By pure coincidence, my book, Legendary, was published on Thursday 8th October 2015. So what!
The 8th October is also known as Super Thursday in the publishing world.
The reason for that is it’s the international date for the lead up to Christmas in the world of literature and publishing. Everyone and their aunt makes sure their books are ready in time for the biggest book launch on the planet.
In the UK, more than 500 books will be published by the major publishers on this day alone (mine is not included in that list as it’s being published through Amazon’s US offshoot, CreateSpace – more on that later).
I didn’t plan it this way, it just happened. Amazon chooses the date for you when you publish last minute (as you’ll see in a sec).
If you’re thinking of publishing your own book by using an agent and going through a major publishing house, bear in mind the lead time between signing the agreement and your book becoming available could be as long as a year. And getting on their Super Thursday list just simply won’t happen unless you’re a celebrity, VIP, or in some other way notorious.
Publishers have schedules they need to stick to, and unless you are about to publish something that’s absolutely red hot, you will be shoehorned into their schedule.
You’ll also be assigned an editor to ensure your book lives up to THEIR expectations. And that can be very tough for a new author as I found out when Wiley published an earlier book of mine.
But if you’re going down the self-publishing route, then you’re in luck. Here’s a blow by blow account of how I produced my new book ‘Legendary’.
I had one of those crazy moments when I decided to write a book. The title came to me overnight (as usual, I put my glorious subconscious to work and it came up with the answer – I used this technique a zillion times as a software developer in the 1980s and 90s – and now it’s part of my ‘Zero Tolerance To Stress’ lifestyle).
I did nothing about it though. Whenever you’re pondering a new name and you think of one, leave it to incubate. If you still like it the next day, it’s a sign, but only a sign. If you still like it a week later, things are looking good.
One mistake I make over and over again is to immediately buy the domain name if I can – and if I can’t, I know the name may not be good enough – however, in ‘Legendary’ I didn’t care because it ultimately leads to my new product: TheNumberOneClub.com
I’d done nothing at all with Legendary up to this point. it was firmly on the agenda, but with one massive thing missing – a deadline! No deadline equals nothing happens.
One day in May (22nd) I was on a client call and my client decided to go ahead with a plan we’d put together for her to write a book on her industry. Pretty much a first of its kind, so this would become an important part of what I call her Automatic Referral Kit (ARK).
To encourage her to go ahead, I put forward the idea that we could become accountability partners and set a completion deadline for both books.
Things change, so we agreed this could never be set in stone, but we’d give it a damn good go.
It didn’t quite all go to plan for my client though, but before I tell you why, here’s my side of the story.
I have a big advantage here. I write stuff all the time. Writing is what I love best. The first thing I do every day is the ‘Idea Machine’. A technique I learnt from James Altucher.
Everyday, I open a new Google Doc, enter a title that starts ’10 ideas I have for….’. I fill in the blank and then set a timer for 10 minutes and write down my 10 ideas. I also play classical music in the background during this time. This distracts my conscious self, so I can let my inner creative (right brain stuff – or is it! – see this) out.
The point of the Idea Machine is to exercise your synaps. To help ensure the ‘elasticity’ of your thinking. This also has another benefit – it helps me with future scoping:
Most people spend their time in the past. I like to think about the future and how I want it to be. So coming up with ideas (of any type on any subject good or bad) is a very good way to spend some time – but like all good things, it needs consistent practice.
I also write a journal every night. This is real journal – pen and paper – old school stuff. Sometimes I write 3 or 4 pages, sometimes just a paragraph. But I always do it. It’s part of the whole persistence thing I’ve used my entire life. The more you persist, the more likely you will succeed.
Anyway, back to the book…
The first deadline was the 10th July 2015. That gave me 6 weeks to get the bare bones done. The intention was to write for 40 minutes a day. Not too hard. It must never become a chore (or stressful).
I can very easily write 1,000 words in 40 minutes, so we have an initial projected word count of 42,000 words. I don’t care what size the book is at this point. I just want it to be good enough for me to be proud of.
I’m also the kind of person who thrives on new. I’m always on the search for better. In business that can be a real problem – nothing I do is ever good enough in retrospect. This is something I am coming to realise doesn’t serve me or the world.
One way I’m overcoming that is to remember I have favourite films, music and books. And I LOVE to visit them more than once. If they were to change in any way I would be disappointed (it’s like seeing a live version of your favourite band’s best song, and watching the vocalist murder it with some new interpretation – or worse, watching some other band cover it badly).
I complete the first draft on time. 10th July is a celebration day. Yippee 🙂
If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you will come to learn that your first draft of anything is going to be pretty awful. That’s the point of the first draft (and this includes blog posts like this one too – I’m writing it in one go, then I’m going to edit the pants off it afterwards – but I’ll make sure I leave this sentence in – [done – Ed]).
The best way to edit the first draft is to leave it for at least 24 hours. It gives you some time to forget about it. You need to see it with fresh eyes when you eventually come back to it.
Since we are talking about a lot of writing, we set the deadline for the first edit to be the end of August.
So I spend the next month doing absolutely nothing to the book!
It just sits there slowly being forgotten (that’s the idea). In any other life I would not have done this. I would have returned within a couple of days and started on the editing. This is a good thing to note, because as your writing abilities improve, so does the speed and perfection of first drafts.
The English author Barbara Cartland wrote well over 700 books (some claim 723). She died at the age of 98 still writing (allegedly with 160 unpublished works). The more she worked the faster (and better) she became (especially if you were a fan – she sold somewhere around 750,000,000 books).
One of the things I’ve learnt is to never get precious over what I’ve written. I learnt this in 1998 when writing my first book. Half way through, my computer died. I had no backup (bearing in mind I had written at least 6 commercial pieces of software dating back to the early 1980’s I had absolutely no excuse not to make backups – but I just forgot).
So I had a choice. Abandon the book or start again. I chose to start again, and the result was 10 times more satisfying because it was so much better. From that point on I slowly came to the conclusion that whatever I wrote could always be improved upon, and therefore I could stop taking my writing so seriously. The result is less stress (and trust me, that’s a very good thing).
Major editing begins. I give myself a couple of weeks to get this done.
I ended up with 12 chapters. They connect together in more ways than one and contain a secret message. I decide not to mention that in the book. If someone finds it, great. If not, who cares.
The idea of the first edit (or 2nd draft as some call it) is to take out all the rubbish. To remove all surplus words, especially and objectively all adverby adverbs. It is a really really good thing to do. Any word that ends with an ‘ly’ makes you sound stoopid (sic – putting words like ‘sic’ into a piece of text is also stupid, it’s in a foreign language – Latin – and also shows up one’s pedantic nature – it’s a way of saying “oi, this isn’t a typo, the person I’m quoting from said it, so don’t write your stupid letters telling me I’m ignorant, OK!”).
Because I’ve always loved to embellish things, removing my beloved adverbs has always been difficult. Here’s a good article on the subject if you’re interested.
By the end of August I’ve pruned the book down to around 13,000 words. It’s now not even half a book in the traditional sense, but I’m very proud of it 🙂
I take more time off from the book. It needs another gap so I can forget about it. When you leave writing for a time and return later, you spot the assumptions you inadvertently left (see the adverb there? – I didn’t mean to make or leave those assumptions – too close to the paper to see the trees to see the wood).
I set the publishing date to 30th September and start the final editing on the 22nd. I figured this would be an easy task, so as usual left it late.
Whenever I set a deadline, no matter how aggressive it feels at first, it is always way more than I really need. Perhaps I’m just getting faster at stuff – but I don’t really think so.
My intention is to edit the entire thing in one go. That way I will get a really good feel for how it flows. Makes total sense. Except, this final edit turns out to be MASSIVE.
I start with chapter 1 (I’m going to leave the Introduction to the end – it’s written and had its first edit – but I know that until I’m happy with the main content, there will always be something wrong with the intro).
The first chapter is called ‘Leverage’. In business, leverage is the final stage of scaling. So I’m following a long tradition of starting with the end in mind (see Stephen Covey‘s 7 Habits book).
On reading it, I realise it is misaligned with its ‘promise’ (the promise is usually what the title implies), so I scrap the entire chapter and rewrite it. I still hate doing this, but I know it’s the only thing to do, and that it will be all the better for it. I’ve changed my entire belief system to make this true.
And it works. I have a far better chapter. Also, it’s the first chapter – I don’t want anyone tripping up before they really got started.
A reader poll in the Mirror (published March 2015) shows that 67% of readers have not read all the books they own. When I published my first book following some advice in a book called appropriately “The Self-Publishing Manual” I seem to remember it claimed that the majority of books are never read. Ah well, who cares, writing is good for the soul.
Having rewritten chapter one, my fear is that the rest will have the same issue. But it’s an irrational fear. Every other chapter is on topic. No more rewrites, just a bunch of editing.
I spend the next 7 days going through every word. 2 days before my self-imposed deadline I’m finished and the result looks good.
I wrote the entire book in Google Docs. I like Google Docs because a) it’s free, and b) I can access it from any computer anywhere – so it’s perfect for my Chromebook laptop and I no longer need to worry about backups.
It also lets me export my docs in pretty much any format. So the first thing I do is export the finished book to Microsoft Word.
I’m doing this because I want to have more control over page numbering, and I need to add a contents page (not yet supported in Google Docs). I’m using Word 2010, which is the first version I’ve found that doesn’t crash when messing around with content and index pages.
I login to CreateSpace – a Print On Demand (POD) company acquired by Amazon – and upload my book.
I’m doing this before anything else because it will show me the book size, and from that I can get a template to use to design my cover.
Incidentally, CreateSpace has its own free cover design tool, or you can pay them a fee and they will create it for you.
I download the template and fire up my favourite graphics software (I use something called Xara which dates back to 1991 when it was called Artworks) and design my cover art.
I place the title on the front cover, paste in my subtitle (this is more important than the main title – it’s the promise that sells the book) and export the finished result back into CreateSpace.
Note also that I add the blurb to the back cover, plus a picture of the author (me) and a bio box.
The blurb is the sales piece. People DO judge a book by its cover. If they like what they see, they will turn to the back cover to get a better idea of the contents, so you need to sell the book on the front and back cover.
Think of it like a progression:
- People look at the cover and if it appeals they stay. The point of the cover is to attract them and get them to read the…
- Title. The title has to be intriguing in one way or another. It might be a promise in itself, or as in my case, just a single promising word (my brand is Legendary Business Owners so it makes sense to call my book Legendary). The purpose of the title is to get them to read the…
- Subtitle. Expand your promise (or explain the title). This is vital. if the subtitle is boring in any way – or not matched to your target audiences’ expectations, challenges or needs, then you need to think about it more deeply.
- The purpose of the subtitle is to get them to either a) open the book to see if it’s any good, or b) turn to the back cover and read a little more about what it promises (this is what happens in physical book shops – next time you’re in one, do some people watching and see what they do – if habits are changing, you will find out for yourself).
- Finally, they will either reject it or buy it. If they’re on Amazon, they may click the ‘Look Inside…’ button to ensure it really does what it promises to do, but by this time they are ready to make a decision.
I click the Review button in CreateSpace and it warns me that once this process is started I can’t do a thing with it until I get the all clear. That takes up to 24 hours.
Next morning, I get the message that there are some issues. It turns out that my book is too thin to support the text I want on the spine. Damn it! I love having text on the spine. Even though it’s only half a book in terms of the ‘thud’ factor, it’s still my book and I’m proud of it.
So I improve the paper quality and add three apendixes, which consist of three of my best previously unpublished articles on business. These work well with the existing content and does the trick. The book is now 104 pages long and ready to go through the review process again.
I make one final edit and end up rewriting the introduction. I also add a new ‘How To Use This Book’ section. I redo the cover design work. And I’m satisfied. Up goes the book once more for review.
I miss my ‘publish by 30th September’ deadline by a day. But it’s OK – and it would have been there had it not been for the CreateSpace review process (which is totally awesome by the way).
On the 1st October I get the all clear. Here’s a picture of the final cover artwork.
The beauty of CreateSpace and other POD publishers is your ability to upload new versions whenever you like at no cost (and there is no cost to do any of this in the first place by the way – including your ISBN number allocation).
Once the review process has been completed and you’ve OK’d either the digital proof – or waited a few weeks to have a printed proof sent to you (which does have a cost, including carriage from the USA), then you can hit the publish button on CreateSpace and get it done.
You’ll also need to set a price. There are three options: US Dollars, UK Pounds and the Euro. Every other currency is auto set by Amazon. You have a choice of setting USD and then have the rest auto calculate using the current exchange rate, or you can set USD, GBP, and Euro pricing independently.
That is what I chose to do so I had control over the price and its attractiveness. Eg. I still prefer to see a .99 or .95 at the end, so I make an adjustment to the auto calculated prices accordingly.
Because my book is only 104 pages long, I set a UK price of £4.99 to encourage sales (my profit is about £1 but I didn’t write it for the money – it’s a positioning, reputation and referral piece – always publish your best stuff – why show the world anything less).
Amazon tell me that the book will appear in the UK on the 8th October, hence this article and the timing of it. The coincidence with Super Thursday is just a bit of luck, but it gives me a good excuse to jump on the Super Thursday bandwagon for news in the search engines.
You may remember I had an agreement with a client to write and publish both our books at the same time.
Things got in the way for her, not least of which was the glorious news of her first baby. Her business also suddenly increased, and looking after business must always come first.
With all that going on, she made the right decision to postpone until 2016 and do a proper launch in London with a party and all the razzmatazz.
I can’t wait and when it’s finally done, you will certainly get to hear about it here.
Next up is book promotion. I’ll get back to that when I’ve done some.
Meanwhile if you have any comments or book stories I’d love to hear them.