It’s not good news, is it? A big part of my professional life is spent encouraging thought leaders to get their ideas down on paper in book form, publish them, and send them out into the world: something about which many of them feel diffident, to say the least. And now, here I am, pointing out that whatever you put out there in writing (blog, book, white paper) will, in fact, be mercilessly judged by your readership.
What is a thought leader to do? Faced with such a horrible reality, many potentially great authors and bloggers duck and weave. They avoid starting a blog, put off writing a book, handball their writing tasks to someone else. For me, that is a very sad outcome.
It’s not always the cream that rises to the top
Do you know what makes it even sadder? For every thought leader who is wracked with doubt about the quality of their ideas and expertise (even though they have been wowing their clients or employers for decades!), there’s someone blithely pouring their inadequacies onto the page and making a motza. Not only do they publish their meagre thoughts, but I have it on good authority that they forward their books to journalists and editors of quality publications, who set them aside and think to themselves: ‘What crap!’
Self-publishing is a democratic movement, which is why I love it. Anyone can start a blog, but not anyone can start a good one. Anyone can write a book, but writing a good one is hard(er). And, in the democratic mayhem that is our modern information superhighway, what is not worth attention, doesn’t get attention, right? Well, that is another sad story. Who markets themselves, wins; don’t let it be the wrong people.
If you cannot serve yourself, serve your market
I remember going for a pay rise once in a situation that was — how can I put it — hopeless. As I spoke up for myself, I thought, I have to do this for my daughter as much as for myself. I didn’t get it because Kelly Magowan’s fantastic book, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Salary Negotiation, had not yet been written, but that is not my point. My point is that when we face our self-doubt, we must find ‘hacks’ to get around them and out of our own way. That was mine. Find your own. If you believe in what you sell to your market (which I certainly hope you do), then start writing your book and blog. If your clients can articulate your value, write down their testimonials and stick them all on your computer screen to remind yourself why you are writing. It is not (just) for you, but for the market you serve.
When people criticise you, listen and wonder if they are right
Back in my journalism days, I got an email from a reader telling me that something I had written in the first column on the second page of the story was wrong. I rang him and thanked him personally. Not only did he read my story all the way through — and not the first two paragraphs — he took the time to find out how to reach me and let me know I’d made a mistake. (I can’t remember if he was right, but it certainly wasn’t a big one, I hasten to add.)
Our critics are not always helpful, but we dismiss them too readily without realising they how much help they can be to our writing. It’s why I love blogging — reader feedback tells me whether I am on the right track. Of course, sometimes I just say something controversial — like ‘most PR agencies are not worth the money you pay them’ — and get howled down. But I personally thanked everyone who commented on that LinkedIn post, no matter what they said about my views.
Incorporate the views of your critics in what you write. For example, critics might say that the self-publishing sector is full of crappy books. I say that there are plenty of great self-published books, and there is a publishing revolution going on, in which published authors are leaving the traditional book publishers in droves.
If you are independent author, who is self-publishing, find your mojo
In the words of the great band, Crowded House, ‘Don’t dream it’s over‘. Don’t ignore your self-doubt; respond to it. If your ideas look insubstantial on the page, find ways to make them better. If you give your book to a colleague and they criticise it, answer their criticisms on the page. If there is nothing wrong with your ideas, find your mojo, and stand up proudly to share them with the world.
PS: Want more? You might like: Why I cannot work with every thought leader who wants to write a book