportunity cost for your book ought to be compared against your annual salary or earnings. How much will it cost to hire a ghostwriter? How much does the ghostwriter charge compared to the value of your time to write your book? The ghost, once contracted, works on nothing but your book until its completion – about six to nine months. You, on the other hand, will have to steal time away from your core business and your family. Do the numbers. Your annual income is easily three to four times the amount you pay the ghost.
Here’s another example drawn from our experience. An author-client wants to hire us to write her book. It’s an extremely timely topic, all over the news half a dozen times a month. She’s a consultant and has about ten consultants on staff, each earning better than $100K a year. We tell her it’s going to cost about $60K for us to write the book, and she says she can’t afford it. Can we get her a “New York” deal so she can get a “big advance” from a publisher? Maybe, but we cannot make assurances. Besides, the business cycle is quite long: months to get an agent, more to get a publisher, then a 12-18-month manuscript-to-book cycle. She decides to try it, but doesn’t understand the business of dealing with agents, and so wastes six months and gets no offers for representation. Now she decides to write the book herself. After three months she has only written the first draft of one chapter, which is (as it typically is) the entire book in a big mashup.
Nearly a year has passed for this consultant. Meanwhile, others have published books on the same subject.
This is the second type of opportunity cost – or, perhaps we should call it the lost opportunity cost.