So often would-be authors are consumed by the task of deciding what their book should be about, how they’re going to publish it, and other similar questions. But one of the quickest ways to kill a book project of any type right out of the gate is to write and publish too soon. Yes, that’s right. There is such a thing as publishing too soon. You can avoid the agony of getting caught in this situation by embracing these “insider” secrets.
Your Ideas Can Get Ahead of Your Writing
One common way in which authors suffer from publishing too soon actually has to do with the writing process itself. Namely, they may not yet have the skills to bring their awesome concept to life. For example, among first-time novelists, the Writer’s Ally often sees more mystery/suspense drafts than almost any other genre. The problem is, pulling off a great mystery or a captivating suspense novel is one of the hardest things to do in fiction. In addition to the same skills any other book type would require—things like character development, scene setting, and authentic dialogue—a successful mystery/suspense novel also involves:
- believable plot twists
- convincing red herrings
- a high level of conflict
- a faster pace
Your imagination has no limits. Your writing skill level does. And sometimes, unfortunately, there’s a mismatch between them. Attempting a book like this before your skill set has caught up can be a valuable learning experience, the way any challenge can be. But when your focus is on finishing so you can publish the book as if that were the natural conclusion (and not using it as a learning experience, period) the result is often frustration. Besides the risk of publishing too soon a book that isn’t meeting industry standards, that frustration may lead to an even greater tragedy. It may cause you to put down the pen before your writing career has even started.
I remember taking art classes in elementary school with an instructor who usually worked with high school students. The very first lesson, she gave me several drawing exercises that went way over my head. She wanted me to break images into grids and use proportional math to plot my paintings. With enough practice, I’m sure I could have accomplished a lot using her approach. But at age seven, my drawing skills were way off from where I needed to be to follow my teacher’s lead. The gap left me feeling like such a failure that I quit almost immediately even though I really loved making art.
Your Writing Can Get Ahead of Your Ideas
There’s a similar problem when you’re writing nonfiction. There’s the writing skill issue as well, but perhaps more importantly, if you write your nonfiction book too soon you may not effectively line up the book’s promise or content with your business goals.
Maybe you aren’t clear on who your ideal client is—how, then, will you tailor the book to address those same readers? If you don’t know precisely who you’re speaking to with a prescriptive book, it’s very difficult to offer proper advice. It’s even harder to cultivate a relationship between you and your audience. Savvy readers know when an author doesn’t understand their problems, and they won’t trust you to offer the right solutions.
Perhaps you see yourself teaching a system or program through speaking gigs and workshops. But if you haven’t been testing that system or program in your business, how will you know its true benefits and how it works when the rubber hits the road? Not to mention the lack of client anecdotes or examples you can pull from since you don’t have any clients. It’s all very theoretical, which makes the book more difficult to write, and it can undermine your credibility as an expert author.
Your Business Isn’t Ready for a Book
Speaking of becoming an expert author, let’s address some common reasons that business owners choose to write a nonfiction book in the first place:
To prove their expertise
Some people say that the work that goes into writing a book is what makes you an expert, but I disagree. Yes, you certainly learn a lot in the process. You’ll probably be doing research and talking to a lot of people, which advances your knowledge of the subject significantly. But without the platform and credentials to back up your supposed newfound expertise, who is going to trust you? Again, writing a book will help you learn a lot about a subject, but it isn’t a substitute for experience.
When you publish too soon, you risk looking like even more of an amateur than people without books. Not like more of an expert just because you have one. It’s true that “author” is the root word of “authority” for a reason, but the key is to write and publish the right book at the right time. Any old book—and publishing too soon—just won’t do.
To grow their business [TIP: This can also be a problem for new novelists and memoirists]
Putting aside the issues of credibility and content that we’ve already discussed, there’s another way that publishing your book too soon can thwart your ability to grow your business. It has to do with your author platform. Heard that before? Briefly, your author platform is everything about you that you will use to sell books. Things like a mailing list, social media following, professional certifications, membership in target organizations, and a network of media connections are all “planks” in your platform.
Imagine you have some of these things. When you publish your book, you can promote it through your social media profiles. You can request reviews from your most loyal fans (i.e. your mailing list). You can ask your network to help get you exposure through interviews and feature stories. In other words, you can exponentially increase your reach, leveraging both the book and your platform to do so.
Now, imagine you’ve just started out in your business. You don’t have a mailing list. Your social media footprint includes about 100 Twitter followers and maybe twice that number of people Liking your Facebook Page. As for your network, you don’t really know anyone in the media or any high-profile colleagues in your industry. When you publish your book, who is going to care? What will you do to get reviews? How will you achieve that same level of reach that you need to attract more leads and opportunities and expand your business?
It’s not impossible. But it sure is a lot harder.
Timing Your Success
You can avoid many heartaches when you rein in your impatience instead of publishing too soon. Best of all, when you create a book with the seriousness of intent that such an undertaking deserves, you’ll get better results. And don’t mistake “seriousness” for “not fun.” Writing a book can be a lot of fun! For those who enjoy a challenge, self-publishing can also be an incredibly enjoyable experience.
What’s not fun is making the journey to publication harder and more frustrating than it needs to be. As with most ventures, when writing or publishing a book, timing is everything.
Okay, maybe the timing isn’t everything, but it does account for a lot of the success you’re dreaming of. I promise you that.
If you have experience with problems like those covered here, chime in with a comment below and help your fellow writers out!
Founder of The Writer’s Ally, Ally E. Machate is a bestselling book collaborator, award-winning editor, and expert publishing consultant who loves using her insider knowledge and experience with the publishing industry to lead serious authors toward success. She and her team live to help make great books happen, whether that means showing a writer how to improve a manuscript, get an agent, or self-publish; or coaching an author on growing her platform to sell more books. Since 1999, she has supported hundreds of authors on their publishing journey and takes pride in serving as their books’ best ally.