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Can Your Book Really Change the World?

Updated on April 20, 2021
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Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.


Quick, think of a book that you think has changed the world. But it can't be the Bible, Qur'an/Koran, or any sacred text of an organized religion. I’ll give you 10 seconds. Go!

I’m waiting. (Jeopardy game show music plays.)

Time’s up. Did you have trouble thinking of one? I know I did. Off the top of my head, I could only think of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. But, honestly, I think it was her non-book work that helped bring about changes in thinking about the environment. The same could probably be said for whatever book you thought of as a world changer.

(P.S. I’m curious what you did come up with as a world changing book. Please let me know in the comments.)

Books can be a slow way to bring about change, especially these days with less book reading and more multimedia and online content consumption. Yet it's amazing how many authors still say that they want to write and publish a book to change the world.

Different Authors, Same Question, Same Problem

I receive a number of inquiries from authors, primarily from those who write nonfiction, who want to change the world in some way, and who are anxious to get mass distribution and/or exposure for their books to spread their messages.

I’ve found that if authors have to contact me about getting distribution or exposure for their books, that usually means they have few (or no) followers and fans, no significant online presence, no media connections, no idea of how to sell and market their work, and, more importantly, no idea of how to bring about the change they seek. They believe that a book expounding on their ideas will be the watershed act that will turn the world to their worldview. But that’s not how the world works.

Superheroes Versus Circles of Influence

The mental error that authors can make is to believe that if enough people will read their books, those who read will immediately believe or behave differently. But changing people’s minds and actions is a monumental task. It's a bit of a god/superhero conceit to believe that this one book will be the one thing that turns the world around.

Additionally, these authors often don’t provide any road map for readers to follow. What do they want readers to do to help bring about change? True, some may only be seeking a change in attitude, not immediate action. But these books can often slip into being an extended opinionated rant without providing anything actionable.

The real problem is these authors haven’t built a likeminded author platform (fan base) that believes as they do. Those followers and fans can then influence people in their own social spheres. Visualize it as concentric circles, with influence starting at the author’s fan base center, slowly working outward toward the world at large.

Pay Me to Change

If authors so want change, why do they think that just publishing and selling books is the way to make that happen? It’s as if they’re saying to the world, “You should change and you should buy my book so I can tell you why and how.” Although that might sound ignorant or arrogant, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if they don’t do any outreach such as blogging, podcasting, social media, speaking, networking, volunteering, online or offline community participation, collaborating with others, etc., they shouldn’t wonder why no one is interested in hearing, or buying, what they have to say.

You also have to remember that book reading is competing with all other forms of content including social media, videos, gaming, broadcast and streaming shows and movies... the list is exhausting. So selling books to spread a message is tough.

Measuring Your Book's Impact on the World

Here’s where it gets even more difficult for change-seeking authors. How will they measure the impact of their books to foster change? That is truly even more difficult due to these authors’ missions being one or more of the following.


Often people who want change express that change in the most vague of terms. Here’s one of my favorite examples, “I want to empower (fill in your target group of people here).” Okay, and that means what? It’s a great soundbite with nothing specific to bite into.

Not Easily Measurable

In addition to being vague, authors’ lofty world-changing goals cannot be measured in any specific way. Let’s go back to the empowerment issue. How would anyone measure “empowerment?”


Let’s again look at the “I want to empower such-and-such” mission. Except for exceptionally small groups, many subgroups of the world's population number into the millions. Would a single author’s work be able to empower that many people? Probably not without an unimaginable investment.

Realize that producing a landmark book that seems to change the world is a gamble. The operative word here is “seems.” Your book is really just one piece of a larger effort that helps build a committed community that bands together to change the world.

So Should You Write and Publish Books with the Hope of Changing the World?

Absolutely. Why not? Just remember that change is achieved through collective, cumulative, and collaborative efforts. Understand that your book may be part of the change, not the sole maker of change.

Just remember that change is achieved through collective, cumulative, and collaborative efforts.

— Heidi Thorne

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Heidi Thorne


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