You have to know when to quit. That is what I told myself last week as I sent a email to my editor that effectively ended my book contract that I negotiated last year. The book that I had been planning toiling under for the past three months is now toast. Why?
The first red flag popped up in February when I wrote the post Should You Write a Tech Book? My intention for this post was to give a behind the scenes view on what it was like to get published by a major industry player. It was meant to be an exciting pseudo-narrative, the kind of post I personally eat up as a reader. What I ended up with was far from an exciting endorsement of the tech publishing industry. I could not find one truly positive thing to say about my experience publishing five books and working on a sixth.
In fact, in the post I recommend that you don’t try to publish a tech book. Yet, in March I continued on and got my first three chapters out to my publisher. I wrote before work. I wrote after work. I wrote on the weekends and during lunch. It was a grind.
During this I slowly realized that I didn’t believe in the project anymore. I realized that I myself would never buy a book like this and that this format was just really bad in terms of communicating code. Honestly, while there are some worthwhile tech books, most should not have been published.
I pushed through this resistance still, but as other projects began to suffer and as my personal life started to become neglected I kept going back to that article. Why was I really doing this project? By the end of March, the reason was simply because I had agreed to do it. But, it was clear that the book was just not worth my time. For all the reasons I outline in the article. No financial upside. No professional upside. And finally, the nail in the coffin: I don’t believe that it was a worthwhile project.
A Teachable Moment
You need to have the guts to make uncomfortable decisions in business, even if you are afraid that it will look bad. That is the teachable moment here. I knew by mid-March, deep inside, that I didn’t want to continue in this project but I was so afraid of looking like a failure that I kept on.
But, then I remembered that at one time, when I owned a business, that I had to make tough decisions every day. The bottom line is that this was my choice and mine to make. Decisive action is important. Continuing on in a bad project means that time and energy will not be used in a good project.