What I’ve learnt about writing and launching my first book in five brief steps

What I’ve learnt about writing and launching my first book in five brief steps

Wednesday 18th May saw the launching of my first book co-authored with the very talented Mike Mister (whose second book it is!). Those of you who regularly read my Wise Sherpa blog will know that the book From work life to new life – rewriting the rules of retirement for smart professionals has not only been a wonderful lockdown and collaboration project but also a real journey of discovery!

At our virtual book launch and a few other occasions over the past couple of months, I’ve been asked about how we approached writing the book, what we’ve learnt and if there is anything we would do differently? So, I thought I’d capture my thoughts in this month’s WS blog (with the support of my co-author!)

Step 1 – Why do you want to write a book? I have wanted to write a book for a while now. To be honest, I could have written a book on a number of different topics. It was always going to be non-fiction (I leave the fiction writing to our daughter who has much more of a talent for it). But I needed to get clear on why I wanted to write a book. On further reflection, I concluded I wanted the book to make a difference to the reader (highly practical) and be relevant to me and the work I do, to provide a platform from which I could speak, write, coach and consult.

Step 2 – What approach do you want to take to writing a book? I knew that I had the discipline to write a book on my own, but I prefer to collaborate in my work that is not my coaching work – it helps to fill my tank and challenges my thinking and my creativity. Over a series of coffee meetups with Mike, I started to formulate an idea for the book anchored in some of our shared professional experiences and interests. I summarised my ideas in one page which I pitched to him. Happily, Mike thought it would be a good idea too! Little did we know that we would end up writing the book virtually over zoom and MS teams in the middle of a global pandemic.

Step 3 – To self-publish or secure a publisher? Once, we had developed the book outline (2-3 pages), a pitch (1 page) and the first chapter, Mike and I started thinking about which publishers to pitch to. That’s when the pandemic hit! Rather than hang around, we cracked on with writing through the first wave of the pandemic and into the second wave – we got into a rhythm / found our groove. Before we knew it, our first draft of the book was ready – just as we were in the midst of the second wave of the pandemic (yeah more homeschooling!)

I undertook a thorough revision of the first draft. In that process, I started to think about self-publishing the book. Mike and I discussed this and concluded we felt we had created a manuscript that we knew was right for our market – concise (at 150 pages) and highly practical. We were concerned that a publisher would have a very different set of priorities on reading the manuscript and would potentially want a different end product. We agreed that exploring self-publishing should be a priority.

I was very fortunate to be introduced to Publish Your Purpose based in the US – a big target market for us! We hit it off immediately. PYP offers a full service or pick and mix (my description) service when it comes to self-publishing. (thank you Jenn and Bailly – you are the best!) We worked with them to coach us through the publishing process (including introductions to a shortlist of editors, book cover designers and copywriters – you name it they have a template or an introduction they can make!) The editing and design process went smoothly and quickly. At all points, we felt in complete control. We also found it a very cost-effective approach as we could decide where we wanted to invest our money and where we were happy to do the work ourselves or have family or friends step in (thanks dad for the multiple proofreads!)

From idea to publishing took two years but as mentioned there was a global pandemic, homeschooling and a turnaround (my husband’s events business) which meant we could have done it faster if we had wanted to.

Step 4 – Congratulations, you’ve published a book, now comes the real work! Really? As mentioned, this was Mike’s second book, like many authors before him, he was only too aware that the real work starts once you’ve published the book. Interestingly, most authors assume publishers will give you lots of support in the promotion process. Unless you’re JK Rowling or other high profile authors, be prepared to be your own marketing, social media and PR department. PYP were brilliant, they gave us so much food for thought on the promotion front but it was up to us to execute.

We were fortunate to be able to draw upon our own skill set and experience (in a former life and to this day I am still a Chartered Marketer!) as well as that of the family – thank you to James (for all things mailchimp, wix, canva, podcast and zoom related), colleagues – Charlotte (all things PR) and friends – Dan (for the wonderful website), and Helene (we wouldn’t have a launch event without your amazing support!).

From launches (virtual and in-person), podcast interviews, webinar presentations, speaking opps (in-person and virtual) as well as promoting the book in a range of print publications – we have initiated and driven all of the activity. You need stamina, creativity, resourcefulness, connections, time and commitment to the long haul!

Step 5 – Are book sales the major metric that matters? This may seem a strange question. On one level, you’ve published a book because you want people to read it. But with the approach we have taken to self-publish, book sales are only one marker of ‘success’ for us. We wrote the book as a platform to promote awareness of an issue that really matters to us and where we speak, consult and coach both organisations and clients hoping to make a difference for good. The book is proving a critical way to lead into and open up conversations. Often it results in individuals and/or organisations buying the book but it can also lead to much more than a book sale! So think about why you are writing the book and how you want to measure success.

If you or your organisation could do with some help to work through the issues raised in this article or are interested in discussing transitioning into fulfilling encores from organisational life, we would love to hear from you!  www.wisesherpa.co.uk 

#coaching #businesscoaching #midlife #transitions #midcareer  #fromworklifetonewlife

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