I have a few friends who've written non-fiction books and had them published, including Darren and Julie, Tris, Susie and Shane, Dave, and Kris. I haven't, and while I'm not planning on writing one, I do wonder what the experience is like. If you've published a book, how did you find the process, and why did you go through it?
I ask because I've copy-edited and proofread books, and written many booklets (PDF file), brochures, technical documents (PDF file), proposals, manuals, magazine articles, and other publications—and people often say to me, "You should write a book!" Maybe about photography, maybe about podcasting, maybe about my cancer experience. I even have a Diploma in Applied Creative-Non Fiction writing, so I could be considered academically qualified for the task, whatever that means.
But my question is always, "Why?" Because none of the people saying I should write a book has been someone wanting to publish it.
Yes, there's still a lot of prestige in being a Published Author and having a printed and bound copy of your work on a shelf, but publishers large and small have been in trouble for awhile now. Many writers, from Salon's entertaining aviation columnist Patrick Smith (whose 2004 book Ask the Pilot is a great read, but won't see a printed update anytime soon) to my friend and former podcast co-host Paul Garay (who wrote an entire huge book on Logic, the digital recording software, only to see it never get published at all), put in a lot of work and receive little but frustration in return. (Then again, even back in the print-heavy 1800s, Mark Twain found it necessary to supplement his considerable publishing royalties with public speaking—though that was mostly because he invested his other money very badly.)
So, I'm curious what motivates non-fiction writers today. (Fiction is a whole other ballgame, but that would be interesting to find out about too.) I want to know, if you've had a book published, why did you write it? How did the process go? What benefits did you get from it, direct or indirect? Would you do it again, and if so, what would you change?