If that title had a single, simple answer, most books would probably be unreadable and unoriginal. The fact that nobody writes in the same way is one of the factors which leads to the diversity of literature. People say ‘write what you know,’ but a better approach might be to ‘write what you want,’ because no amount of research will motivate you to write something which you’re not passionate about. Increasingly, books are used for a purpose other than literary achievement; business leaders and marketing and sales professionals alike continue to enjoy substantial benefits by using their works to provide an insight into themselves, their business or their product or service.
Unfortunately, passion isn’t usually enough to produce a finished book. Whether you’re writing a novel or something factual and research-driven, one of the most valuable things you can have is an audience. An audience is a reason to write in the sense that your desire for your work to be read is the reason you’re writing in the first place, but an audience can be an ongoing motivator as well as a final end. What an audience mainly gives, though, is feedback.
It can be hard enough to predict how a friend might respond to your writing, let alone a total stranger. Fortunately, in a world in which communication can flow from London to Sydney in a matter of milliseconds, we don’t have to put ourselves in the shoes of thousands if not millions of others… we can ask them what they’re like to walk in instead. Audiences can provide an all-important initial response which can reveal the way forward. If you engage even a small audience, they can provide ongoing, genuinely interested feedback which can continue to shape your book as it evolves. There are literally hundreds of writing communities online, some focusing on a specific genre, some on a particular philosophy, others attract a certain demographic. Finding your audience has truly never been easier, and is likely to become easier still as the number of people online (currently somewhere around the 3.2 billion mark) continues to grow literally exponentially.
If what you really need is the attention of someone with professional experience, an impartial approach to feedback and editing, and a vested interest in the success of your work, you might well benefit from the services of a book coach. Book coaches do a variety of things, and the first thing they do should be to get you to establish exactly what it is that you need help with. This can be extremely valuable in itself, forcing you to sit down and evaluate your approach; you might wind up with a time-plan for getting that first manuscript finished, or a better understanding of the layout of your story.
There has never been a better time to write the book that you want to write. Publishing is expanding, and while traditional publishers remain fairly risk-averse, self-publishing and co-operative publishing are on the rise. Self-publishing does what it says on the tin, while co-operative publishing shares risk and reward between author and publisher, allowing the author to retain control of their work while also providing all of those services (cover design, marketing etc.) which are necessary for the success of a book. Chase a publishing contract if that’s your dream, but don’t let that dream become a nightmare, and above all don’t give up on the book that you wanted to write just because someone else wants you to. In a letter rejecting Moby Dick due to the whale himself being a “somewhat esoteric plot device”, Melville was asked “could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens” I think most would agree, on balance, that Melville was right to stick with the original.
By Mindy Gibbins-Klein MBA FPSA FRSA, multi-award-winning international speaker, author and thought leadership strategist. Her flagship book 24 Carat BOLD outlines the four attributes found in true thought leaders. Her latest book The Thoughtful Leader takes thought leadership to a new level. Founder and CEO of REAL Thought Leaders, The Book Midwife® and Panoma Press, Mindy has authored and co-authored eight books. She is also a regular contributor to the business press on thought leadership and raising your profile.