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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Legal Writing Tip: So You Want to Write a Book


By Leslie A. Gordon, BASF Bulletin Contributor

Every lawyer I’ve met claims to have an idea for a book. Whether it’s a legal thriller, the Great American Novel, a memoir or a non-fiction treatise, lawyers fantasize about being writers. And drafting closing documents or appellate briefs usually doesn’t satisfy those creative urges.

The good news for aspiring writers is that publishing a book has never been easier. You don’t need an agent. You don’t even need a publisher. With the digital revolution, aided primarily by Kindle and iPads, anyone can self-publish. Compared to traditional publishing, “indie publishing” offers better royalties and a speedier process – and, importantly, the self-publishing stigma is gone.

The most widely used vehicle is Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform (KDP), which is free. You might have to hire a cover designer and a formatter (and maybe a photographer for that winning author photo!), but you don’t have to. Cottage industries have emerged, making these services super cheap.
If you price your book at more than $2.99 on KDP, the royalty is 70 percent. If your audience extends beyond friends and family, that offers true moolah-making potential. If you just want to get your “baby” out there, you can even offer a book for free. (I had a limited time free promotion of my book, Cheer: A Novel, and it was downloaded 9,400 times, resulting in a rush up Amazon’s rankings and some terrific online reviews.)

If you want to go old school, you can self-publish hard copies through services like CreateSpace (owned by Amazon), Lulu or Smashwords. That does require some cash outlay, though.

Given how easy self-publishing is, the biggest obstacle to becoming an author is simply getting a book written. To accomplish that, consider joining a writing group or taking a class (in person or online), and pick up a copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.



A former lawyer, Leslie A. Gordon is a freelance journalist living in San Francisco. She is the author of Cheer: A Novel, which is available on Amazon. She can be reached at

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