Often, when signing up new clients for book coaching, they say that they will get busy on their research.
My response: Stop! Do not research!
I’m pretty emphatic about this, and I tell my clients that jumping in to do research as you begin to write your book is really an exercise in productive procrastination—putting off the thing you most need to do by doing something less important.
Now, understand me. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t research your book. But beginning research as you begin writing is a terrible idea. You should actually begin researching for your book long before you begin to put the first word on paper.
I have developed a process for thinking about how and when to research for your book, and will describe my best advice so that you can be as productive as possible while productively creating a book that is well-grounded in research.
Long before you write your book
Before you even begin to write, I want you to answer a question about the topic of your book. This question was shared by Rory and AJ Vaden at the NSA Winter Workshop in Orlando in 2022, in which they suggested that speakers should consider their level of passion about their topic. They suggested that unless you are willing to devote your life to helping others understand this issue, you probably shouldn’t go forward.
Ask yourself: Am I willing to devote my life to this issue?
Next, I suggest that you do everything you can to immerse yourself in your topic. As my seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Reynolds suggested, we should all consider an “Experience Chart” to deepen our understanding of our topic.
The Experience Chart was what you might expect: a listing of activities in which you could deepen your knowledge and understanding of your topic. A future author’s experience chart for their own path to thought leadership might consider the following:
- Find a mentor or role model; collaborate with other thought leaders
- Get a degree or certification
- Look for webinars, conferences, and programs and apply what you learn
- Join associations/organizations focusing on your issue and get involved
- Gain work experience (paid or unpaid)
- Read voraciously and capture key ideas
- Create file folders of articles, links, notes
- Journal on your topic
- Develop models/processes/structure for your intellectual property
Once you’ve developed a deep understanding of your topic, then it’s time to get ready to write your book!
Shortly before you write your book
Before you begin the actual writing process, here are some of the ways you can think about your research so that you’re ready to write when the time comes.
Organize your research. Review your electronic and paper files. Toss out old or irrelevant information (or save it in a folder for your next book).
Write articles and blog posts. Develop a point of view on your topic. As you write, socialize your content by placing it on social media. Aim for engagement and conversation as a strategy to build your following and your insights.
Speak, coach, and consult on your topic. Promote your expertise on your website and encourage others to use your services. The more work you do with clients, the deeper your knowledge of your subject matter.
Continue to learn about your topic relentlessly. Read. Attend webinars, conferences, and other learning events. As you read other books or listen to other experts, ask: What have they missed? What did they get wrong? How do my ideas build on these ideas?
As you write
When it’s time to write, it’s also time to stop researching. Writing will take time and focus. Devote your writing time to writing. At this point—especially if you love research—your research will be productive procrastination and you won’t be doing the most important task.
I also advise my clients too NOT read other books about your topic during this stage. Reading others’ works often beckons your negative voice to tell you that you don’t need to write this book. That negative voice will also tell you that others’ books on this topic are far superior to yours. If you want to derail your writing, do a lot of reading about your subject as you write.
But some of you are screaming at me now! “I know I want to insert some data points, and I just don’t know the exact data, or I need to let my readers know my source.” Agreed. I suggest that you insert placeholders for where research is needed in bold, red type. Let yourself know where you need to add data points, quotes, and other specifics; just don’t let this stop your writing or slow you down. Keep the writing flowing.
Once the initial draft is complete (and before it is reviewed by your editorial board or your editor)
Now it’s time to research the placeholder questions and insert the answers into your text. Let me emphasize that you are NOT to read widely about your topic; you are only looking for the exact data points that are missing from your manuscript. It’s also time to fact-check your document and ensure that your data points are well-grounded. As your editorial board reviews your draft, ask the experts among them to ensure that your data is on point.
As you review other literature, keep it at a high level and return to the questions asked before: What have they missed? What did they get wrong? How do my ideas build on these ideas?
Bottom line: Your book should be well-researched. But the time to research deep and wide for your book is well before you begin to write it.
What are you best research tips when writing your book? Send me your ideas at Cathy@CathyFyock.com.