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British Medical Journal

Writing a book—a personal experience

Writing a book—a personal experience – Letter to the Editor

Adam Jacobs

EDITOR–Albert’s article on how to become a book author struck a chord with me, as I have been through the experience he describes.[1] I was talked into writing a textbook after meeting a publisher at a party, and did so largely without thinking about why I was doing it. My social life suffered hugely while I spent three years trying to write the book as well as do my day job.

Would I do it again? I’m not sure. It certainly gained valuable points for my resume, and it probably helped my career immensely. Financially, it was a disaster. Although I made some money out of the book students these days can rarely afford to buy textbooks, so despite having had excellent reviews it has not sold well and will probably soon be out of print. Working out how much I have earned in royalties compared with how much time I spent on the book my hourly rate was probably no more than about 50p.

The one piece of advice I would add to Albert’s eminently sensible suggestions would be to join the Society of Authors at an early stage. The society provides wonderful support for authors, including vetting publishing contracts. It can be found at www.writers.org.uk/society.

Adam Jacobs director Dianthus Medical, Mitcham, Surrey CR4 3BA ajacobs@dianthus.co.uk

[1] Albert T. How to become a book author [career focus]. BMJ 2000;320:(classified section 18 Mar):2-3.

COPYRIGHT 2000 British Medical Association

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