One of the most terrifying things to do is to stare down a project or an idea that seems exciting, has a great potential, and the chance to grow and develop because of it is interesting and could really be a great growth opportunity. Yet we also often see these chances as dangerous and reckless. Are we up to it? Do we know enough to really do the topic justice? If we do, how do we know? If we don't, how do we know we are in over our head?
The reason I am asking these questions is that I have an intriguing offer. It is the possibility of writing a book for a publisher that I've done reviews for, and it covers a topic that I have some experience with, but don't consider myself an expert on the topic by any stretch. I could make many excuses as to why I could disqualify myself from doing the project... and yet, there's a part of me, that wannabe bold intrepid explorer, that has seen so many times that topics are only as mystical and mystifying as we make them out to be. Additionally, many topics are only as mystifying as the previous generation of authors that have written about them.
You will notice that I am being deliberately vague about this... that's because I don't believe in talking out of turn about things that may or may not come to pass. There's the "bold boast", and then there's shooting one's mouth off and making a fool out of one's self. Yet I've stepped back and looked back at my Book Club reviews for "How We Test Software at Microsoft", "How to Reduce the Cost of Software Testing" and the experiences of my Practicum posts for "Selenium 1.0" and "Learn Ruby the Hard Way". I've realized that I've learned way more about structuring these projects than I ever thought I could. Additionally, I've learned way more about the respective products and concepts than I ever thought I could, both the ways that things work as well as the irritating issues when things don't work as well as they should.
So this brings me to a fundamental question... does one wait until they are expertly knowledgeable about a topic before they plunge into writing about a specific topic, especially if it has to do with a particular product line or approach? Does the process of dissecting the topic at hand and digging into it to write about it in "layman's terms" make the difference between the casual practitioner and the expert?
I don't have the answer to these questions just yet, and truthfully, it's up to the publisher to decide if they feel I'm the dude to do this, or if I'm one of a number of contributors... or if they feel I'm worth working with at all for this. At the end of the day, all I can be do is be honest and show both my experience and my ignorance. I may not be an expert on the topic in question, but I know enough to know what frustrates people, and maybe, just maybe, that might be the most valuable thing that I can offer to see it through, because I truly would love to see a book on this particular topic be available... and really, that's all you are going to get out of me about it :).
I'll just have to see if, after an honest and truthful assessment of what I can really do, if they will be willing to entrust such a project to me. If they are, then, well, I guess I'll have to see if I'm man enough to pull the trigger at that point :).
For me, its not about wether you are good enough, its about wether you *want* to do it, and what can you learn out of the experience.
From that angle, if you write the book you will always succeed, regardless if the book is 'successful', "well reviewed" or not.
Good Luck in your decision
Thanks, Anne-Marie. More to the point, they have to take what I said to them and decide if they want to move forward. If they do, then I'm in, and looking forward to the experience :).
Michael, I would suggest that it depends upon the audience the book is intended to target (context). If the publisher wants to speak to experts on the subject, then expertise is probably quite important. They would need someone capable of addressing complex, higher-level concepts and debated practices, for example.
However, if the book is intended more as a primer, something for the novice to pick up to gain knowledge about the subject, I think that a moderate level of knowledge and experience can be more less of an impediment than high-level expertise.
For example, were you to offer me a choice of pairing to learn a new subject with someone that had twenty years of acknowledged expertise versus someone with two years of experience, I would choose the person with two years experience (all other factors such as personality, intelligence, etc., presumed equal).
I, as the novice, want to learn from someone who remembers the zero-point, clearly remembers the learning process that they underwent and understands the potential pitfalls, misconceptions and necessary foundation to develop competence in the subject. His or her relatively recent learning experience will directly inform mine and has a more closely related chronological context (particularly important in the IT industry, e.g., I do not particularly need to know *right now* how you performed XYZ method in COBOL).
This person could very well be more humble, sensitive and selective about introducing unnecessary complexity too early in the learning process. He or she might be more interested in helping me actually achieve competence and succeed than in impressing me with the depth of their knowledge.
The aforementioned teacher also learns throughout the process, so good potential ROI exists for everyone involved.
So, back to my original statement: it depends upon the context. :)
Russ, you are correct, it does depend a lot on the focus. For the purpose of what's being proposed, it fits in a middle ground, i.e. intermediate scope. The good news, there looks to be a prospect of a co-author type deal, and the potential 2nd author can certainly help fill in the blanks on this. If the publisher is interested in the pairing, then we may a real shot of doing this. At this point, ball is in their court ;).
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