15,000 Copies Sold: The Economics of a Hobby Book Author

Curious about the economics of book publishing? I wrote about my experience as a small-time author in the niche category of woodworking trade books. Spoiler alert: Don’t quit your day job.

If you are an aspiring book author or have ever wondered how the economics of book publishing works I’d like to share my experience with you. I’ve been lucky enough to have two books published in the popular niche category of woodworking how-to trade books, a small but devoted corner of your local book store.

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Voting in the USA: An illustrated breakdown of the electorate

Did you know that it takes less than 1/4 of the US population to win the presidency?

That’s not typically how we think about it. You often hear pundits and fanatics claim “Half the country voted for…” But that’s not true at all. When you count up all the people in our country — 331 million of them — the winner of the US Presidential Election typically only receives a vote from less than 25 percent of the population.

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The Resilient Redwood

An illustration from my book “The Handmade Teardrop Trailer” depicts a young Redwood forest in the coastal mountains of Carmel, Calif. by Matt Berger

Life lessons from the 2,000-year-old Sequoia sempervirens

The giant Redwood trees that grow along the forested California coast are known to survive as long as 2,000 years and grow to heights among the tallest trees in the world. “Majestic,” “towering,” and “mighty” are just a few common adjectives used to describe these trees by anyone who’s camped beneath them, and walked among them (or through them).

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I’m a Polymath, Too!

I want to take a minute to recognize Salman Ansari, who published a fine essay on his newsletter/blog this month titled “The Polymath Playbook,” which goes on to describe the benefits of being a multi-disciplinarian in a world of specialists.

I met Salman when he signed up for a pop-up woodworking class/dinner party I hosted last year in San Francisco. (remember when we could do fun things like that?!)

I have a day job in the Silicon Valley tech industry, but in my spare time I make a business out of my hobbies. In my popular SK8Makers woodworking class, based on my book “The Handmade Skateboard,” I guide students through the process of designing and building a custom skateboard from scratch over the course of 6 hrs/2 days.

Here’s a photo from day-two: Salman helping his classmate Kate drill the truck-holes in her unfinished skateboard deck, while another student Stacey keeps an eye on the angle of her cut.

Making handmade skateboards: A very Polymath thing to do.

It turns out one of the reasons Salman and I got along so well is because like him, I’m a polymath, too!

My entire life I had never heard the term, yet I had been living it in my professional career and personal pursuits. As the son of a scientist and fiber artist, you might say I’m a Polymath by birth.

My resume also illustrates this: print journalist -> magazine editor -> web producer -> digital product manager -> product marketing manager -> enterprise product designer -> relationship manager -> who knows what’s next.

So does my hobby resume: crafter -> welder -> woodworker -> skateboard maker -> recreational vehicle builder -> author -> illustrator -> videographer -> web designer

TBH, I do not find “Polymath” to be a very attractive word for such a Liberal Artsy concept. But I’m fine to retire the terms “Renaissance Man” or “Jack of All Trades” for one that doesn’t ignore all the multitalented non-male Polymaths in the room.

Now excuse me while I take a break between Zoom meeting calls in my handmade home office, and retire to my garage workshop for some hobby time.