The number one question I am asked by business owners and professionals about their book, whatever stage they are at with it, is: “Is my book any good?”
Welcome to Book Imposter Syndrome.
We all know about imposter syndrome…thinking that we’re not good enough, don’t know enough, aren’t qualified enough . . .
Well, put this feeling on steroids and this is what Book Imposter Syndrome feels like.
So, what exactly is Book Imposter Syndrome and why can it stop you from starting, completing or publishing your book?
The Book Imposter Syndrome is a version of the Dunning – Kruger effect that occurs when a person’s lack of knowledge and skills in a certain area (in this case writing and publishing a book) causes them to overestimate their own competence. By contrast, this effect also causes those who excel in a given area to think the task is simple for everyone, and underestimate their relative abilities as well.
I’ve created a infographic that you might related to.
Having worked with over 150 business leaders, executives and consultants over the past 15 years I’ve developed some interesting insights into Book Imposter Syndrome that you might relate to. Most businesspeople:
1. haven’t written a book before
Sure, you’ve probably written tons of reports, prepared numerous speeches and presentations, even a PowerPoint or two, but not a book. Writing a book is new to most people, so acknowledge this and seek some advice about how to actually structure your book before you start.
2. focus on what they want to share/say and completely ignore who the readership is…
their target audience. I get it. You want to share what you know with others…all of what you know with others.
The challenge here is that ‘others’ is too vague and ‘others’ don’t have the time or interest to read everything you know. They focus on their challenges, what they want/need to learn and where/who they can get this information as easily and succinctly as possible. Your magnum opus is probably not going to deliver this.
To work out what should go in your book, focus on who your target audience is and what their main challenges are . . . then select what parts of your knowledge and insights will help them solve their challenges. This is what you should write.
3. don’t do the thinking, strategy and planning work up front, they just jump straight in and start writing, anything.
Before long you’re stuck in what I call the ‘push me-pull you’ version of writing…trying to keep writing but constantly going back to what you’ve written as a new idea/thought has come to mind. Progress slows, doubt creeps in. Book Imposter Syndrome arrives!
4. leave the draft of their book in a folder on their computer, or a printed out version in a draw.
Book Imposter Syndrome now takes over completely and it can last 1, 5 or 10 years. One of my clients is now a best-selling author – her first book sat in a folder on her computer for five years.
So, how do you spot Book Imposter Syndrome?
Here are some of the questions/thoughts that indicate you might have it.
How do I know what I’ve written is any good?
It’s a work in progress…I still need to do some more research.
I haven’t finished it yet, there’s a few more chapters I need to add?
How do I know when it’s ready to share?
Who could I share this with that would give me an honest opinion?
What if the people I share it with say it’s crap?
It’s not as good as xxxx, so it’s not good enough.
It’s now out of date so I need to get some more current figures.
It’s only an outline (yeah right!)
Oh, someone else has launched their book, so I’ve missed my opportunity.
I wasn’t really planning to publish it.
Notice that not one of these questions is about the target audience, the potential reader . . . and this is how Book Imposter Syndrome barrels on in.
How to prevent Book Imposter Syndrome
If you’ve written the first draft of your book, or are thinking about starting to write, STOP.
That’s right. Stop writing.
It’s time to stand back and start thinking and planning your book, or restructuring it if you’ve started.
Step back from what you want to write and think you know about your subject area and start thinking about who is going to read your book and why they would read it. What do you have to share that’s different from the thousands of books that are already out there on your topic? What’s your unique insight/perspective and why would your target audience be interested in it?
This, of course, means you have actually thought about who you target audience is, what their challenges are, where, who and how they are currently seeking out information.
If you undertake this research and deeply understand who you are writing for you will gain the focus and clarity about what to write (and what to leave out). You’ll gain greater confidence that what you are writing about matters and you’re going to help people solve their specific challenges.
Once you’ve written your first draft, and revised it a few times, you’ll then be more confident about sharing it with trusted people in your network and seek their genuine feedback.
Of course, you need to be in the right mindset to receive and act on the feedback you get. While you secretly might want people to say ‘Your book is terrific’, what you want and need is specific feedback, challenges and engagement about how you can make your book the best it can be.
Ask your reviewers to provide feedback on the flow of the chapters, the flow within chapters, your writing style, the ideas/concepts you’ve presented, what they think is missing that you should cover, what you should leave out.
Seek professional advice from a proven book coach, business book editor, a peer who has written a book.
Once you have the feedback review it and decide what you are going to action or not.
Deeply lean into the mindset that your book is your perspective/insight on the particular area of business/the world that you are involved in.
You are not putting yourself out there as THE ONE AND ONLY expert in your field (unless of course you actually are). You are one person who has a level of authority, insight, experience and you want to share this.
Understand that not everyone is going to agree with what you write, and that’s a good thing. If you’re genuine about sharing your knowledge and insights you have to be open to discussing these with others, listening to different perspectives.
Your Book Imposter Syndrome vaccination
Having written 32 business books there’s not one that I’d say is perfect. There’s something about every single one that I’d rework, rewrite, revise post publication.
Why is this?
Because whatever I’ve written is fixed at that moment in time, and things change. Different information comes to light, people share insights and perspectives I hadn’t engaged before, I come across something I didn’t fully appreciate the significance or context of before, I found a typo or punctuation error or I read something I’ve written and think I could have expressed it better, more succinctly . . . or not at all.
Your book captures your knowledge and insights at a point in time. Yes, it will be fixed at that moment in time (that’s the beauty of a printed book), but you’re not, and neither is the subject area you’re writing about.
Be comfortable with the fact that your book will be the best you can make it, not perfect, and DO NOT under any circumstances print your book without professional structural advice and proofreading.
The written word is all that stands between memory and oblivion.
Without books as our anchors, we are cast adrift, neither teaching nor learning. They are windows on the past, mirrors on the present, and prisms reflecting all possible futures. Books are lighthouses erected in the dark sea of time. Jeffery Robbins
Are you suffering from Book Imposter Syndrome? Let me him you beat it. Book in a free 45 minute strategy session with jaqui: https://calendly.com/jaqui/45min
Thinking about writing your business book? Book in a free 45 minute strategy session with me to discuss your concept, book structure and audiences: https://calendly.com/jaqui/45min