Daylight Atheism: The Book?

To my readers,

A remarkable thing has happened recently. In the past few weeks, I’ve received, by my count, no fewer than four independent (as far as I know) e-mails asking me if I intend to seek publication of my writings in a format beyond this website. I have responded to these inquiries individually, but thought it would be best to address this issue in public.

Some of my correspondents have pointed out the startling success of several recent pro-atheist books, suggesting that the current climate would be unusually favorable for publication. I agree that this is a potentially very important factor – for it has been weighing on my mind as well – and I like to think that I am not one to let an opportunity pass me by. I feel more than capable of writing a book that defends atheism, and I believe that I could offer a perspective sufficiently distinct from current authors to merit publication.

However, there are other considerations as well. One is that, despite the essays I have already written that could be included, creating something worthy of publication would require a very substantial investment of time, and that is something I have lamentably little of. I have an excellent day job which I have no intention of quitting. While I could work on this project at other times, I doubt whether I would be able to continue writing for this site or for Ebon Musings in any significant capacity while I was doing so. In such a situation, I would probably want to find guest authors who could maintain the site in my absence.

There is another issue, potentially more important. It is a foregone conclusion that, if I were to write a book, I would want to incorporate essays I have already written for this site and for Ebon Musings. However, even if I were to write new pieces that would only be available as part of this book, it has always been my intention to keep the essays that I have already written freely available on the Internet. This is a matter that would have to be sorted out with any potential publisher – I have heard a horror story of a website author who published his work in printed format, only to be sued by his own publisher for copyright infringement for keeping his own work freely available on its original website. Needless to say, this is an outcome I will not permit to happen with my site, and any interested publisher would have to be understanding of that.

There is one more issue that concerns me, which is that I have not yet been widely published in other forums. Although Daylight Atheism has seen a steady increase in readership since its inception, I have so far written mostly for my own sites and not for other websites or publications devoted to atheism, humanism, free thought and skeptical inquiry. I am taking steps to change this, and I recognize that it is not an absolute must, but I am certain it would boost my chances of finding a responsive publisher if I had a past record of published work to stand upon. I am working to establish such a record, although such labors will take at least a few months to pay off, if they do.

I’m interested in hearing feedback on this issue. Is this a worthwhile cause to pursue, or am I reaching above myself?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Freeyourmind

    Well I know that someone the other day posted that you should write a book if you were able to and I fully agree. That’s a tremendous opportunity for you (at least I would think so) and thinking big picture, it’s just more exposure for the cause that we all care so much about.

    I’m sure that you could get contributions to keep the site updated in the meantime and doing that to produce a book of your own would well be worth it.

    I’d pre-order it for sure. ;)

  • Bechamel

    I don’t comment here much, but I’ve been reading your writings (often multiple times each) for the past couple of years. You definitely have the talent; I think you should go for it. A lack of updates for a while would be a small price for me, the reader, to pay for what would certainly be a very worthwhile book.

    Oh, and what Freeyourmind said. ;)

  • CalUWxBill

    That’s great that you got such an offer. That shows you are getting around to people. As far as whether you should or shouldn’t write. Well, first take your time, and secondly I’m not sure a book would be just a combination of your essays and posts, though certainly some of these good thoughts you’d probably reuse. If you want to write a book, I would say take some time out of your day the next year or so to see what you can do. I’m glad you want to keep your essays online, we certainly enjoy reading them.

  • http://www.dougpaulsen.com Doug

    I would like to see a book solely devoted to morality without god, or atheistic morality. There have been books that focus on this, and I have read at least one, but they seem rather scholarly and not very interesting. If it can be get kept light enough to be interesting but still get the point across and be convincing (like your essays on the subject), I think it’s worth a shot.

    Regardless though, I’m sure any book you wrote would be well worth the price, and I would certainly buy it.

    Kind of off topic, but another idea that you could consider is podcasting your essays, both here and on musings. I’ve read most of the stuff here, but i haven’t even scratched the surface of whats on musings, so I was thinking the other day it would be cool to have them in podcast form. Indeed I’d pay to have them. Just an idea.

  • Andreas

    Writing a book is an excellent idea! And I’d be extremely happy if you decided that your essay “One More Burning Bush” would make up a chapter in it, because it’s a personal favorite. But if not, I’d buy your book anyway.

  • http://nes-ramblings.blogspot.com/ Nes

    You can add another person who was going to email you about writing a book. Heck, if the guy from “The Best Page In The Universe” can do it, I’m sure you can! I had figured time would be an issue for you though, as you had mentioned in another post that you had a full time job now and couldn’t update the site as often. Are you able to set aside even 30 minutes once or twice a week to work on a book? I think it would be worth it in the long run, even if we had to miss out on the occasional update here.

    A big question is what kind of book would you write first? One person has already mentioned atheistic morality, but there’s also general atheism, arguing in favor of atheism over religion in general, arguing against specific religions, and so forth.

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com Infophile

    I have to add my support to this idea as well. A book is bound to get much more publicity than your site, simply due to the way things work. Publishing a book would be one of the best ways to get your ideas out there, and they’re certainly worth that.

    As for this site, I think your regular readers will forgive you from taking a break in order to write a book. I’m also sure plenty of us would even be able to give you a hand, writing guest articles to keep the site active.

  • http://killtheafterlife.blogspot.com Aaron Kinney

    I fully support the book writing idea. The time is ripe. I am good friends with David Mills (author of Atheist Universe) who was blown away by his own books amazon.com success. He now has a revised edition hitting book stores with an all new publisher as well.

    David Mills has even been encouraging me to write a book too (along the lines of my Kill The Afterlife blog). I have been giving it serious thought to be sure.

    I say go for it! Find yourself a publisher and get yourself a manuscript prepared. I happen to know of a few smaller publishers that would certainly be interested in your book if you cant secure a big name like Harper Collins or some other big name. Even smaller publishers like Xilbris and such are capable of producing high quality printings and putting your book on amazon. But with todays explosive atheistic book clmate, I dont think that you would have much trouble getting a big puiblisher to back up any well written atheist book. The sales numbers speak for themselves.

    Now is the time! All of us atheist bloggers and authors have to make a concerted effort, a big push. We need to keep the momentum going, even accellerating. These books are changing -and freeing- minds. Dont you want to have a part in that? Dont you want to know that you were able to open some peoples minds across the world and have your name associated with atheism and freethought?

  • Dave

    You could just publish it through Lulu, then you have no copyright worries, aren’t out any money if it doesn’t sell, and can set your profit margin to whatever you like.

  • Freeyourmind

    And if you’re commercially successful, you could get an interview on The Daily Show to speak about it. :P

  • Alex Weaver

    I would endorse the book idea, since the climate does seem to be suitable for it and you seem to have a special talent for describing subjects in a fashion intelligible to those with limited biological or philosophical backgrounds. I think a publication of the essays on Ebon Musings, organized into “Parts” around basic themes, and with some smaller introductory notes and such connecting the essays together, might work well, and I like the suggestion of a book on atheistic morality. I also agree about the “half an hour a day” thing; that’s more or less how I’m moving Arkalian forward.

    Another idea that would be worth pursuing, by someone at any rate, would be a book or series of books on skepticism aimed specifically at younger readers. One I’ll have to keep in mind…

    PS: Dave, thanks for the link. I might find this useful in the future. ^.^

  • AlexanderM

    I’ve been regularly reading your blog ever since its interception and you offer a unique perspective on atheism, especially in regards to the morality aspect of what people are calling “New Atheism” these days.

    Your book would provide a valuable contrast and balance against the current crop of visionary atheistic writers. I’ve enjoyed reading Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins’ work, but your writings have consistently remained insightful, penetrating, and thoughtful. I often turn to your blog for careful and through analyses of literature, politics, and actions impacting atheism in this country and elsewhere.

    As much as I would miss reading your posts on a regular basis, I think it would be a shame to miss out the chance to make your work available to a larger reading audience and to make a significant impact in the changing social and political climate.

    The more visible authors there are, the better to show the diversity among atheistic freethinkers.

  • Steve C.

    It’s not impossible to have a web-site and a book of the web-site (if you see what I mean.) Philip Greenspun did it a while ago (http://philip.greenspun.com/wtr/dead-trees/story) and I bought the second book he produced because I loved the idea of having a hard copy to dip into on those days when (horrors!) internet access was denied to me. I never regreted it. Having enjoyed the ebon musing site (all sections) for a long time now, I say “Go for it!”.

  • stillwaters

    Shoot, I was just thinking you could take your ebonmusings essays, and, for the most part, compile them into a nice book. Actually, I was hoping this for selfish reasons. I am getting tired of printing out all those wonderful essays on my printer, and wish they could all be put together into a nice, neat, hardcover package with a great-looking cover.

    But, seriously, those essays alone would make a fine book. Like Aaron Kinney suggested, perhaps consider talking with David Mills about publishing. He has had great success with his publication, and would be a good resource for learning about how it all works. I know he has encouraged every atheist to write something and work on getting it published, to get our voices heard.

    It sounds like you have a lot of support and encouragement. Now that you made this public, it’s going to be difficult to not pursue this. Just kidding … it should be something you like and want to do. If you decide not to, so be it. But if you do, then you’re currently reading the words written by one more pre-order customer.

    God knows the world needs more atheist publications!

    And like AlexanderM stated, your work would be a nice complement to Harris and Dawkins, whose writings can be biting at times. Your writing comes through in a much more friendly and congenial tone, that’s for sure.

  • Montu

    I, like the rest of your posting readers, love the idea of a book version of your website… you can curl up with a book better then a computer screen. ^_^ Of course the creative process is a difficult one to negotiate into a busy life, but it is a matter of choosing what’s most important to you. This is a really great oppurtunity, you should definitly go for it, and do exactly what you think needs to be done. I always hate making suggestions to creators about their work, esspecially when it’s not asked for, but I want to make an exception to this at the moment. Doug mentioned the subject of morality without god, which I agree would be a really interesting topic, and one that you’re inclined towards. To go along with this, I’d like to see something more about life as an atheist, instead of an attack on religion. Personally I feel that it tends to get dangerous when anyone takes an “us vs. them” attitude, which alienates some readers and the authors begin to simply preach to the choir so to speak. A book that talks about how an atheist views the world may be more effective at crossing the line between our two seperate world views without alienating anyone. My personal favorite examples of this are “Stardust” and “In Awe of Everything.” These are both beautiful and moving essays which work very well to explain your viewpoint, and exactly what that means to you. Right now I think there’s enough negativity towards the “other,” working to explain what the atheistic view is like in real world terms could be really refreshing for both atheists and believers. This is, of course, just my oppinion.

  • ellen

    I think you should definitely make time to write a book…based on your essays here, you surely have the talent for writing. But it is something you have to have the drive to do. Think about whether this is something you would like to look back and say, “It was a lot of work but I’m glad I did it,” or whether you would regret more missing the opportunity.

    I agree with those who said a book about morality and life as an atheist would be more interesting than another attack on religion, although I would probably buy anything you put out, myself. There are a lot of books coming out recently and none of them really seems to hit the nail on the head somehow.

  • Jack

    I’ve only been reading your blog a few months, but that’s enough to convince me of what your other readers have said: “Go for it!” I especially liked your recent and thoughtful reviews of Dawkin’s “The God Delusion” and Harris’ “End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation”. You noted a few shortcomings in those (e.g., Dawkins’ off-putting title; Harris’ flakiness with respect to ESP, Eastern mysticism, etc.). Your book could avoid those (and presumably other) shortcomings of the existing atheist literature.

    As I noted elsewhere, your “Today’s Crimes Tomorrow” piece is especially important in my view, and deals with the issue of atheism and morality that your other readers have emphasized. Something along those lines would be good.

    As for a publisher, I can recommend a friend of mine who might be able to help you. He is not himself an atheist, and has written books that you (and I) would not completely agree with, but he is a talented writer and has some good connections in the publishing world. Most of all he’s a decent, trustworthy and reasonable guy, and I’m sure he would help you find a way to publish a book while keeping some or all of the content freely available on the web. He has done this with at least one of his own books.

    Good luck with it!

  • Jeff T.

    Adam,
    I want an autographed copy. You are a hero.
    Jeff

  • James

    I believe that you could be very successful with this. While Professor Dawkins and Sam Harris are excellent, you deal with some slightly different issues that are yet to be addressed by the current texts out. I would like to see these in a published form even though I can just read them online, because I believe you are putting in a lot of time and effort, and being compensated/rewarded for your hard work is something long overdue.

  • Archi Medez

    Ebonmuse,

    I think if you decide to do this, work a bit on it in your spare time, getting the ideas activated. As the ideas become activated, they will be working all the time, even intermittently while you are doing other things or daily routine activities. As the project begins to take hold on your brain, or not, you will be able to determine if you’ll need the help of guest authors to help keep this blog going. Take a look at what you think is needed now and in the near future. You don’t want to repeat what’s already out there currently. Then the next step is organization of the book. This is very important, before getting too carried away with writing. Take your time and do it right. This may take a year in your spare time just to get the framework right and the general scheme for each chapter. Then put together a proposal and take it to some top-notch publishers who are capable of getting your work to the largest possible audience. Once you get an agreement, pursue it with as much time as you have available.

    The single greatest weakness as I see it among atheists today is that we don’t have available a positive theory about religious beliefs, morality, and aesthetic or “spiritual” aspects of experience. It’s not that we don’t have thoughts about all these things, but rather that we have not formulated and published these ideas in a comprehensive way. Religious people keep asking (to the effect of) “What’s the positive alternative? What do you atheists have to offer, other than taking my god away from me?” We need to spell out exactly what that positive alternative is and why it is better than the major religions.

    My suggested approach is to be 1) positive, 2) positive, 3) positive. That is to say, “not negative”).

    1. Spell out the positive scientific theory of religions, how they originate, evolve, are maintained, and die out. Draw upon the up-to-date scientific research in anthropology, and psychology (of religion, social-, cognitive-, developmental-) as well as neuroscience, on religious beliefs. State that atheists believe what they believe not just to be “anti” but rather because not having a belief in the deity is merely a by-product of a positive, scientific theory that gods are mythological ideas. Any “attack” on religion is purely in the context of comparing a positive scientific theory of religious beliefs to the religious theory of religious beliefs, and showing how the positive scientific side wins every time on every comparision.

    2. The next important “positive” is as other posters have pointed out, the positive theory of morality of yourself as an atheist, which arises not from ad hoc lists of superstitious “do’s and don’ts,” nor from a juvenile rebellion against religion, but from a foundation of moral principles. Again, any “attack” on religious morality in this case would arise purely in the context of a comparison showing how, when the general principles of morality are applied, religion comes up short and the positive theory of morality (sans religion) wins in every contest. Science again is on your side here. Drawing on anthropological and neuroscientific evidence show how morality probably developed long before any of the major world religions arrived on the scene. Drawing on psychological and neuroscientific evidence, show how morality (e.g., aspects such as empathy, moral reasoning, etc.) has a basis in the human brain and nervous system.

    3. The last “positive” is the aesthetic dimension of experience (sense of wonder, aspects of consciousness, dream state phenomena, etc.–I’m not talking about debunking goofy stuff like paranormal claims) or what some like to call “spirituality”. Again the scientific research and explanations can be very helpful on this point. Show how people derive these experiences naturally and do not need religious labels to understand these kinds of experiences and concepts. Show how people can and have explored “spirituality” in a disciplined way, including in the context of scientific research on these experiences, all the while without needing any religion as such. Then again compare this positive approach to aesthetic experience to the main religious alternatives and show how it is (or can be) superior in every important respect.

    That’s what I’d do anyway.

  • Alex Weaver

    I believe that you could be very successful with this. While Professor Dawkins and Sam Harris are excellent, you deal with some slightly different issues that are yet to be addressed by the current texts out. I would like to see these in a published form even though I can just read them online, because I believe you are putting in a lot of time and effort, and being compensated/rewarded for your hard work is something long overdue.

    Judging by my conversations with Adam, I gather he already feels rewarded. Compensation might make some of this easier, though, but the major value of a book would be reaching more people and gaining more credibility (a great many people seem to regard anything on the web as necessarily lacking literary value; unsurprising, given its potential and the history of social institutions. From what I gather, when what we would today call “novels” were first developed in the…18th century(?), they were regarded much the way comic books are today).

  • http://thegreenbelt.blogspot.com The Ridger

    Language Log also published a collection of their posts as a book, and nothing had to come down off the site. I don’t doubt that some publishers might (have) object(ed), but you just need to get a reasonable publisher.

    A collection of your essays would be good for carrying around and marking up.

    That said, only you know if you have the time to do it.

  • http://nes-ramblings.blogspot.com/ Nes

    Alex Weaver:
    Another idea that would be worth pursuing, by someone at any rate, would be a book or series of books on skepticism aimed specifically at younger readers. One I’ll have to keep in mind…

    I had a similar idea, teaching little kids the scientific method. Now, if only I was a good writer/story teller and had an artist…

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    My friends! Truly, I’m humbled by your praise. I confess my thoughts were already moving in this direction before I put up this post, but I was not in any way expecting a response this large or this enthusiastic, and in light of that I feel obligated to at least seriously investigate the possibility. I promise that, if I do become published, at the very least I owe an autographed copy to everyone who’s commented in this thread.

    Last night I put together a preliminary outline for how I might organize a book. I’ve already written much that I can use, but I would also plan to incorporate significant new material in revisions and expansions of my existing essays, to justify the purchase price for anyone who might be interested. As Archi Medez suggested, I’m planning to take at least a month or two before setting pen to paper (or hands to keyboard, more accurately) to let some ideas percolate and decide in greater detail how to lay these sections out. Several commenters have made a suggestion about a stronger focus on non-religious morality and a positive view of life as an atheist, and I think that is a good idea which I’ll certainly try to concentrate on.

    For now, I’d also like to look into how I’d find an interested publisher, and whether I’d want to self-publish or seek out a more conventional route (I’ve checked out both Lulu and Xlibris and I’m intrigued). I don’t know much about the state of the art in publishing, so if anyone has suggestions to that end, or especially if anyone has connections in the publishing industry, I’d appreciate it if you sent me an e-mail so we could discuss the issue. Jack, in particular – I’m very interested in the friend you mentioned. Could you send me a letter so I can find out more?

  • http://uncrediblehallq.blogspot.com Chris Hallquist

    Put some thought into how you’ll focus your book. Though it may seem like a narrow market, there are nevertheless a fair number of “general atheism” books out there already. Try to think of something you can do better than anyone else. (I’m currently working on a book project, and this is the tack I’m taking. The result, if I do manage to get it published, will be much more focused than the blog I have right now.)

  • Mikidu

    Well I don’t know about a book, I’m waiting for the Movie! But seriously, go for it and good luck with project. You have a firm but gentle style that should appeal to all.

  • Megrim

    I don’t comment often on this site, usually because I’m too busy reading and rereading your wonderful essays. I already have your essays printed and in a binder… what can I say? I love your way with words, and this idea of a book, with the recent success of others’, I think the idea is perfect. I hope the best for you, and we both know the cause (not to mention the monetary gain) is worth it, if you could manage it of course. I’m not just commenting to get an autographed copy, but that would be awesome too!

    I would just like to say thank you for everything you’ve done, and written, and for this site.

  • Prof. V.N.K.Kumar ( India )

    I am so happy that you have made up your mind to publish a book. Personally speaking, I would like you to focus on the theme “Discovering meaning and happiness through secular humanism/Science & Metaphysics of Naturalism/ Positive Atheism”. But then you know your strengths and USP (Unique selling Proposition) better than any one else and you might have already done some research on the type of books being published in the recent past, and what gaps have been left to fill by those authors. I am convinced that no matter what you write,it will appeal to many many people, since you write so cogently. I am also sure you will caption it better than what Dawkins did ! Your offer to give away copies of your future book to your friends is a generous gesture, but I am sure that people who comment on your write-ups can afford to buy it. You need to be compensated for the time and effort you put in for writing the book. My best wishes.

  • valhar2000

    Having read some of the essays in ebonmuse.org, I must say I am quite impressed; you should have no trouble putting together a good book. Since others have already given you suggestions about the book’s substance, I will give a suggestion about style: I recommend that you continue (whenever it makes sense) your practice of crafting a short, imaginative and descriptive tale at the beggining of each article, before launching into the main theme. I believe it has the effect of creating a change of pace that catches the reader’s attention and to some extent forces them to re-arrange their ideas. Plus, you are good at writting those things.

  • stillwaters

    No pressure, just wondering, how’s that book coming along?

    :)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I haven’t forgotten about it, I’ll say that. :) At the moment I’m working on a new essay for Ebon Musings I didn’t have the time to finish in December. That should be completed by the end of the month. Once that happens, I’m going to take a hiatus from writing for Ebon Musings and devote some time to the book instead. I already have an outline and some notes, but I haven’t gotten into serious work on it yet. I did happen to see Atheist Universe on display at Borders today, which I think lit something of a fire under me. ;)

  • Alex Weaver

    Sorry about that. *hides the Master MT-5 and gallon of diesel* 0-:)

    I’m kidding, of course; diesel won’t sustain a flame at room temperatures. You could put a cigarette out in a pool of it. ^.^

  • James Bradbury

    I’m a bit late to say it (only discovered DA a few weeks ago, so catching up), but great idea, good luck!

    I know you won’t be going for an inflammatory title (see Oolon Colluphid) to try and sell your book and I like the idea that it might end up accessible enough for open-minded theists to read – or agree to read, in exchange for me reading xtian apologetics for example. Hopefully it would reach a wider (and older?) audience.

    Your writing style is already clear, unpretentious and very insightful, so I’m confident your book will be a success. May it be the first of many.

  • Ric

    Well, I am a huge fan of your work on Ebon Musings, and I would definitely buy any book you published on the subject. I say go for it! I am not, however, clear why getting published on other blogs or not would make much difference.