The availability of self-publishing has changed the book world forever, and with the removal of the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing world, anyone can publish a book. Overall, this is wonderful – it means anyone can tell their story however they would like to tell it.
It’s also terrible because the standards for what passes for a book, much less a good book, have been lowered forever.
And because authors now set their own timetable when it comes to publishing, the number of books that get published without a second opinion or oversight from an editorial eye is overwhelming. Because books are such a fantastic way to establish yourself as an expert in your field, entrepreneurs and business owners are in a rush to get to the finish line because they see dollar signs (real or imagined) waiting for them on the other side of publishing. And in the process, they shortchange the creative process – and themselves.
If you’ve ever studied creativity, you might have noticed one major theme that emerges in all kinds of art, whether it’s painting, writing, poetry, music, or crafts: creativity transforms not just the piece of art, but the person who created it.
But, it’s a business book, right? What does that have to do with creativity? Everything. You’re still in a creative, messy, destructive, insightful, frustrating, constructive process no matter the outcome you’re going for. You might not consider yourself an artist or even a writer, but if you’re engaged in writing a book, you’re engaged in one of the most challenging creative processes out there.
First-time authors tend to make the mistake of starting to write immediately. I can understand this impulse – when the muse is whispering in your ear, the last thing you want to do is sit down and perfect your outline. However, it’s vitally important that you do. Think of your outline like a treasure map that leads you to the gold at the X: the finished book. Outlines keep you on track when you get lost, help you see what you’ve done and what you have left, and to remind you of your overall concept. Because writing a book requires that you manage and remember so many pieces of information, it’s very easy to get lost in what you write. Not to mention the fact that an outline makes it easy to start writing in the first place.
Second, new authors tend to skip over the editing process. After you’ve labored extensively for months or years, the last thing you want to do is wait for two more months while an editor reviews your work. It’s crazy-making because it seems like your thisclose to hitting publish, but here you are stuck waiting on someone else’s opinion.
Not once has anyone I’ve ever worked, or anyone I know who has hired an editor, ever regretted it. Not once has anyone said to me I could have skipped that editor – they didn’t add much value. The opposite is usually true. In fact, the people who tend to give the advice that you don’t need an editor don’t hire editors themselves, or when they do, they pay them $.02 per word. In other words, they don’t see the value at all.
Finally, new authors tend to overlook what it takes to share their book with the world. Marketing is a full-time job depending on your goals, and yet it’s often the last thing an author considers. They start planning their launch after their book is written and only start building their platform when they’re ready to hit publish.
All of this can be solved with a little more time and a lot more consideration. Slow down. If you think there is a rush, ask yourself who or what is rushing you, and if that person or thing is real or imagined. Often, an author will decide they want to push their book out quickly because they have an upcoming speaking opportunity or big event, and six months out they decide they want to write and publish the entire thing. There are other ways to build your audience–can you sell a compelling offer from the stage that is just as interesting as a book? Can you create a fun giveaway that will drive people to your website so you can harness their email address? If you’re trying to gain customers, writing a bad book and slamming it through production isn’t going to help you, but a clear and simple way to build your list will.
When it comes to writing a book, the creative process deserves more time. At the end of a truly embodied creative period, the creator becomes the created; the art or the literature are just the wonderful byproduct of the work and effort the artist or writer had to put in to get there.