It’s a common question: How do you know your book is finished? I’m going to give you the answer right here and right now, but you’re not going to like it.
A book is never finished.
There’s always one more tweak, something that could have been written a bit more smoothly. A new development that changes the information or sheds new light on it. Life keeps moving.
But there does come a time when you need to let your book go. And that’s hard. You don’t need to be a perfectionist to feel the anxiety when you are ready to push the publish button.
Our book represents us, our beliefs, our reality, our approach. What if we’re wrong? Or what if we got something wrong? What if we’re not wrong but people think we are? What if, what if, what if.
Putting your name on a book is like posing nude for Playboy. Before airbrushing and Photoshop.
So how do you know it’s time to stop writing and let your book loose on the world?
- If you find yourself researching the minutiae of your book, unless it’s a manual on brain surgery or running a nuclear plant, it’s time to let it go. And to realize that you know your subject matter better than most and you should trust yourself and that knowledge.
- If you catch yourself going over your chapters time and again after you’ve already been through your chapters time and again, it’s time to let go. Or at least send the manuscript to your editor and beta readers.
- If you’ve incorporated editorial suggestions and are still fussing, send the manuscript to your interior formatter. It’s time to let go.
Publishing your book is scary. You’ve labored over it; it’s a piece of yourself. What if no one likes it? What if no one buys it? What if critics pan it?
What if all those things happen?
Then you’ll know more than you did before you hit publish.
Frankly, lack of sales is not rejection of your book unless you had an all-out media campaign and a guest spot on Good Morning America. Most indie authors don’t have that going for them. Selling a book is an entirely different skill set than writing a book or even coming up with the concepts within the book. And selling books is a damn hard business.
What if people don’t like it and leave bad reviews? Some people won’t like it. Often people leave a review complaining about a book and revealing that they didn’t read the book description very well—kind of like those people who book a vacation in the South of France and then complain about topless beaches.
What if you did leave something out or you missed something? First ask yourself if that topic is within the scope of your book. If it wasn’t and you intentionally didn’t address it, that’s fine. You might want to add a line in your book description that says it’s not in there. Or not. You covered the material you deemed important. And if you somehow missed something important, you can add it in and republish. That’s why there are second and third and more editions of books. (See: Screwing Up for my own big goof.)
The world is constantly changing. There’s new information coming forward every day. How do you know your book is finished? It’s more a matter of letting your book go, ready or not. You write your book to the best of your knowledge and abilities. That’s all. Then you give it up, let it go, send it out into the world. Because…
- What if someone reads your book and finds exactly the answer they were looking for?
- What if someone reads your book and is inspired to follow their dream?
- What if someone reads your book and it makes their life easier or reassures them?
- What if someone reads your book and finds a kindred spirit?
Those are the what ifs you need to consider. Those are the what ifs that make you hit the publish button.