Are you experienced enough to write a book?

There are lots of crappy books written by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Regrettably, there are also plenty of really experienced people who doubt their ability to write a book about their knowledge, which is a shame.

Which are you?

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do you have an insight that people like you (or your clients) don’t yet recognize about the challenges they face?
  • Do you have a lot of detailed knowledge about why that insight is true and what to do about it?
  • Do you have a unique, differentiated perspective: one that isn’t already well represented in the world with other books, web sites, instructional videos, and courses?

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then you may be ready to write a book. But do you really have enough experience to be credible?

How much experience is enough?

Which of these describes your experience solving the problem you describe?

  • I did this once, and it succeeded. Rookie. Sorry, not nearly enough experience.
  • I did this multiple times myself, and learned a few things. Still not enough experience; outside of a memoir, you need more than your own experience to write credibly.
  • I know and have talked with multiple similar people who solved this problem. Not enough diversity. Not everyone is the same. If you only know about how, say, 18-to-20-year-old women, or IT directors at midmarket financial services firms, or white middle managers in tech companies have solved the problem, you’re not quite there yet.
  • I have worked with a diverse set of people attempting to solve the problem and learned multiple ways in which they could succeed, or sometimes, decisions that caused them to fail. Now you’re getting somewhere. A dozen examples is a bare minimum. Thirty or 50 are better.

Even if you don’t have the experience personally, you can leverage what I call “the analyst exception.” In that situation, you interview as many people as you can who have attempted to solve the problem and learn from their experience. This is how professional analysts and authors make up for their lack of direct experience: they conduct primary research.

What to do with your experience

If your are a wizened pro with a wealth of experience to draw on and a unique perspective, you are ready to write a book. What patterns have you seen? What insights can you write about that people in your field always seem to find useful when you share them? You have the knowledge. How can you organize it? What makes it unique?

(Incidentally, this is what happened with my book for authors. After 50 book projects, I had so much knowledge to share that I quickly generated 24 chapters and 70,000 words. I knew authors had questions about ideas, titles, publishing models, writer’s block, covers, book promotion, and even footnotes, and I had answers for them.)

If you are full of energy but not experience, then there may be a book in your future, but you’re not ready yet. Expand your experience. Work with as many clients as you can. Talk with your peers at other companies about their experiences. Expand your network. Work to identify patterns in your work. Get to the point where your experience will create credibility and help a diverse audience of people like you or your clients.

It’s not just books

This same advice applies to online courses as well. People don’t want to learn from inexperienced instructors. (“See one, do one, teach one” may work in medical school, but it doesn’t apply in most other situations.)

But another way to expand your knowledge is to make blog posts, podcasts, and workshops and learn from how people respond to them.

If you are focused on always learning, you’ll get there. If you are focused on how smart you already are, you will not.

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