When to write your book

Mark HodgsonAm I enough of an expert to write a book? Am I ready to write a book? How do I even know if I am an expert? What kind of an expert are you? looked at 99U’s model of the 4 types of expertise and how each should approach their book. Here, Mark Hodgson of Thought Leaders UK discusses different models of expertise and when you’re ready to write your book.

Mark is a global partner of the Thought Leaders community started by Matt Church, “helping clever people to be commercially smart”. Their mentoring programme helps people turn their expertise into a sound, value-driven career. Mark spoke to me about his take on expertise…

How do you feel about the 99U model of experts? How does this fit in with your model of expertise?

I define expertise through commerciality. It’s not that everything is about money, but if you don’t focus on who will pay for what you know, it’s easy to get lost in the delicious process of thinking. That won’t help if you want to make a living selling your expertise. Let me explain my model, then how I relate that to 99U’s 4 types.

The best thought leaders create unique insights and communicate them beautifully. ‘Unique’ is an intimidating word and many people I work with struggle to see their own uniqueness. My model explains it like this:

Mark Hodgson: model of expertise

Expertise is what you know: your main area of knowledge, which you’ve worked hard at developing over many years. Experts ‘know something’; thought leaders are ‘known for knowing something’.
Experience is where you’ve been. Theory, however evolved, will only take you so far. Thought leaders must provide solutions for the real world. Between experience and expertise, emerging thought leaders establish their all-important credibility.
Essence is who you are. You must capture every ounce of your energy, excitement and obsession in a way that will switch on even the most jaded audience. This combines with your experience to create your authenticity and that compelling sense of conviction.

This model of expertise-experience-essence has clear parallels with the 99U model.

  1. The Survivors are heavy on experience and usually driven to develop a strong essence. They can tell powerful stories that move their audiences.
  2. The Cross-trainers apply existing expertise and experience from one field to another: “The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed”! The rare few who can do this well have real value.
  3. The Called. I love these people. Heavy on ‘essence’ (enthusiasm in its truest sense), they often have lots of ‘not good enough’ to overcome, but massive potential once they feel their voice has value.
  4. The Specialists must create the right blend of expertise, experience and essence. The gap for most is that they sit in their expertise or the detail of their experience, but need to cultivate their essence to be compelling thought leaders.

When do you think someone is ready to write a book on their expertise? How do you measure that?

To build a high-income practice around your expertise, you have to understand the sequence – develop the right skills (and no more) for the stage you’re at and get on with it. In Thought Leaders, we base this on a martial arts metaphor of novice (White Belt) to mastery (Black Belt). To climb the 10 belt levels, you perfect your craft, start to build your community and over time go from knowing something to being known for knowing it. In other words, you become seen as a thought leader – someone who has ‘position’ in their marketplace.

We advise you to hold off writing your book until you are at least a ‘Green Belt’ (third level), when you’ve developed your positioning. Before this, you’re too early in your journey to write your best book. You’ll probably try to get too much in and, because few people know who you are, not many will care! You’ll end up disillusioned with a garage full of books, having wasted time, money, and all-important energy. You’ve peaked too soon!

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be writing. Blog, tweet, write white papers, and experiment. Hone your topic and style. See what your community loves and hates. Test, experiment, and have fun. When you’re ready, your book will be much more assured and you’ll have developed a lot of content and ideas through your other writing channels.

I’ve written before about the different purposes for an expert book. Which do you think are the most important?

The main commercial purpose of writing a book is to accelerate your positioning, because positioning increases your income. Once you have position, people start seeking you out. You’re in demand; you can charge more and work less if you choose. Few people will make a significant income from selling their book. Use it as a focus point to generate interest for activities that do make money, such as paid keynote speeches, mentoring sessions, and workshops. This is what Megan captures beautifully in her ‘Gold Medal’ piece.

How do you help people develop their expertise?

I run the Thought Leaders flagship programme, Sell Your Thoughts. This has been developed to help clever people make money from what they know, doing what they love and working with people they like. It’s been developed over a decade and over a thousand graduates have completed the programme, many going on to build a brilliant expert practise based on their learning from the course.

What’s the best advice or tip you can give someone who’s building a career on their expertise?

Put some money aside and invest in a mentoring programme. I know this sounds horribly self-serving, but I believe it with all my heart! A DIY approach may work, but it’s likely to be slower, harder, and cost a whole lot more in both money and stress. It’s also far less likely to succeed. It just makes sense to learn from others who’ve already done the hard work and can shine a light on your own path.

To find out more about Thought Leaders or Mark’s mentoring, you can drop him a line at markhodgson@thoughtleadersglobal.com. If you’d like mentoring for writing your book, let’s start with a chat.

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