8th September, 2007

Dear Economist,

I am contemplating writing a popular book on the use of economic tools to explain everyday aspects of modern life, but have grown concerned that there is a growing pile of highly successful books in this vein already in circulation.

I cannot decide whether the success of these forerunners means that the public appetite for such subjects will already be satisfied by the time my work appears, or whether it indicates that my efforts are more likely to find a receptive audience. Please can you advise me how to decide whether I should embark on this enterprise.

Would-be Author

Dear Would-be,

You are confusing demand with supply. Do not worry about the public appetite for popular economics; worry instead about the number of competing titles that may arrive in the market just as yours does. (Given that you are hoping to write an authoritative book, you might also ask yourself why you are asking the questions about economics and I am answering them.)

Your economic training should have covered the notorious “hog cycle”. High profits for pig farmers lead them to rear more pigs. When the glut of pigs hits the market, prices and profits collapse. Farmers decide to rear fewer pigs. Later, when the pig shortage hits the market, profits rise again.

Books, like pigs, take time to reach the market, and so you need to try to place yourself out of sync with the cycle. If I may offer disinterested advice, you should curb your authorial ambitions until after my next book appears in early 2008. Better yet, may I instead strongly recommend a career as a pig farmer?

First published at ft.com.

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