Book contract and paralysing imposter syndrome

(11 Posts)
inexcessive Thu 03-Oct-19 15:38:37

Hello all! Can anyone give me advice? I have a book contract. It's a book based on academic research but intended for a generalist audience. I am meant to have started writing it months ago but I am feeling absolutely paralyzed by a sense of inadequacy. I have never felt a worthy academic and my publication record is a bit crap. I just don't think I am up to writing a book. I am not sure that the subject matter is terribly original. I am also terrified of the (eventual) reviews. A colleague in another institution has recently written a book on a similar-ish topic and it was hugely successful which is making me feel worse! I know I sound like a total wet blanket but has anybody else felt like this? What did you do?

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INeedNewShoes Thu 03-Oct-19 15:44:25

Surely you wouldn't have the book contract unless the publisher was very confident that you are the right person to write it.

If you think about this objectively, do you have the knowledge/skills/experience to do this?

Have you planned the book yet? I am not an author but did a lot of writing for my MA and the only way I can put 'pen to paper' is to start with a plan and then fill it out bit by bit. Sorry - I realise this may seem patronising and far too basic!

inexcessive Thu 03-Oct-19 15:55:29

@ineednewshoes - be basic! I don't mind at all. Thanks for responding.

So yes - the publisher approached me and does seem fairly confident that it's potentially interesting. It's also quite topical so I need to get it out soon. The proposal was reviewed and all three reviewers recommended publishing. They weren't like 'this is going to be the most major contribution to the intellectual life of the UK' or anything but they were broadly enthusiastic. And objectively, I am the person to write THIS book. I am just not sure this is an interesting book or whether I will do a very good job. A colleague read the proposal yesterday and basically said, nothing new here. I agree that it's not especially new to academics in the field, but the point is that it could be to people who are not academics. I sound pathetic don't I? Maybe it's the acres of blank white page that's intimidating me!

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INeedNewShoes Thu 03-Oct-19 15:57:54

Do you usually struggle with procrastination or has this issue of struggling to get to work only cropped up with this particular project?

forkfun Thu 03-Oct-19 16:07:26

I edit your type of books (non-fiction for general audience). Have you met your editor yet? Get something/anything down on paper and see if they can help you get going. This only works if you can give them something though. First chapter, fleshed out proposal, it doesn't matter. You just need to start. Most writers don't get it right at first draft. Just accept that your first draft will change considerably before publication, so there's no need to sweat every detail now.
You may also find it helpful to talk to someone who isn't in your field. Explain your proposal to them. See which bits they find interesting, where they have more questions, etc. It's really of no use to ask colleagues if they are not the intended reader.

INeedNewShoes Thu 03-Oct-19 16:13:14

OP - I'm not a writer or in the academic field but I struggle with getting myself to work (self-employed editor).

I've been thinking for a while that I could do with a fellow procrastinator to team up with, the idea being that we could each day set ourselves a list of small tasks, let each other know our plan for the day and then report back as the day goes on. I know I would find it helpful to be 'accountable' to someone on a small level.

This might be your idea of hell grin but, if not, PM me and we can see if it helps us get to work.

inexcessive Thu 03-Oct-19 17:09:34

Sorry, just took the dog out for a walk. Does that count as procrastination!? I think I am a procrastinator yes. I drive myself a bit mad with it. I do get things done but have the pain of them hanging over me.

@forkfun - I have quite a few opportunities to share my ideas with people outside the field as I do a lot of sort of external engagement things and sometimes even go on the TV and radio. I still don't feel absolutely sure that anyone will actually read the book! Yes, my editor will help but I am not sure how actively she will be involved to be honest.

@ineednewshoes - I definitely would be up for that. I have worked out how many words I need to write a month to get this thing done - and how many a week! That seems more manageable. I probably won't work on that basis as it will come in bursts. I HAVE written plenty of things before, Phd, papers, reports, etc. I can do it. I think it's the thought of a sort of amorphous readership alongside critical academics that's really putting me off!

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notmytea Fri 04-Oct-19 12:22:47

I would map out a structure in powerpoint, like you're giving a presentation to non-academics, that always helps me get going with writing

weliveinapigsty Fri 04-Oct-19 12:27:04

If it has been to three reviewers, I'm guessing that means it's an academic publisher rather than a mainstream one? I think it is indeed the best idea, as mentioned before, to just write down as much as you can as quickly as you can. Then you could get a ghostwriter to turn it into a proper manuscript for you. If it's for a mainstream publisher, they can supply one for you if you're not sure how to commission one yourself. It'll be fine - publishers want what they have paid for and they will bend over backwards to get it sorted. Good luck!

Goldrill Fri 04-Oct-19 12:38:56

Just out of interest; how much does it matter to you whether it's widely read? Your publisher is better placed to make a call on whether it will be, and they seem to think so. I think it's not easy to predict which of these types of book will grab people's interest.... possibly, in the nicest way, it's not for you to try and judge that bit?

I write various reports which are a legal necessity but I suspect they're quite often only skimmed by even the people who have to have read them! Every once in a while I'll meet someone who has actually printed one out and finds it invaluable; usually not someone I'd have expected either. It's very hard to know who will read and engage!

inexcessive Thu 24-Oct-19 13:51:58

Hi everybody, just seen that there are messages here that I haven't responded to! Thanks so much for responding - Goldrill I agree, it is hard for me to know who might be interested. Anyway - I am 13,000 words in! Whoop!

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