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  • Mark Twain’s Advice for Authors Writing Brand-Building Books

    Early this week, I discovered a quote by Mark Twain that offers advice and perspective for those who want to write a book to build your personal brand.

    Mark Twain’s quote addresses the reason many entrepreneurs fail to accomplish big goals–like writing a book; they have great ideas, but fail to take action.

    Why many fail to take action

    The underlying reason for failing to take immediate action often boils down to fear of the unknown; the goal appears so large that it’s probably too complicated and time-consuming to be practical.

    In addition, it may require learning how to master new skills.

    There’s a tendency in all of us to avoid uncertainty, and–until we’ve done something–we’re apt to think it’s going to be harder than it actually is.

    As a result, we retreat to predictability and safety. We put off starting, because we’re afraid to fail!

    The result, of course, is that we continue to struggle in anonymity…and, all too often, one of our competitors ends up writing the brand-building book that could have built our brand.

    Mark Twain to the rescue!

    I recently ran across a brief quote by Mark Twain that offers a healthier alternative way of approaching complex projects:

    “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”

    In just 2 sentences, Mark Twain explains how–with the proper help–just about anyone who wants to can write a book to build their personal brand.

    “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”

    The first part of Mark Twain’s quote is true for everyone, but is especially true for authors.

    As all of us have probably experienced over and over again, progress builds on progress!

    You take the first step, and the second step is easier. You take the second step, and the third follows quite naturally. Progress quickly becomes visible.

    Getting started has special significance for authors; first-drafts are seldom published “as is.” All authors–even the greatest–need editors and proofreaders.

    But, you have to write the first draft before editors and proofreaders can “make it better!”

    “The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one”

    Mark Twain’s second sentence also relates to universal tendencies, in this case, the importance of feeling in control which leads to feeling confident.

    Writing a book seems impossible when you hold a book in your hand and consider the tens of thousands of words the author had to write in order to share their ideas. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

    But, it’s an entirely different matter when–instead of “writing a book”–you simply give yourself a manageable task you can accomplish in 30 or 45 minutes, like:

    • Preparing a list of the top books in your field before leaving for work
    • Identifying the Top 10 ways readers can benefit from your book before leaving for home
    • Writing a page or two, (or 500-600 words) about someone who mentored you when you were new to the field before heading for bed

    What separates authors from non-authors?

    Subject area experts and branded authors are nearly identical to those who fail to brand themselves as experts. Both authors and non-authors:

    • Don’t have enough time. Everyone’s days are limited to 24 hours.
    • Have too much to do. These days, everyone is balancing multiple priorities and increasing expectations.
    • Are expected to fulfill family and social obligations. We’re not only responsible to ourselves, we also have obligations to others around us.

    Mark Twain’s quote explains the only real differences between published authors and unpublished entrepreneurs; published authors have started…and the way they started is by breaking the steps involved in planning, writing, planning, and profiting from a book into small, manageable tasks…and started on the first one.

    What do you think?

    What do you think about Mark Twain’s advice for authors writing brand-building books? Did he hit the nail on the head, or is there something missing? Share your impressions of Mark Twain’s advice, and whether or not it provides a useful perspective for examining your attitudes towards writing a book to build your brand, as comments below. And, if you have a favorite quote about writing, please share it with us below.


    Roger C. Parker‘s Published & Profitable blog contains over 1,100 ideas and tips for planning, writing, promoting, & profiting from writing and self-publishing a brand-building book.

    Roger C. Parker offers ideas, tips, and personal coaching to help you write your way to a strong personal brand, including a free workbook, 99 Questions to Ask Before You Start to Write or Self-publish a Brand-building Book.

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