Note: This is an article intended for those considering writing a non-fiction book.  

Notes on Authoring Non-Fiction Books

WHY ME?

Why should I write about publishing?  

I have now published three books, and the first two have sold well over 100,000 copies, and the recently released third book is well on its way to reaching this milestone.  Since most books sell only a few thousand copies, which doesn’t even recoup the publisher’s costs, my understanding is that this record is relatively rare.  

So perhaps there may be something to the approach that could be worth sharing.

I certainly don’t consider myself an expert on publishing, however, over the past few years I have been approached by dozens of aspiring authors asking me about the process I used on my own books, and often to review their manuscripts, or at the least, to review their books in hope of receiving an endorsement.

Publishing a book is a huge project, much harder and much more time consuming than most people think.  I have real respect for anyone that gets to the point of a complete rough draft of a manuscript. 

Unfortunately, with most books I review, it’s clear to me the book has no hope of achieving the author’s, or the publisher’s, goals.  

Which is very sad because I know first-hand how much time and effort goes into any full manuscript, and in so many cases, these failures were avoidable.  

This note is all about giving authors a better chance of achieving their goals.

Keep in mind that my lens is a product lens.  

I view the book as your product, and the readers are your customers.  If you think of the book as your product, then your goal is to discover, produce and distribute a successful product, and we have many techniques to help us.

It’s important to emphasize that, at least from what I can tell, no amount of marketing can make up for a weak book.

On the other hand, if your book succeeds in meeting a real need, your readers will eagerly and happily spread the word.  Marketing moves from trying to overcome the limitations of the book, to providing an accelerant to reach.

CAVEATS:

I want to be clear that I’m not talking here about writing fiction, and I’m not talking about vanity publishing (either personal or corporate).  Many people and businesses publish books for different reasons, such as to give away as a sales tool, or to try to impress prospective clients.  That is a marketing tool, and not what I’m talking about here.

This note is for people interested in publishing a non-fiction book that meets a real need in the market, where the author’s primary goals are reach and impact.

Please also note that I’m not suggesting this is the only process that will generate a successful book.  I’m just sharing that this is the process I used with my three books, and I’m also trying to point out how we leverage many of the same techniques we use for tech-powered products.

ARE YOU UP FOR THIS?

Many people are unsure if they have what it takes to write a book.  I suggest that they give themselves a little test:

Create a 6-page written narrative about some topic related to your area of expertise.  If you’ve never written a written narrative, check out this article.  

But remember it’s not enough just to write it.  You have to iterate on it, then show it to a true expert that can give you honest feedback, and then you need to continue to iterate to address the weak areas.

If the process of writing, iterating and especially getting critical feedback is not something you want to deal with, then save yourself a lot of grief and find some other project.

What makes this hard, and a good test for a book, is that the written narrative lays bare your argument, for the reader to see and judge.  There is no hiding behind a PowerPoint presentation, and no ambiguous little sound bites like on Twitter.  If you don’t know what you are talking about, it will be clear to any knowledgeable reader.

A book is like a written narrative times 100.  You’re putting it out there not just for a friendly reader, but for any reader.  You are giving up control over who sees and judges you, and for how long.  And if that’s not enough pressure, if you are writing this as a leader of a company or group, then you are also putting the reputation of your company on the line.

You will also need to consider honestly whether you have the time that’s necessary for a book project.  Each of my three books took roughly 2 years of ongoing work, where I’d say I was putting in on average 1-3 hours a day.  And remember that even after publication, there’s an ongoing cost to promoting and nurturing the book as it spreads through the community.

I want to stress that with a book project, it’s not just time at a computer writing.  There’s a tremendous amount of thinking time needed to work out what you want to say, and how you want to make the points.  

I used to struggle with that, but I learned how to adjust my schedule to accommodate this.  For example, before I take the dogs for a walk in the woods, I will pick a specific topic I’m in the process of writing about, and intentionally concentrate on that topic during the walk.  This gives me a solid, quality hour to consider issues each day.

Realistically, it is this commitment of time that probably discourages most people from pursuing a book project.  Obviously I can’t manage your time for you, but I will note that more than a few people I’ve encouraged to consider writing a book have told me they simply don’t have the time, yet they appear to be on social media non-stop.  This is certainly an issue for many people.  

But if you don’t think you can free up on average 1-3 hours a day for at least a year, a book may not be for you.

THE TWO PREREQUISITES

A good book boils down to two big things, one of which I can help you with, and the other I can’t.

First and foremost, you need to have something to say.  

While this sounds obvious, most books just don’t say anything new, or they don’t say anything in a meaningfully new or different way.  

You don’t need to be sharing a new world-changing theory, but you do need to have something of substance to share.

It is remarkable how often I will read a draft of a book where the author thinks they’ve discovered something amazing, yet it’s something that’s been well known for many years.

Or worse, I see too many manuscripts where the author has read and clearly liked several other books, so he feels compelled to share what he learned from those other authors in his own book.

This is the part that I can’t help you with.  I can point out when something is not new, or not meaningful, but I can’t provide you something meaningful to say.

Second, you need to say it in a way that is clear and compelling.

This is the part where lots of help is available.  If you have something meaningful to say (again, that’s a big ‘if’), then there are many good resources to help you get the narrative into fighting shape.

For nearly every manuscript I have ever read, including all of my own, they need plenty of copy edit help.  The publisher will provide (at least one) copy editor, but for each of my three books, I additionally contracted with a professional copy editor before I submitted the manuscript to the publisher.

I did this because voice (described in more detail below) is very important in my writing, and I wanted to utilize a copy editor earlier in the process, one that knows me and my writing voice, so that I could be sure to maintain that voice.

For some writers, especially those that are new to writing, or where English is not their first language, they may need the help of a developmental editor.  This help happens very early in the writing process and can help the author structure and communicate her main points.

Some people believe you can effectively outsource the entire writing process, by hiring a ghostwriter that interviews the “author” and/or reviews their presentations or notes or whatever they may have to work with, and then writes from there.

I have personally never seen a good book produced this way, but I do not consider this the fault of the ghostwriter.  It goes back to whether or not the author really has something to say.  A presentation, or a sound bite, does not provide the substance for a book.  In fact, in my experience, this type of book makes very clear how little substance there really is.

But the point is, if you have something to say, you can definitely get the necessary help to turn this into readable, compelling prose.

Just to set your expectations, on my most recent book, when I provided my first complete rough draft to my copy editor, a couple weeks later he returned the 400 plus page manuscript to me with more than 8000 copy edits.  In my experience, that’s not unusual.

If you compare one of my blog articles (which don’t go through a copy edit process) with the corresponding chapter in one of my books, it’s not hard to see the difference.  Both have the same voice and style, but the book chapter is more concise, clear, grammatically correct and impactful.

I will say that writing well is a skill that can absolutely be developed.  Mainly by writing frequently and consistently.  I’ve read a handful of books on the art of writing, but by far my favorite is On Writing by Stephen King.  But while writing well is an advantage, I’ve seen quite a few extremely good and successful books where it’s amazing the difference between the rough draft I reviewed, and the final product.  So when I review a book, I’m looking at the substance, and trusting that the editing process will deal with the prose.

So those are the two critical components of a successful book.  And to be clear, most books fail because of the first issue.

But I hope that this doesn’t intimidate you.  I know that many people have a form of imposter syndrome, and they don’t believe they have something new and meaningful to say.  But often they do. 

In fact, there are multiple books out there where I personally felt very strongly that the author did have something important to say, and I pressed the author (sometimes for years) to share what they know in a book.  

There are several other potential authors I’m pressing even as I write this.

That said, one of the first and most important steps to writing a book is to test out whether or not you really do have something to say, which we’ll talk about next.

CONCEPT TESTING

Publishers will push you for an outline, and probably some sample chapters.  But this is just because they don’t know any better.  

Your outline can and should change constantly, as you flesh out topics, and start to get feedback.

You will discover missing topics.  You will decide other topics are redundant.  You will decide to reorder.  You will break some topics up, and combine others.  

The last thing you want to do is close your mind to these changes prematurely.

Instead, use a product discovery technique.  Create a concept MVP for this book.  That might take the form of an article on a blog or platform like Medium or LinkedIn.  Or it might be an industry conference presentation.  Or it could be a 6-page narrative.  

Summarize your major points.  What is the big idea (or set of ideas) behind this book?  Then get feedback.  

For my most recent book, I created a keynote presentation for a major conference, and I also wrote and published an associated article.  

I told the people at the conference that I was considering expanding on this topic in an upcoming book, and to let me know their thoughts on that.  I received both quantitative and qualitative feedback.  

From publishing an article I was able to track reach and engagement.  From reading the follow-up questions that were emailed to me and shared on social media, I was able to get a better sense of what topics were clear, and which ones needed to be developed further.

Once I had confidence there was real demand for this new book, I experimented with how to position this book relative to my earlier book.  I also experimented with titles and subtitles.

Only after this did I start to think about the book’s structure (technically, the information architecture of the book).  Some topics were immediately clear, and others did not become clear until nearly a year later.  In fact, my co-author and I decided to add two major sections (of the final ten major sections) in the final weeks before finishing the manuscript.  It wasn’t until the full book really started to come together that we realized we had some significant gaps.

THE THREE TYPES OF REVIEWERS

There are three distinct types of reviewers that are each critically important, and one of the most common mistakes authors make is not realizing the difference.

1. TARGET AUDIENCE REVIEWERS

This is your customer.  This is who the book is for.  You should be very clear, and very specific, on who this is.  And who it is not.  You will need at least a dozen of these people to volunteer to read drafts of chapters.  Today, with even minimal online participation, you can usually find hundreds or even thousands of volunteer readers.

While your target audience is critical and we are truly grateful for their help, they are not experts.  They are looking to you as the expert.  

So they can’t be expected to be able to tell you what to fix in your drafts.  If you listen closely, you’ll get lots of clues, especially from their questions, but this group of readers does not have the answers.  You’ll need to look elsewhere for the best ways to correct issues.

2. EXPERT REVIEWER

It is absolutely critical to have at least one, trusted, expert reviewer.  This is someone that you know is truly an expert in the topic, and also someone you trust will be completely candid with you.  This role is a very big responsibility, as you are counting on this person to literally review every word, and in many cases, save you from yourself.

All you really need is one of these people, but if you are fortunate enough to have two or even three such people, even better.

Note that sometimes there are specific topics in the book that are outside of your expert reviewer’s area of expertise.  For these, you would want to identify specialists to serve the expert reviewer role.  For my own writing, I have a fairly deep bench of people I can call on for a range of expertise, covering product, design, engineering, data science, user research, agile methods, and more.

But please be warned: without at least one such person, you will very likely not learn of significant errors and flawed arguments until after the book has been published.  And this is usually an author’s biggest fear.  Remember, there’s no hotfix for a serious mistake in a printed book.

3. INFLUENCER REVIEWERS

When it comes to non-fiction books, influencers matter a great deal.  Many in the target audience look to these influencers to decide if a book is worthwhile.  

In a working backwards sense, when your book is released, you want to have a set of these influencers (at least 4-6 of them) that have read your book, and sincerely consider it valuable, and are willing to tell others how they feel.

Influencers are often experts, but sometimes they are just well known and well respected, even if they’re not necessarily an expert.  They may not have the time or inclination to be your expert reviewer (again, that is a big commitment), but they will often be willing to review a manuscript draft and share their opinion with you, and often point out a few areas needing some work.  

It is worth taking this feedback very seriously, and ensuring they know you appreciate their feedback, and will incorporate it.  Keep in mind that influencer feedback requires far less time and effort than the expert reviewer will put in, but it is still non-trivial.

The most common mistake I see in terms of reviewers is just having a group of target readers, and not having an expert reviewer, or a set of influencer reviewers.

CONTENT DEVELOPMENT

This is where the largest chunk of time is required.  You need to create the actual content.

At this point, you should have an initial outline, and you should have identified at least one expert reviewer, and a set of target reader reviewers.

I read quite a few non-fiction books, and after I finish most of them, I often think the author could have said the same thing in an article. 

My goal in my own writing is to leave the opposite impression.  I want people to say that there was so much value in this book, that each chapter could have been its own book.  

So for me, every chapter must be able to carry its own weight, or it shouldn’t be there.  

But how to know?

There are some people that point out (correctly) that you don’t need to buy my books, you can find early versions of most chapters in the form of blog articles.  

And some less than generous people think all I do is string the articles together into a series and publish the result as a book.

But what’s really going on is that they are seeing the process of content development. 

Each blog article is an MVP for a hoped-for chapter in an upcoming book.  

For each article, I want to test whether the topic is:

  • Valuable – the most important risk for a chapter – does it provide real value?
  • Usable – can people understand what I’m trying to say?
  • Feasible – is it too much or too complex for a single article? 
  • Viable – is it correct, is it defensible, is it ethical, is it consistent with our brand?

By posting the article and sharing it with a broad group of readers (at a minimum it’s intended to be shared with the target reader reviewers), I am able to assess each of these four risks.

Some articles get a good response, some generate questions I really should have anticipated (in which case I update the content in order to address these questions proactively), and some articles clearly don’t resonate, so they’re either jettisoned, or maybe I take another run at the topic.

The result of this process is that by the time I decide to convert an article into a book chapter, I have real evidence that this chapter will indeed carry its own weight.

Now, about 70% or so of my book chapters have gone through this process.  For the ones that did not, there are various reasons.  Some chapters exist to tie together other concepts, so they aren’t meant to stand alone.  Others need to be viewed as part of a larger whole in order to make sense.  

But for anything I’m nervous about, I make sure it goes through this process.

While this process helps to develop and improve the chapter content, the feedback also helps to improve the overall structure of the book.

VOICE

I’m not certain if this is important for all non-fiction books, but for my books, I consider voice very important.  

Realize that all of my writing, in one way or another, is a form of coaching.  I’m trying to help others learn from what I’ve learned over the years.  

And effective coaching is based on trust.  I want the reader to feel like they know me, and they can sense my sincere intention to try to help them.

So I don’t want my writing to come across like a sterile textbook.  I’m not trying to write scholarly articles for peer-reviewed journals.  I’m not trying to argue my case in a court of law.

I’m trying to have a very honest conversation about difficult topics with the reader.

So my writing is very intentionally trying to convey this.  I try to write as I would talk to the reader, if we were sitting down face to face.

I have discussed this intention and this voice specifically with my copy editor, and I told him my goal was to fix the grammar and punctuation, and improve the clarity and impact, but I wanted to try to maintain that voice.

I think many authors get frustrated because they are not explicit about the voice they want to project, and as soon as they see the edits from the copy editor, they feel like the book may now be grammatically correct, but it’s somehow lost authenticity.

ONE VS. MULTIPLE AUTHORS

In my first two books, I was the sole author.  I felt very strongly about control of the book, mainly because I knew I had strong opinions both on content and on publishing, and many of those were contrarian opinions.

However, for the third book, I invited my long-time SVPG Partner, Chris Jones, to be my co-author.  That turned out to be a great decision (at least on my part – hopefully he would agree).

Chris has served as my expert reviewer for many years, and continues to do so to this day, as he has long demonstrated the ability to quickly and consistently zero in on each of the weak areas, and he’s also proven he’s not afraid to criticize me on anything at all.

He is always constructive, so I never have taken his criticisms personally, and it usually only takes me a few seconds to realize the truth of his comments and observations.

So to have him as a co-author meant nearly immediate feedback while developing difficult content, which was exceptionally valuable.

I think what was essential for Chris and I was that, very early on, we discussed openly what we would do if we disagreed, and how we would resolve.  Even though we had worked together for many years, this was a different relationship, so we made sure we were on the same page.

We agreed that we should both believe in the truth of every sentence, but we also believed that the book needed to have a single, clear, unambiguous voice.  We each had topics we felt strongly about writing, but we each agreed to be the expert reviewer for the other.

The specifics of how we worked together are less important, I think, than the fact that we discussed and agreed beforehand.

But I know of many co-author arrangements that have not gone well.  In most cases, the book reads like a problem of too many cooks in the kitchen.  

Just as with having three different designers, where each is designing a different part of an app, it can come across as a mess to the user of that app.  I find the same in books.  

If you decide to have multiple authors, don’t just “divide and conquer” – ensure that one of you takes responsibility for the overall book.

MILESTONE: FIRST COMPLETE DRAFT

The first truly meaningful milestone for a book developed this way, is when you have the first full rough draft of the content.

At this point, while the individual chapters have been reviewed and feedback incorporated, this is the first time the book as a whole can be evaluated.

It is normal, once you can see the book holistically, to reorder or restructure topics.  I also do my first (of what will be many) front-to-back review and edit of the full set of content.  

It is also normal to make fairly major changes to the manuscript at this stage.  While you’ve been working on individual chapters, once they come together and you can evaluate the whole, front to back, it changes your perspective.

Now is where I like to do the first copyedit pass.  I’m about to take the time of my expert reviewer, and I don’t want the person distracted by my bad grammar or style issues.  This normally takes a few weeks.

Once I have reviewed and incorporated the copy edits, I’m ready to share this rough draft with my expert reviewer.  The person will need a few weeks, and during this time, assuming the person you have identified is truly expert in the topic, you’re preparing mentally for real criticism.

Once the feedback is received, there will be some amount of time, perhaps significant, to consider and incorporate the feedback.  The expert reviewer is the one person where I don’t ignore or dismiss any of the feedback.  I might not fix the issue the way the expert reviewer suggested, but I will address each issue one way or another.

Now the book is ready for distribution to the influencer reviewers.  At this point the manuscript is looking pretty solid, but it still has not been delivered to the publisher, so it’s still relatively easy to change.

The influencer reviewers will need roughly two weeks to review.  We realize that not all of them will read the full manuscript.  Some will just skim.  But that’s okay, as the person we were really depending on for accuracy is the expert reviewer.  

It’s important that the influencers feel like they had the opportunity to review, and that you acknowledged their feedback.

After incorporating the influencer feedback, send the draft for the second copy edit review.  After reviewing and incorporating the copy edits, the manuscript is now ready for delivery to the publisher.

DECISION: SELF-PUBLISH OR PUBLISHING HOUSE

At this point, there is a fork in the road.  You will need to decide if you are going to self-publish, or work through a publishing house.

There are many pros and cons for each path, and discussing all of them would be another note entirely, but I will say that I’ve done both, and the differences between the self-publishing and publishing house routes are getting smaller.

My first book was self-published, mainly because I did not think the publisher knew what was best for my type of book, and I wanted the control to create and publish the book the way I considered best.  And in truth, I had much less negotiating power in the relationship.

Because of the success of the first book, it made the publishing house for my next book feel comfortable going with my judgement, even though my process was unconventional for them.

Bottom line is that self-publishing services are getting significantly better, and publishing houses are doing less (for example, they provide virtually no marketing or promotion assistance).  But there are still advantages to each.

That said, most new authors don’t really have a choice, because they don’t have a publishing house that wants to publish them.   

As a side note, if some alleged “publisher” approaches you and wants to charge you any type of fee in order to publish your book, then this is not a publishing house.  It’s just a self-publishing company’s marketing strategy to get you to pay for their help to self-publish.  It’s most likely a scam.

The good news is that there are many good services available to help you with all aspects of the self-publishing process, and so long as you stay on top of the process, and make sure you are distributing your book at least through Amazon, then you can make sure most of the world can find and buy your book.

If you do have the choice, it really comes down to a trade-off between how much revenue per book you get (or lose), versus how much of the work you want to be responsible for (design, production, distribution, global rights, etc.).

If the book is good, and you end up achieving decent volume, you will make more money by self-publishing.  If the book is not good, you will be absorbing all the costs, instead of the publishing house.

But it’s also true that if the book is good, there’s a lot of ongoing printing, distribution and international rights to deal with, so a publishing house can manage that for you.

There is some amount of prestige associated with name-brand publishing houses, but that amount is small and decreasing.  The book industry has become much closer to a true meritocracy, which I consider a very good thing.  There are many examples today of truly excellent and successful books that have been self-published.

MILESTONE: MANUSCRIPT SUBMISSION

Whether you use a publishing house or self-publish, once you submit the full manuscript, there is a roughly 6 month process until the book is on shelves.

There is a great deal still to be done:

  • Exterior Design
  • Interior Design
  • Page Layout
  • Additional Copy Editing
  • Page Proof Review

And of course countless details like author photos, images, endorsements, cover quotes, rights releases, index, and more.

All told, you will likely need to re-read the full book cover to cover about 10 times.  It’s brutal.  Even if you thought the book was awesome when you submitted the manuscript, by six months later you’ll be very tired of looking at it.

No matter which path – self-publishing or publishing house – one thing I’ve found is that if you care about your book’s quality, you as the author will need to review everything very closely.  

It is remarkable and distressing how many mistakes are made, and how inefficient old-industries can be.  The established publishing industry is being disrupted and when you go through the publishing process, it’s not hard to see why.

BOOK FORMATS

Today, there are three popular and important formats, and they each meet different needs, so I consider all three to be necessary:

  • Print (hard or soft cover)
  • Digital (Kindle or other viewer)
  • Audio (Audible or other player)

The print and digital will be handled from the same source, but recording the audio version is a different effort.

For non-fiction books, I believe it’s important to have the author record the audio rather than a contract narrator.  Obviously not every author has suitable skills or voice, but I believe most do, or at least most authors can be coached to the point where they can do a good job.

For my first book, my publisher preferred a professional narrator, but Audible preferred I record as the author, so I did it myself.  It worked out well enough, but I did learn that there was much I did not know about professional narration, and I made a mental note that for any future books I would get some narrator coaching.

For my most recent book, I did that, and it was an excellent investment.  I had three, one hour coaching sessions, scheduled for the weeks before recording the book, and the result was clearly better, and that has been reflected in the audio format reviews on “performance.”

LAUNCH AND PROMOTION

You might have thought you were finally done with this book project, but in many ways, you’re just getting started.

You also might think that if you went with a publishing house, this is where they take over and market your book.  If that’s your impression, I am sorry to be the one to tell you, but unlike in the past, publishers do virtually no marketing at all.  This is all on the author.

In fact, when a publisher evaluates whether they want to publish a particular author, the single biggest factor they’re looking for is whether you already have built a community of followers that you can market and sell to.  You essentially need to convince the publisher that you have the ability to market your book effectively.

That said, if you’ve done your job with the influencer reviewers, you should have an impressive set of endorsement quotes, and that will hopefully get your book off on the right foot.

Of particular note is the jacket copy.  This is essentially the landing page for your book, and it’s worth making a special effort to get this copy as compelling as possible.  

In my experience, the publisher doesn’t really have the skills to do this well for non-fiction books (they don’t have the necessary in-depth knowledge of your target readers), so the author needs to dedicate significant time.

In my experience, the real engine of sustained sales is word of mouth, and that happens when people read your book, and then they like the book enough that they write something up to tell others – that might be as an Amazon review, or a Tweet, or a LinkedIn post or a Medium article, or a talk on Clubhouse, or a podcast, or any number of similar platforms.  

But those are the real engines of sustained sales.  These flywheels can keep generating new sales and new readers for many years (my first book had continually growing sales for literally ten years, until it was replaced with an all-new second edition).  Sales should rise year over year.  

If the book has an initial bump, but then rapidly declining sales, that’s a sign the book just isn’t resonating with people.  And of course, that’s what we have been working hard to avoid.

While the word of mouth dynamic is the key, I don’t mean to say you can’t help.

For a book to reach its full potential in terms of reach and impact, it needs to be nurtured.

I personally am very turned off by overt marketing by authors shamelessly plugging their book.  I much prefer to let others (especially experts and influencers) do the talking.

However, if people want to talk about my books, and they’d like my help, I certainly want to help them do that.  I constantly give conference talks, podcast interviews, book club talks, and more.  

When people share reviews I post a comment thanking them for sharing their thoughts.  When people reference the book or share a quote I try to make a point of “liking” the comment.  

I am not a big fan of social media, so I don’t spend much time on this (not as much as I probably should) but I do want to show that I’m engaged and I’m grateful, so that means an ongoing commitment of time, mainly on Twitter and LinkedIn.

There’s obviously more that can be said regarding marketing and promotion, but I really do believe that the best use of your time is on creating a good book in the first place, so I want to keep the emphasis there.

ASKING FOR MY HELP

It’s possible that you’re reading this document because you are considering asking for my help in some way.  If so, let me describe the different forms of help, and what I can and can’t do:

– Some people ask me to be an expert reviewer for their work.

As you can hopefully see now, that is a big commitment of my time and effort.  There are two things I am evaluating.  First, is this an area that I think I know well enough to serve as an expert reviewer?  Second, do I believe the author has something to say?  That is of course subjective, but I will use whatever information I have to try to judge that.

Assuming it’s a fit, I then try to determine what stage the author is at in the process.  If they think they are nearly done, then I know they won’t be open to significant changes this late in the process, and this is really a request for an influencer review.  On the other hand, if the manuscript is not developed enough, there may not be enough to review.

– Some people ask me to be an influencer reviewer for their work.

This is the most common request, and first I try to decide if I have the necessary expertise.  If so, I explain to the author that the way I work is that I’ll read the book, and if I think it’s good, I’ll happily provide an endorsement.  However, if I don’t think the book is good, I will share that privately with the author, and I try to explain why, but I won’t provide an endorsement.  If I like a book I’m vocal about it, but if I don’t, I just choose to remain silent on it.

It’s very common in the publishing industry that authors will often issue blanket quotes (or even let others write those quotes for them) in exchange for others saying nice things about their book.  I don’t participate in this.

In my work, it’s critical that my recommendations be genuine.  I need my readers to trust that when I recommend or endorse a book, it is going to be worthwhile.  However, when a book is truly good, I am giving my readers a real gift in recommending it.

– Others ask me about the publishing process, and that of course is now meant to be addressed with this note.  But if there is something further you think I can help with, feel free to contact me.

In every case, I try to ask the author if they are looking for feedback or not.  Some are, and others aren’t.  I’ve learned that if the author is not interested in feedback, to be clear on that up front.

All that said, I love to discover great books, both for my own edification, and also to share with those I think would also benefit.  So I believe I am more willing than most to spend the time reviewing manuscripts, and encouraging potential authors.

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