September 29, 2003
Hit the Lecture Circuit
I think it was one of the writers at 2blowhards who said that only a few hundred people in the world made money just from writing books. Taking that as truth, then how do writers pay the bills while still writing books? To use Virginia Postrel and her latest, The Substance of Style, as an example you can have portions of books reprinted in magazines, you can free lance, or you can go on the speaking circuit. This recalls the 19th Century where intellectuals like Ralph Waldo Emerson made a living giving public lectures. Unlike his time, philosophical discourses won't earn a lot, but for Postrel, the ideas in her books can be applied to the business world. There businessmen actually pay to hear her and pick her brain.
So the lesson to be learned from Postrel is if you want to make a living as a writer, find an idea that can get you onto the business speaking circuit. It can still be full of policy stuff and somewhat philosophical (see her The Future and Its Enemies).
Too bad my book idea, a history of Islamic-American wars (it's not a recent phenomenon), seems to have little application to the business world. :-(