Let me clarify what I mean by a “crappy book.” Contrary to what may seem obvious, it’s not about anyone’s opinion or preference–and it’s not a commentary on how strong or weak you may be as a writer. As a book professional here to help entrepreneurs write the best books they can, I consider a book to be crappy when it doesn’t support your business. A book that you can’t rely on to represent your business in its best light, that makes your ideal clients say “meh” (or “no way!”) rather than “wow!” when they read it, or that makes you as its author come off as sloppy, lazy, arrogant or underqualified…that’s a crappy book.
In preparing to write Don’t Write A Crappy Book!, I found 17 mistakes that authors make (usually without knowing it) that make their books crappy. Here are five of the biggest ones you may be tripping over without realizing it:
#1: You’re trying to talk to everyone
When you try to talk to everyone, your message won’t resonate strongly with anyone. It might even miss the people who need it most. As Marie Forleo says (in her trademark Jersey accent), “If ya tawkin’ ta everybody, ya tawkin’ ta nobody.”
To speak to your ideal audience, you need to know who they are! Being unclear about who you’re speaking to and how they’ll know is a common mistake authors make. Ask yourself: Who am I writing this book for? And just as importantly: Who am I not writing this book for? It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to talk to the specific people you want to reach is to eliminate everyone who isn’t them from your audience. The clearer you get on who those people aren’t (and the more willing you are to invite those people to self-select out), the easier it is to capture the attention of the people you really want to talk to.
#2: You’re writing the book too soon
I know you want your book and you want it now! (Cue Willy Wonka footage.) But if your business isn’t ready to support a book at the moment, you’ll end up expending a lot of what you don’t have (money, time, energy) on a book that will almost certainly be crappy.
One of the biggest mistakes I see is when enthusiastic entrepreneurs endeavor to write their book in survival mode – living paycheck to paycheck while trying to get their business off the ground. Totally preoccupied with figuring out how to make ends meet, they nearly always take harmful shortcuts on book creation that either kill their book’s quality, kill their business in the process, or both.
Please, if you’re in survival mode, don’t write a book yet. You don’t have the resources to write one you’ll be proud of right now. Use the time and effort you want to put toward a book toward building your business instead. Writing your book when your business is truly ready for it will make for a much more successful book!
#3: You’re trying to do everything yourself
If you fancy yourself an intelligent, capable human being who is savvy with a Google search, it’s easy to convince yourself that you can, indeed, do it all. Especially if you ignored my advice from the last section and are trying to write this book in survival mode. Don’t fall for that temptation. You are amazing at what you do, yes, but even you need professional help when it comes to writing a book.
Think about it this way. Your clients and customers reap great results because your expertise does for them what they can’t do for themselves. It takes what they can do and makes it better in ways they probably couldn’t have imagined before they hired you. When you write a book, you’re in their position. Consider what that means about the services great book professionals can provide for you–and the problems that might arise if you don’t work with any.
#4: You’re not telling stories
Stories can make or break your book, and the story that makes the strongest connection always wins. They make dry, complex, and/or unfamiliar material more interesting and easier to understand, and they help your message reach your audience like nothing else can. You probably already know this on an instinctive level–you feel it anytime you want to ask “can you give me an example?”. So make sure you give your readers what they need to find inspiration in your words and relate personally to your message: stories that make your text more than just information. Anything less will make your book disappointing to the people you want to reach most. And there’s nothing crappier than a disappointing book.
#5: You’re in a big damn hurry
Remember, your book is an asset—a permanent physical thing that you’re building, and that you plan to build on. That asset will be around for the rest of your business’s lifespan and then some. You’ll have years to use your book to grow your business. Decades, possibly. Writing your book at breakneck speed will not increase its impact in the grand scheme of things. Nor will publishing your book in February rather than January, in Q3 rather than Q2, or next year rather than this year.
The sad truth is that it doesn’t matter how busy or competitive you are, what an adrenaline rush hustle mode can be, or how much you just want to be on the other side of all this. Speed can be dangerous. It can cost you dearly in money, quality, business and ironically, time. The faster you try to go, the more likely you are to make mistakes and have to slow back down or take extra time. Better to go slow first and get it right.
The bottom line is you’ve got too much to offer in your business to write a crappy book that doesn’t help the people looking to you for guidance. And your business deserves a book that will support it and help it grow. So when you sit down to plan for that book, do yourself and your future readers a favor and write a great one.
I’m James Ranson, The Master Wordsmith™, and I’m here to take your words from good to great. I have more than two decades of writing and editing experience, I’ve worked with over 200 authors, and I will put my dedication to quality book creation up against anyone else’s out there any day of the week.