It pains me to say this, but some people should not write a business book – or not yet. For some people, now is not the time, and they are best to keep their money in their pocket.

How can you tell if you should write and self-publish a book, or should delay or never write a book? You might be surprised by my answers.

If some or all of the qualities below sound like you, don’t write a book.

You may waste your time and money, and may harm your personal brand. The qualities that make for bad books (but not bad people) follow.


Most people cite self-doubt as their reason for not writing a book. In fact, self-doubt plays a vital role in the creative process. Why? Because assuming the role of the sceptical reader is essential to writing a persuasive book.

You need evidence to support your ideas, examples and stories to illustrate them, answers to counter arguments against them, and advice to help your readers overcome barriers that prevent them taking your advice. “Doubt shows respect for your readers,” I was once told by Matt Church, founder of Thought Leaders Business School as I agonised over writing my first (and still unpublished) book. I could not agree more.

On any page, readers can give up on you. In fact, they want to give up; they have other places to be, and people to see. You must hold their interest on the page for hour after hour. One misplaced word and they are gone. The minute you assume your reader’s loyalty, you have lost it.

The best authors are driven less by conviction than by curiosity. They question every word, idea, and story in their book. Not at the first draft, I hasten to add. At the first draft, the best writers put words on paper. But as we revise, we question (with wonder and curiosity, not with judgement) whether the next word will hold our reader’s attention.

Of course, you must believe that your ideas are worth exploring. You need confidence in your ability to solve the problems that arise. You need a strong desire to share your wisdom with the world.

Time on your hands

Waiting for a break in your schedule will ensure you never write a book. We never have a break in our schedule, and when we do, we most certainly should spend it on a holiday. Writing a book is work. Writing work must find its place in your working day.

Whole books have been written by authors who spend 15 minutes a day. My clients typically run successful businesses. When they wonder how to get their book completed, I advise them to “write in the cracks”. By this, I mean that whenever they have a moment, they must write or edit a little more.

Always busy

On the other hand, writing a book takes time: about 40 hours to write 45,000 words, in my experience. That is only one working week. But you cannot get it done unless you allocate the time to think, track down stories and find relevant research, review and edit your drafts.

If you are always too busy to write your book, there’s a reason. One is that your book is not important enough to you (yet). Another is that you must schedule in writing your book well ahead – perhaps as much as a year ahead – to find the time to do it.

A big-picture person (not a details person)

Books involve many details (see above). Every detail must be right. Your editor can make sure you have the best structure and correct grammar, but you are responsible for getting your facts straight. You must check and recheck your sources. You must quote verbatim. You must know whether you are breaching copyright or defamation laws. Writing and publishing is a responsibility and requires attention to detail.

I hesitate to be too harsh here, but what the hell: being a “big-picture people” in my experience is often the stated excuse for creating a mess for someone else to clean up. Attention to detail requires humility. Your book will help you cultivate this marvellous attribute.

NOT “doing it for the money”

I don’t think money is the root of all evil; I think fear qualifies for that dubious honour. Money is simply a measure of value. If you cannot imagine making money from the book you write and self-publish – either by selling the book or by selling training or speaking programs related to its contents – perhaps it has no value to anyone but yourself.

Of course, you can write a book for yourself alone – I will not stop you, and nor should anyone else. But don’t be disappointed if no-one reads it. The first step towards writing a brilliant business book is to understand the audience you are writing for and what they value and care about. When it comes to writing, making money from the book is a principal that keep authors honest with themselves.


The best authors may lack confidence and be time poor but they are well-organised, detail-orientated people who’d love to earn an extra buck. To them, I say this: often, we are not the best judge of our own ability. Those trying aspects of your personality will make you a good author. Take heart, and get started.

PS:  Want more?  You may like: It’s a Thing: choose precise words and your readers will thank you.