If forced to make a choice, I prefer my own customers to be authors. Two reasons. First, if an author can't write, I can help. If I writer can't reach out to readers, I can do nothing. Second, the author who can't write will always be more successful than the writer who can't think like an author. (One of my favorite projects was a book by a man who couldn't write. He couldn't spell, punctuate, or produce a grammatical sentence. On the other hand, he knew who his customers were and what he wanted from a book. And he had hilarious stories. Despite his lack of writing talent, his manuscript was an easy edit. The result: he has sold several thousand copies of his book.)
So, think like an author. And act like one. This means the following:
- First, you start a book project with specific customers in mind. For most books, your customer will be your reader. In some cases, notably regarding a children's book, your customer will be your reader (a child of a certain age and description) and your buyer (parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, teacher, therapist, etc.). Doesn't matter. In both cases, to borrow an idea from the late business and nonprofit consultant Peter Drucker, your aim is to change your customer's life.
- Second, you start interacting with your intended customers immediately. For those who already have identified customers, perhaps because they have been working in a particular business or ministry for some time, this will not be a problem. For those starting from scratch, it might be news. However, it should be common sense. If your aim is to change someone's life, why would you even think of waiting. Your work is your work. Your purpose is your purpose. Neither depend on having a book in hand. On the other hand, when you do get a book in hand, your ability to sell a copy depends on you doing things consistent with your work and your purpose. Why wait?
- Third, you spend the bulk of your time and energy on understanding and meeting your customer's needs—for information, inspiration, and entertainment—than on polishing your work. As above, you can hire someone to dot the i's and cross the t's. It's harder to find someone with your passion and conviction who can carry your message to your customers. If they could do that well, they'd write their own books.