Is Book Perfection in Your Midst?

by | Apr 20, 2016

Could your quest for perfection in your writing be your Achilles’ heel?

Are you waiting for the perfect words … the perfect scenario … the perfect dialogue … the perfect setup … the perfect solution … the perfect ANYTHING to be in place before you commit or continue on a book or writing project?

Could your quest be an excuse for choosing not to begin?

If you are, why? If “perfection” must come from your eyes, will it be generated from the eyes, the experience of your reader? Could the reaching for the holy grail of perfection be really a shield … and excuse to not go forward or to complete something that you are currently working on? Something, gulp, that could open you and your work up to criticism?

In last month’s blog post, I shared with you a media situation where I was on a TV show and I ended up revealing how my 19-year-old son died, connecting it with a local tragedy that was unrolling to viewers’ eyes and ears as I was being interviewed. What I didn’t include in the blog, or tell the TV audience, was that year had been my year from hell.

One of my partners had embezzled moneys from a loan that I personally guaranteed. Her theft ended up costing me in excess of one million dollars—we lost:

  • our home
  • our antiques and art
  • all our investments
  • the cars

We sold everything we had to pay off the loan where she had siphoned moneys. And, I lost my health with three surgeries within six months, one for cervical cancer. On top of it, I was also under contract for my second book with Simon & Schuster—a contract that I was struggling with and behind on my timelines. I was one stressed out emotional and financial mess as I tried to keep my business going that employed ten others—all dependent upon me to be creative and bring in new clients for them to work with.

One morning, a humongous display of flowers arrived at my front door. With it was a note from my editor saying she would arrive the following week to be with me, to work with me, to finish my book. The one that I wanted to be “perfect.” After all, this was going to have a multiple city book launch and lots of events were planned. She just said, “We will get it done.” And we did.

Was the book perfect? No.

Was it good enough? Yes it was—at least for my editor and publisher. And for me, where I was, it was—and my family needed the second half of the $75,000 advance that was hooked to it plus I desperately needed something that I could stamp “done” on.

Professional is required. Perfection is not.

I don’t know of an author who doesn’t want to go over the book “one more time” – surely, there is a “t” that didn’t get crossed in it or the tense is wrong in a sentence. After all, 17 edits have been done, one more won’t hurt. Right?

Wrong. Your book doesn’t have to be perfect. What it does need is to get out in the marketplace, generating sales, recognition for it and you, creating SuperFans for it and your future work. Perfect—no … professional—yes.

The odds are, your book will never be perfect in every way—what it needs to be is good enough … good enough to get your book ball rolling. In your next edition, you can do another tweak, but get it out there.

If you don’t, if you choose to sit on your book with constant tweaking, reedits, in search of the missing “t” and “i”, windows will close. Your competition—yes other authors in your genre are competition—will suck up your space and moneys that could have come your way if you had moved sooner, quicker.

The truthiness: perfectionism is procrastination. Being in front of the wave, or at least on it, is a heck of a lot better than being in the after-foam where the buzz has crested and crashed.

You won’t be able to get near perfection; to have the opportunity to kiss it; or to experience its juiciness unless you just begin. Start. What you create just may be delicious to the eyes of the reader as he or she tastes your words, your story, your ahas and revelations. You’ve created magic for them. My take: that’s perfection.

Get started. Begin. Continue. Put it out there. And starting working on “next” …


tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Alina Sayre

    This is just what I needed to hear today :) Thanks!

    • Judith Briles

      Perfect … love reading/hearing that! Judith

  2. Ed Godwin

    Oh, yes. Definitely guilty of this one.

    • Judith Briles

      Ed–we all get caught in the “perfect” trap at times. To move forward, the sometimes “good enough” works just fine. Judith

  3. Kathryn Danylko

    Thank you. I needed to hear this. I’m on who know what number review of my book. I currently have a proof of the book in my hands, and I’m still thinking of editing. I needed to hear that I just have to let it go and release it into the world…

    • Judith Briles

      Kathryn … a PROOF! Happy Dance to you … no, no … STOP editing … if there is a glaring change in your recommendations or some research is just announced that alters what you have, make the change … otherwise, get your baby out there. Support it, shout it out, add “expert” to your signature tag line on your social media profiles, your email signature and start the promo dance. And, get ready for the NEXT. Congrats.

  4. Mary Elizabeth Beary

    Wow, Judith. God bless you for your endurance, strength and tenacity during such a horrendous moment in time for you. While I cannot say I have experienced what you have precisely, I can relate in many ways to losing everything due to health and craziness and not being able to keep my baby freelance agency afloat as a result.

    Godspeed to you in your continued success, growth and happiness and I am sending you lots of love! Thank you for sharing this inspiring, heartfelt and motivational article.

    All Good Things to You & Yours,
    Mary Elizabeth

    • Judith Briles

      Hello Mary Elizabeth… you are welcome. Life does happen and we all need to be reminded that the way it moves on is by one step at a time. And, who knows, with what you have learned–and of course, with the ever changing lanes of business and commerce–that baby freelance agency may just arise once again. Or, your experiences may just be the “seeds” needed for your next adventure. Add some water to it and I would personally be delighted to spend some Skype time with you and see if I can add some insight for you. Judith

  5. Jim O'Brien

    Judith, your an inspiration for this old guy. At age 72, 14 years ago, I turned to writing as a form of therapy. I’ve got a bunch of stuff buried in my computer. May it rest in peace. I got bumps in my head from more stuff that wants to get out. It takes a lot of time for me to write while laying prone on the hardwood — with my portable desk. I’m both turtle and perfectionist. What a hell of a combination, eh? Anyway, now I’m juiced up to break out of my gray shell and publish as a diaper indie. Thanks for the post.

    • Judith Briles

      Hey there Jim … you brought a smile to my face and heart as I read your post. Let your juice flow here … word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph … and then a chapter.

      And here’s what’s is hot… short is in … you don’t need to write a tome … look forward to seeing what you create. Judith

  6. Jackie Weger

    Judith! What an awe inspiring tale of tragedy, betrayal and recovery–all hidden behind the public facade of successful authorship. I often am asked: Your books are wonderful. Why are you not well-known? Well, golly. I had to step out of the publishing arena at the very time new and exciting events and innovations were popping. And at the time when my career was on the cusp of reaching new heights. Back-to-back tragedies happened. I had to be there for parents and children. Some died. Some were scarred for life. My husband left. I was plunged into poverty. I had to work my way back…I don’t live a perfect life, nor do I create perfect books. I adore indie authorship. I don’t need to be well-known. I don’t need glory. I hire beta readers and editors, formatters and cover artists. We each do the best we can and I hit that publish button. When I learn of something that benefits a book, I tweak it. I love the process. Sometimes we don’t get to travel the better road because LIFE HAPPENS. I love your post and wish you and yours a good road.

    • Judith Briles

      And Jackie, I love your post. I think if we all get ingrained in us that we are human; life happens and sometimes the “happening” is not nice nor wanted nor expected nor fill-in-the-blank. It just happens. What we do is the best we can with the tools we have in our quivers. In mine, I had to add more tools.

      I’m with you … I can’t imagine publishing the old-fashioned traditional way now–indie authorship and publishing opens up adventures that create a kaleidoscope of ahas, people and events in my life that make my day. I hope our roads cross. Judith

  7. Ernie Zelinski

    This has alwasy been my motto (Enjoy the typo if you can find it):

    “Do It Badly — But at Least Do It!”

    This approach has helped me sell over 900,000 copies of my books worldwide. It has also helped me to get published in 22 languages and 29 countries, a total of 111 book deals with foreign publishers, all without using a North American foreign rights agent.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 290,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • Judith Briles

      HI Ernie … I alwasy enjoy a challenge! Congrats on your publishing success–love your title, The Joy of Not Working! (I wonder if the spell correct will correct?) Judith

  8. George Beinhorn

    Here’s a tip that will save you a ton of time (and embarrassment). ALWAYS, ALWAYS copyedit in hardcopy. An MIT Media Lab study found that people make 40 percent more proofreading errors onscreen than on paper. This is something to take very, very seriously. It’s given me a great advantage in my writing and editing business. It’s absolutely guaranteed that you will ALWAYS find typos and awkward phrasings when you take the time and trouble to print the damn ms., no matter how many times you’ve gone over it on the monitor, and how “perfect” you think it is.

    • Judith Briles

      George … HARD COPY for editing is a RULE in our offices. We’ve found that they editors tend to slip into skimming when done solely on the computer. Our method is now to print copy out, give it physically to the editor and then give the author the option–he or she can put in the corrections or the editor can do it.

      I know, I know–those of you who read this are thinking– what a waste of paper, of time, more cost, etc. It’s your book. As George says, there is ALWAYS typos, awkward phrasing. Get real–it’s your book. And I’ll add this in … as the author, read it out loud as well. You will be amazed what you hear that needs fixing. Judith

  9. Matt Knight

    How I relate to this post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about perfectionism. One thing that has helped me move past the perfectionism procrastination problem is a daily mantra: “don’t sacrifice success for perfection.”

    • Judith Briles

      True … and I need dozens of friends who will take their shoes off so I can count all the toes of authors I know who have so slowed the ball down or stopped it on their writing, their books because of the perfectionist MO. They have chosen (yes chose) to miss huge selling and positioning opportunities. After all, one of the huge advantages of self and indie publishing is the “timing factor” … get to the market place sooner than any traditional publisher will deliver a book.

  10. michael n. marcus

    A perfectionist never finishes anything. Seeing good work as Not-Quite-Ready is a curse.

    When I was working as an advertising copywriter, I was notorious for not “releasing” an ad until the last possible moment. Fortunately, someone older and wiser taught me a valuable lesson: sometimes “good enough” really is good enough, and I learned to let go.

    Now, as the owner of a small publishing company, I have to be a businessman as well as an artist. I realize that no money will come in if I don’t approve a proof and let a book start selling.

    • George Beinhorn

      Funny! When I worked in a legal office, we would always tell our perfectionist lead attorney that deadlines were two hours earlier than the actual time. Worked like a charm.

      • Judith Briles

        Ha! Sounds like my youngest George … we tell her 2 p.m. when we all know, wink wink, that we will gather at 4–she has to “look” perfect. Jeez.

    • Judith Briles

      Michael … you are correct. Publishing is a business. Get the product — the book — to the market. Good enough just may be the Golden Egg.

  11. Donn R. Colee Jr.

    Well put. As my godfather and mentor, Michael Gannon, reminded me frequently in my 12 year journey to publish my first book, “Perfect is the enemy of Good.”
    My book, Towers in the Sand: The History of Florida Broadcasting, will be published this summer.

    • Judith Briles

      Hooray Donn! I so agree with your mentor. My experience as The Book Shepherd is that I’ve seen more books train wrecked because of the perfection carrot. Judith

  12. Marjorie Turner Hollman

    Deepest condolences on the loss of your son, and so much more. Such a powerful sharing of loss and grace. And thanks for the nudge-shove to get me back to my (almost) finished book.

    • Judith Briles

      Go for it Marjorie … there are so many “life” obstacles that can bring each of us to a grinding halt … yet a nudge from someone or something can get the ball rolling again. It brings completion, and then allows for more windows to open. Judith



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