I’m in the business of helping people write their business books. So, when I say just about everyone who runs their own business should have a book, it’s pretty self-serving. It’s also not true. Not everyone in business is at the level where they should have their own book, or at least not a signature book or what we in the industry call a “book book.” (Sorry to get super-technical on you so fast!)
If you’re just starting your business, a book can immediately position you as an authority and leader in your industry. But you run the risk of being all hat and no cattle. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I am not a fan of “instant expert” marketing. The words expert and experience come from the Latin word experientia which means (according to etymonline.com) “knowledge gained by repeated trials.”
Yes, you can write a book if you’ve never actually done “the thing.” There’s enough information on Google on just about any subject for you to accumulate and mold into a helpful book. You can interview experts and gain material for a book. As a ghostwriter, I have never run medical practices or an ad agency, or any of dozens of different businesses, but the people I ghosted for had many, many years of experience. I turned their knowledge into a book. But after writing those books, I still didn’t have the actual, hands-on experience that is needed to run those businesses. Had I gone out and tried to do that, I would have failed. I haven’t gained that particular knowledge by repeated trials. I have no real world experience.
Writing a book doesn’t make you an expert. It makes you look like an expert…
Until someone asks you a hard question.
Or heckles you.
The comedian Leo Gallagher has a younger brother Ron who pretty much duplicated his act, right down to his costume. He went out on the road and the billing was often unclear as to who was performing. A lot of people bought tickets thinking they were going to see the original Gallagher, but got Ron instead. It worked great until it didn’t. Performing, especially comedy, takes a lot of practice in front of live audiences. His timing wasn’t quite there. He couldn’t handle hecklers. It didn’t take long before club owners and audiences figured out they didn’t have the real deal. Leo sued Ron and there were uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinners for many years. Ron became known as Gallagher Too, sometimes Two or “not the real one.”
Here’s an example from the speaker world. I edited a book for a real estate investor who supposedly had achieved some level of success. She had only been in the business for a couple of years. She hadn’t done that many deals. Yet, she was writing a book and was about to start a very high-priced coaching program based on her techniques. (Which were pretty much the same as everyone else’s techniques.) Another client mentioned her in passing and said she couldn’t sell well from the stage. I asked, “Why do you think that is?” He said, “She doesn’t really know what she’s talking about. She’s polished and she’s a good speaker, but she doesn’t have any real depth of knowledge or experience.” (Okay. That’s paraphrased. We tend to sprinkle our conversations with four letter words and catty remarks.) Not so deep down, she knows she’s a fraud. And this affects her ability to sell her services.
If you don’t have the experience to be a leader in your niche, don’t try to fake it ‘til you make it. Do the work. Get the experience. Be open to learning all kinds of new stuff and especially be open to the old stuff because everything old is new again. Think of ways you can take old strategies and make them new. Apply what you learn and experience and develop your own techniques and practices. Bring something to the table. THEN you’ll have something to write about.
For the record, I’m not talking about impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome describes people who have an inability to internalize their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a fraud. But these people have accomplishments! They just have a hard time recognizing them as such. So, you actually have to work your way up to having impostor syndrome. (Am I the only one who finds that amusing?)
Does this mean you shouldn’t write a book for years and years? No. You can write shorter books, little books, detailing part of what you do, a process perhaps, or maybe giving some tips to help people with the most common problems that you solve. You can write books for lead generation or maybe write a workbook for your clients.
But wait until you’re ready to write your signature book. Do the work. Have some setbacks as well as successes. When you finally write your “book book” it will be filled with solid information backed by real world experience. Your book will be worthy of you.