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What To Do When Someone's Already Written Your Book?

Hey friends ūüĎč,

This week, I've been working on the proposal for my first book. This is a 20+ page document that's very common for non-fiction authors to put together before selling their book to publishers.

I'm unsure whether I'm going to try getting traditionally published or whether I'll just self publish my first book. Right now, I feel like my time is better spent focused on learning how to write a book rather than learning how to write and sell a book. That being said, I thought stepping through the process of writing a proposal would be helpful, and boy was I right. 

A proposal is a lot like a pitch deck or a business plan. It's a standard format that compels you to synthesize and refine a large and complicated idea into a short and compelling narrative.

The section of the proposal that I've been working on this week is, "Market Analysis & Prior Art". This is the part of the proposal where you outline 10-20 books that speak on a similar subject and describe how your book is different. Which means, not only do you have to hunt for 10-20 similar books - you have to read them. And for me, that process has been both incredibly useful and slightly troubling.

"Shit. Someone's already written my book" has crossed my mind multiple times this week. In some ways, that feeling is a good sign. The fact that there are ‚ú®professionally published‚ú® books that outline and describe similar topics means there is a market for this type of book.

But I'll admit that it has been hard to discover that this book isn't as unique as I thought. Because now that I know what other - more established - writers have said on the topic, I feel like the mountain I'm climbing just got bigger. Now, in order to reach the peak, I feel like I have to climb higher than I expected. Higher than maybe I think I can.

Reading these other works has pushed me to completely rethink and re-outline the book at least 3 times this week. The process has caused me to do more research, ask more questions, and develop a deeper understanding of my own unique perspective. In a way, reading books with such similar messaging has forced me to hone my own message and refine what I'm trying to say.

And this is why facing the sinking feeling of "shit - someone's already written my book" is so invaluable.

This intrusive thought acts a defense mechanism to our own ego. We react to take false ownership of someone else's work because its existence puts into question our own talent and ability. It asks us to do something harder: dig deeper and make something different.

If we're lucky, different will also mean better. But at the very least, different will mean more ourselves.

I'm incredibly grateful for the other writers who have come before me to speak on these topics of ethical entrepreneurship, the perverse incentives of startup culture, and the mental toll that comes with being a founder. Because with each book of theirs I read, my book is getting better.

"Books are made out of books." - Cormac McCarthy

Until next time,

Drew Lyton
Drew Lyton
Friday, February 9, 2024

I'm a software engineer, ex-founder and writer who cares deeply about creating a better relationship between technology and society. I'm currently writing a book about early stage entrepreneurship.


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