Hello, Best Beloved.
From time to time I answer reader questions. This is one of those times.
<Hoists mailbag onto table. Rummages around. Pulls out reader letter.>*
*Kidding. Of course questions come via email. But "clicked email and pasted here" doesn't land quite the same, does it?
"How do you know when the time is right to draft your first book? Did you feel overwhelmed by writing about such a competitive topic?" —Sara
Let's answer the first part of that question with a visualization. (Walk with me...)
You're wandering through the aisles of a bookstore/clicking around the virtual aisles on Amazon. You eye a certain book tucked on a shelf. A small shock of recognition: The topic. The positioning. You're staring at the book you wanted to write. But didn't.
Maybe the title is different, or the jacket. But the gist is the same... and the author's face isn't your face.
What's your gut screaming at you, in that moment? Check one:
___ Eh. My gut isn't screaming at all. My gut is rational. Non-emotive. Gut assesses the situation. "Welp, this proves it was a good idea," Gut shrugs. If Gut is spritzed with a perfume of regret, he's not admitting it. (If Gut were a marketer, he'd be 1000% data-driven. Perhaps head of MOPs.)
___ "*&&@)$*$!!!!," Gut says. He's wailing. WAILING. Melting down right there in the aisle.
If you vibe with the latter, start writing.
Not because of jealousy, ego, or resentment that someone else did something you didn't.
But because you need to honor an idea—your Idea—that has established residency in your head. Idea has moved in, redecorated, added throw pillows, tacked up twinkle lights.
Idea has become so much a part of you that everything you see is through Idea's lens.
The wailing (WAILING!) is because you didn't share Idea with the rest of the world. You just let the two of you grow creaky and old together. The two of you finishing each other's sentences. Like a weird Cult of Two.
The time to write your first book is when you can't not write it anymore. Because Idea deserves it. And you both know it.
And, by the way, we're talking about book-writing here... but this advice applies to almost anything worth doing—a new business, a new screenplay, a new career direction.
Fifteen years ago this month, Jack Dorsey posted a sketch to Flickr
of an Idea that would become Twitter. He'd drawn his Idea 5 years earlier, he writes. And, increasingly, the Idea slipped into everything he created.
Twitter, Jack says, "was everywhere I looked."
Yeah... but what about the competition? The other books on the very same topic? There are already one jillion books about... well, everything.
What books? Where?
"There is no competition," my friend Mitch Joel said recently on Clubhouse. (I loved it so much I wrote it down.) Other books are out there, but they aren't written by you.
I believe everyone has at least one book in them—one story worth telling to others.
Publish it when... [a checklist]:
☑️ You're ready to move from writer to author.
>> A writer is a vocation (sometimes a calling). Author is a job.
☑️ You have an audience you've built.
>> Your "audience" doesn't have to fill a football stadium. But it should be at least 99 people who know, like, trust you and want to hear from you. (99 is a little arbitrary, but I picked it because it's a solid foundation, and it's doable.)
☑️ Your book solves a problem for a certain person. And you know exactly who that person is.
☑️ You can distill that problem you solve into one sentence.
>> Pro tip: Write the landing page for your book before you write the book. It can help you clarify, focus.
☑️ Whatever you write... you write in a way others can recognize as you.
>> If you cover up your face/name on your book... would others recognize your writing voice?
>> A strong writing voice is your differentiator. Hone it. Nurture it. Grow it. It'll serve you well in writing anything and everything—from books to blog posts.
☑️ You're willing to be vulnerable.
It's scary to put your ideas out there, because it opens you up to criticism. People won't like what you have to say. Jerks on Goodreads will give you one star just for the fun of it. "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are," said e.e. cummings.
>> It took me years to truly tap that courage and let it flow—sluggishly at first, then more freely—until you don't really care what Goodreads thinks. (Usually.)
I'm working through some of these 6 things right now—not with my first book (that was Content Rules,
published 10 years ago)—but with my new book.
Maybe that says something about me, but I don't think so. I think it says something about us all.
* * *
I had 2 other questions I had planned to answer today. But I guess I had a lot to say about Sara's. LOL.
Moving on... here are a few things you should know this week.
A few tips:
- Don't research to script questions; research to pursue "interestingness."
- Finding moments they've forgotten about makes your interview subject feel seen. They appreciate your effort—and it makes them lean in, put in a little more effort, too. (<<< Double-liking this one)
- You are an investigator, not an expert. Admitting your ignorance is a strength, not a weakness.
- You have one job: to be a tour guide for the audience.
This podcast episode is different—and very meta—because Jay Acunzo and Kerry Gorgone unpack clips from one of Kerry's favorite podcasts to tease out bigger lessons. It feels like a combination of Inside the Actor's Studio and MTV Unplugged. It's a good one. That link again: How to Create Better
Content by Conducting Better Interviews
Writing Tip of the Fortnight
The world lost an icon this week: The children's book author Beverly Cleary died at 104.
Her characters Beezus and Ramona are two of the reasons I became a writer: I read their stories and loved them and my 8-year-old self said, "I can do that." So today's tip is inspired by the woman who inspired me:
"Keep it funny. People always like to read something funny." —Beverly Cleary
▶️ How to Write for Instagram.
Write more compelling Instagram captions with these three simple tricks.
▶️ MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Spring Edition
is happening in less than 2 weeks. (Free for MarketingProfs PRO members.) I got a sneak peek at Nancy Harhut's keynote ("New Scientific Secrets of Super Persuasive Communicators") and her opening story involving a 16-year-old Nancy and Paul Blart is worth the price of
I feel seen. From writer/TA reader/world's funniest litigator Doug Jasinski.