What started as a kernel of an idea six months ago – and was only 20 pages in late April of this year – will be a 220-page book on Amazon in a matter of days (or even hours).
I have had many friends, clients and other ask what it is really like to write a book. My answer here tends to describe the non-fiction world rather than how it would be to draft a novel or other fictional account.
It is amazing, first of all. Truly breathtaking. If you like to write, it is like eating all the ice cream you ever wanted and never getting full. For anyone who has ever wanted to write a book, I highly recommend it IF –
you are willing to devote countless hours of your life and will feel energized that you did so.
Here’s only a partial shot of the number of drafts that I made over the course of writing Master the Interview. In addition to writing and revisions, there is quote-checking. And, if you are publishing it yourself, you need to leave time for cover design, interior formatting, title selection (and vetting), image selection (and more vetting), back-of-book blurb drafting and more. And did I mention tons of copyediting, unless you have someone you really trust to do it for you? Heck, I even learned how to code very basic HTML today to format the descriptions in my e-Store. [Update: I decided not to use the e-Store, because the minimum price of the book (that Amazon allows) would have been higher than I wanted. It will be priced at $19.99.]
In other words, the writing is only one part of it, and unless you have someone (or want to pay, or get lucky to find a publisher) to do the rest, get ready to put in countless hours.
I self-published this time because I wanted to understand everything that went into the process. I am taking a risk. I know some people won’t buy my book because it doesn’t have a big name attached to it. Many more will, however, make the judgment based on the quality that lies within.
As an entrepreneur, I know that writing is an essential part of thought leadership, and I couldn’t wait to get my ideas out there. In addition, as a career coach, this book is directed to my clients first, as it will facilitate our work together. Those two factors played into my decision, and were it not for that, I may have gone the traditional route from the beginning, even if it meant that publishing would take longer and I would have less control over the outcome of the book.
Will I self-publish again?
Hard to say. This investment has certainly made me more nimble. I see documents in an entirely different light. The first time clearly must be the hardest, and now that I am over that hurdle, the learning curve will be easy. So maybe. It depends on what the traditional publishers offer, I suppose, based on the track record that I am able to develop this time around.
One of the things I learned most was to see the book as a BOOK and not a scattered selection of writings bound together with a cover on them. This was a huge disruption in my prior way of thinking and the only way I successfully brought the project to the finish line.
I used the function in Microsoft Word that lets you see multiple pages at once quite often, and I got used to looking at chapters in a new way. It’s essentially the 10,000 foot view, which helps you step back from your material. Not only do you see what you have written with a more detached perspective, but you also gain an entirely new sense of flow and clarity in your writing.
Two more great lessons from this experience were (1) putting words down onto the page, which forced me to have even greater conviction about what I was writing and (2) having the opportunity to receive direct input and suggestions from 50+ expert and industry sources and revise my thoughts and words based on that input. In that sense, the time I have spent on this project has paid me back tenfold already, regardless of how many copies are sold or other good things come out of having done it.
I am sure that I will have more to say in the future about book-writing. For now, here are my initial impressions in the final stages of publishing.
Last but not least, if anyone is considering writing a book themselves and wanted to know how to manage their time to do it, I would suggest creating a schedule with an end date (and finding a way to make it seem “real”). Then back up to the current date and plan out each step that needs to be done. For me, I first started writing a 20-page version, then I got my Table of Contents going, then I wrote more and went back to the Table of Contents. I continued this back-and-forth until the content was over 80% done.
Having a solid Table of Contents was absolutely key to organizing and completing the book.
I must have rewritten and proofed this book at least 20 times, and some parts needed more work than others. I also wrote a few chapters which did not make it into the final book. I estimate that, altogether, I spent 500 hours on this project over a half year of writing, so I spent 20 hours a week on average. It occupied my brain for many more. I expect that a second book will take less time, as I am sure that I did “heavy lifting” many times where none was needed.
How do you fit an extra 20 hours into your week? Early mornings, late nights, writing on weekends and generally prioritizing your writing above anything that is not truly necessary. Some weeks I wrote more, and other weeks I wrote less. The alternative is to spread everything out over a longer period of time – and I had initially budgeted 12 months instead of 6 months for this project – but I can tell you that writing is nothing if not addictive! Once you get into the thick of it, you may not want to put it down.
Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, writer and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. Her new book, Master the Interview, is forthcoming on Amazon.com. For more information about Anne Marie’s coaching and resume writing work, please visit www.segalcoaching.com.