Writing, editing and publishing your book is a project, just like any other, and it requires you to do some up-front thinking about how you want to produce it—that is, IF you want to do it quickly, cheaply and with high-quality. To produce your book, you will have to strike a balance between these attributes. To accomplish this feat, you will have to strike a balance between these attributes. A couple of examples of how not to do this include:
- Failure to set daily or weekly writing goals, will cause the timeframe for producing your book to slip. Conversely, failure to set limits on how much time you spend working on the book each day or each week, will eventually wear you down.
- Failure to think about what you want to say ahead of time will result in a waste of money and time in the editing process if you try to correct it. Similarly, focusing on getting a book out quickly and for the lowest cost, without thinking about what you want to say, will result in the quality of the book suffering such that no one will want to purchase it.
Unfortunately, these things come with experience and unless you have knowledgeable people supporting your writing effort, you will have to find them out for yourself, which brings me to the first recommendation:
Learn from Others
Join Metaphor.ink, a national writers club such as the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi) and a local writers club. Read their newsletters, attend their meetings and build your network of writers and authors. Each group will be able to help you in different ways.
The second recommendation is similar to the first:
Work on Developing Your Brand Now!
Before you start writing your book, start promoting yourself as an expert in your field. This is important because people are more likely to purchase books from authors they know and respect. If you start marketing now, your book will sell much better when it is published. Conversely, if you wait until your book is published to market it, you will have a much more difficult time selling it. Things you can do now include:
- Being a guest on a podcast to discuss a topic related to your book
- Creating social media sites in order to send out posts and tweets on topics related to your book
- Friending and following other authors
- Purchasing an Internet domain for your name and/or your book
- Handing out business cards, bookmarks and other items to help people remember you
Now let’s talk about creating your book!
Project Overview: Think of Writing Your Book as Creating a Series of Plateaus—Iterate!
Most authors find that what they ultimately publish is much different than what they started writing. Forget trying to create your masterpiece at the start of the process. Instead create a very basic outline of what you want to say. This is your first “plateau,” from which you can assess what you’ve written and improve. If you are familiar with project management techniques, creating a series of plateaus when writing your book is very similar to the way Agile projects are run—they are iterative. This is the way this blog post will organize you to write your book, but it is not the only way. You must choose the method that will work best in your situation. Ask other writers and read writing club newsletters for other ideas. What I describe here comes from my personal experience, having written four books over a period of six years. It’s the way I plan to write moving forward.
Here is the strategy:
- Create an outline of what you want to say. Show where you tie in one idea in another section.
- Divide up the outline into sections—major themes—and create a separate outline for each.
- Develop each outline into an eBook. Consider each eBook a “plateau.”
- Publish a series of eBooks first and use reader feedback to make adjustments to the content.
- After you have written (and sold) your eBooks, combine the eBooks into your book.
eBooks are an excellent way to release parts of your book as you work toward publishing it, and it gives you an opportunity to generate some revenue in the process. Additionally, each time you release a product, Amazon gives it preferential treatment during its first month. If you release an eBook each month, you will always have a new release. You can enhance this advantage if you make your eBooks part of a series whose title is related to the book you want to publish.
Deciding the Order in Which to Publish Content
I’m going to use an Agile project management technique here to help you get the greatest value from your content. It involves two steps:
- Determine the Cost / Benefit: Determine which content will give you the greatest value for the least effort.
- Use the Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule: Write only the 20% of the content that gives you 80% of the value, then reassess.
Determine the Cost / Benefit in Agile Projects
In the Agile project management world, this technique is called “planning poker” in which each team member has a deck of nine cards with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100 (hint: you can order a deck of planning poker cards from Amazon). They use these cards in a two-step process to create a “relative” cost/benefit for each task that is meaningful only to the other tasks under consideration. To do this, each team member selects the number from their own nine-card deck that comes closest to the relative cost or benefit for a given task. Then, they each show their chosen card all at once to the other team members. If the team members have different numbers, they discuss each person’s reason for why they chose a given number and then revote. They repeat this process until everyone agrees on the relative cost or benefit number.
The first task is to determine the “relative cost,” in which the group selects the easiest task in the project and assign it a value of “1.” Then, using this task as the standard, they rate every task in the project using the other eight numbers in the planning poker card deck. The second task is to determine the “relative benefit,” assigning the task that will provide the greatest value in the project the value of “100” then rating the other tasks relative to that one using the other eight planning poker cards. Once this is done, the ratio of relative cost to relative benefit is calculated for each task in the project and the tasks are reordered according to that ratio, with the greatest cost/benefit tasks listed first.
Using the Pareto Principle in Agile Projects
Once the relative cost/benefit has been calculated and the tasks reordered to show the tasks with the highest cost/benefit first, the team members add up all the ratios and then find where on the task list the cumulative ratio values reach 80%. In most cases, it only takes 20% of the project tasks to produce 80% of the ratio values—that’s why it’s called the 80/20 rule! This point is good to know because it means that below that point, which is 80% of the project, it will only produce 20% of the project’s value. Knowing this, the project team searches to find the task closest to the 80% of cost/benefit point where they can produce a meaningful product and end the project. Using this technique enables project teams to focus only on tasks that provide the greatest value for the least amount of effort.
Applying this Technique to Your Book
Doing this exercise for the content in your book does not have to be as elaborate as what I just described, but none-the-less, you can use this technique to find the content that will produce the greatest value for your readers for the least amount of work writing it on your part. The goal is to release eBooks that provide 80% of the value, in terms of the information communicated, for 20% of the work. It can also help you determine the order in which release your eBooks, if this is a question. After you release your eBook series based on this process, you can use reader feedback to determine where to enhance or focus your writing when you combine the eBook content to produce the printed book.
Deciding How to Publish Your Content
There are a number of ways you can publish your thoughts and ideas (Note: my mention of the vendors listed below is not an endorsement of their work, just an example). The best way to start is to create a written document first. Most of the avenues that publish content accept either Microsoft Word or Google Docs formats, but you can use other formats as well.
- If you want to publish eBooks first, you can use an online eBook publishing tool such as Designrr to create them and export documents in PDF, Kindle or EPUB formats.
- When you want to produce a printed book, most book publishers will import your documents into either Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher to produce the printed book.
- If you are producing a simple or text-only book, you may consider having it done through Fiverr or another online work-for-hire site.
- If you want to produce an audiobook, you can either hire a voice model (which can be expensive), read the book yourself, or use an online voiceover application such as Speechelo.
Other Considerations in Organizing Your Book
Once you’ve decided how to release your book, you can think about how to format it. This is an area where input from either a book publisher or another writer will be helpful. Some considerations include:
- Color or Black & White: This is probably the most important organizing decision you will make. Full color books are more expensive to produce than black & white books. Your choice may depend on the complexity of any illustrations you plan to include (or not include) in the book. Fortunately, this decision does not apply to eBooks, so you can produce color illustrations and other elements in your eBook and decide whether to print your book in color or black & white based on eBook reader feedback. Just make sure that the illustrations will still look good if they are later printed in black & white.
- Book Trim Size: Again, this is not as important when producing an eBook, but the size of the printed book, and whether the dimensions are a standard or non-standard, need to be determined up-front, as it will determine the ultimate cost of the book and be expensive to change later on.
Hopefully, these items will help you start thinking about your future book in more detail, as well as give you information that can spark conversations with other writers and friends.
Mark Hunter Brooks,
Mark Hunter Brooks, the author of the book Earth’s Hidden Reality, has had numerous spiritual experiences since 2003 that have profoundly changed his worldview. Today, he writes and speaks about the mechanics of the non-physical world, helping make what many consider to be mystical easier to understand. Professionally, Mark Brooks managed large IT and business projects for a Manhattan-based Fortune 100 financial services firm and has an MBA from New York University.
Web Site: www.earthshiddenreality.com