Don’t let the following 10 book publishing myths and misconceptions undermine your confidence and lead you astray when you think about writing a nonfiction book to build your personal brand and expand your career opportunities and/or business profits.
1. I don’t have time to write a book
Who does have time to write a book? We live in busy times, where everybody–whether self-employed or working for others–is overworked and forced to deal with too much information.
Yet, each year, hundreds of recent college graduates and self-employed professionals manage to find the time to write books that fast-track their career and transform their businesses! How do they do it?
The answer lies in applying the habits and strategies of successful authors. Habits include planning, discipline, and committing to daily progress in working sessions as short as 30 minutes. Strategies include coordinating daily writing progress with the preparation of on-going marketing and promotion activities.
Everyone has the same 24 hours a day to live their lives. Each year, however, hundreds of thousands of subject area experts write and publish personal branding building books appear each year, while millions of others continue to cloak their expertise in frustration and obscurity.
2. I’ll wait until I can get away and focus on my book
A close second to the above, “I don’t have time!”statement is the common belief that the best way to write a book is to “get away” and focus on writing a book.
One of the major problems with this approach is that the “get away” time disappears further and further into the future as family demands continue to erode weekend, holiday, and vacation time. As a result, the opportunity costs mount as your book recedes into the future, losing its current relevance.
Anyone looking for a just about ready manuscript on “saving the buggy-whip industry?”
Worse, if the “get away” time ever does show up, the possibilities of success are reduced by the performance anxiety that results. The stress of returning from a sabbatical or vacation without a finished is enough to jeopardize any chances of success.
Certainly writing habits differ, but for the majority of branded nonfiction authors I’ve interviewed, slow, consistent daily progress is far more productive than stress-filled, last-minute writing marathons in a hotel room while the family is enjoying the pool.
Another common mistaken belief is that helpful and relevant books can only be written by authors with academic or professional “credentials” or “qualifications.”
This may have been true at one time, or with university or academic presses, but–today–the premium is on experience and an ability to provide useful information to a market that wants the information.
Indeed, the “tyranny of knowledge” mentioned in Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick convincingly argues that “experts” know too much, and that outsiders have the advantage of approaching a topic from a fresh, “where do I start?”, perspective.
Insiders assume that readers know too much and are already familiar with the specialized terms used in their field.
4. I’m not a good-enough writer
Branded authors who are known for the their books often comment that “writing isn’t especially easy” or that they depend on their editors to organize their ideas and express them as clearly and simply as possible. Many highly-successful branded authors freely admit that their co-authors–or, even, ghostwriters–are responsible for writing their books.
And, there’s nothing wrong with that?
As long as your book reflects your experience, ideas, and perspective, there’s nothing wrong with writing with a team. You’re the captain, and your goal is to see your book appear in print as efficiently and quickly as possible.
A late book that you wrote by yourself isn’t going to do as much for building your personal brand as a timely book that appears as quickly as possible.
5. I tried before and got turned down
Yesterday doesn’t matter. Publishing history is filled with examples of classic and respected authors who endured years of frustration and rejection before their books were published.
Often, these authors ended up self-publishing their books in order to get them into print.
Chance and context play an important role in whether or not a publisher agrees to publish your book. Some book ideas are ahead of time, before there’s a proven demand for the topic. Other proposals arrive the day after a publisher has signed a publishing agreement for a similar book on the topic.
Authors, like inventors, are judged by what they accomplish, rather than what they tried and failed to accomplish.
6. My first book was a complete waste of time
I often hear this from authors who painstakingly crafted the “perfect” book which was published by a large publishing house.
There are two reasons behind an author’s disappointment with a previously-published book.
- Inappropriate expectations. In many cases, authors were expecting that their primary rewards for writing their book would come from their publishers, in terms of a large advance and continuing royalties. These authors didn’t recognize that the primary benefits of their book must be self-generated in terms of increased credibility, heightened visibility, and new opportunities for back-end profits from products and services.
- Failure to market. In other cases, dissatisfaction is rooted in the author’s expectation that their publisher would do their book marketing for them. This is a fundamental fallacy that, unfortunately, is still around.Publishers are not marketers. Publishers are producers, printers, and distributors. Success is measured by what you do to build anticipation and demand for your book, not by publishers weaving a magic wand.
7. My book will sell itself
If you’re a typical non-fiction author writing a book to build your brand in your area of expertise, it’s unlikely your book will be “discovered” in your “superstore” bookstore.
In addition, as Brian Jud has convincingly argued books like his excellent Beyond the Bookstore: How to Sell More Books Profitably to Non-Bookstore Markets and his recent How To Make Real Money Selling Books (Without Worrying About Returns): A Complete Guide to the Book Publishers’ World of Special Sales, retail channels are simply not as profitable as other alternatives.
We live in a search engine world. More and more readers looking for help turn to Google before searching the aisles of their local or regional bookstores.
8. I don’t need a literary agent
Publishers, like everyone else in business, want to buy low and sell high. Especially in times of economic turmoil and rapid change.
No matter how good a marketer you are, you need a literary agents to protect your interests when exploring trade publishing options.
More than one author has discovered, to their disappointment (or horror) that the book contract they were so happy to sign limits their opportunity to leverage their book as much as they’d like. Numerous offers are trapped by clauses that require them to submit future book proposals to the publisher of their original book–without the requirement to accept or reject the proposal within a specified amount of time.
I consider literary agents a self-liquidating expense. Their ability to negotiate with publishers should more than offset whatever commission they command.
9. There’s too much competition
The presence of competing books does mean that you have to carefully position your book relative to the existing books.
No publisher wants to publish a how-hum, “just another” book on a topic. Publishers want a fresh approach; they want new ideas, new solutions, or solutions targeting specific markets.
Positioning is everything. During the past 25+ years, numerous fine books on positioning have been written by Al Ries, Laura Ries, and Jack Trout. These books, including the original Positioning Era, should be considered “required reading” for every career-oriented author and business owner.
10. Publishers know best
Authors often fail to assert themselves or speak up on crucial content or marketing issues because their publishers know more than they do. Although the publishers may have access to better information about trends, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone associated with your book knows more about your title or your market as you do.
And, unfortunately, they’re probably not as passionately committed to your title, as you are.
Although it seems obvious, many publishers do not consult authors about the design and copy on the front and back covers of their book. This can lead to numerous problems, especially in these days of outsourcing and distributed responsibilities.
Authors should identify their desired amount of input and control, and their agent should make sure that their publishing contract specifies their desires in writing.
Writing and publishing a book continues to be the best way to build your personal brand.
Published books are uniquely capable of igniting your career and business success.
Don’t let the above common book publishing myths and misconceptions undermine your confidence or cause you make an expensive mistake! Don’t allow negative or outmoded ideas get in the way of writing a book to build your personal branding success. Explore your options with an open mind. Speak up and defend your point of view. And, of course, share your book publishing experiences, opinions, and questions as comments, below.
Roger C. Parker is a content-oriented book coach who helps business professionals make appropriate writing and publishing decisions. He’s written more than 30 books and interviewed hundreds of successfully branded nonfiction authors. He shares what he’s learned in free weekly teleseminars and at Published & Profitable and his daily writing tips blog.