Guest post by Michael Hannan, co-author of The CIO’s Guide to Breakthrough Project Portfolio Performance. www.FortezzaConsulting.com
For more than a decade, I had put off writing a book about whichever organizational performance-improvement innovation I happened to be testing out with my consulting clients at the time. Whenever a technique seemed to show promise of a breakthrough, it was a natural impulse for me to want to get the word out, both to promote it with new clients, and also to earn prestige in the industry. However, the prospect of taking on the daunting task of what could end up being a multi-year endeavor dissuaded me from even attempting to capture any of these techniques in book form. Until last summer.
What changed, exactly?
For starters, I had already written 6 or 7 blog posts on related subjects, and as many authors are doing more and more frequently, I used my blog content as a head start for the book.
Second, I had assembled quite a bit of additional content into a set of “technique training” materials that I used to deliver an all-day training class for my clients—this called for heavier use of graphics, which ended up serving double-purpose for the book; the experience delivering that training also forced me to come up with more compelling examples to drive home key concepts—such examples proved useful for “training audiences” and “reading audiences” alike.
Third, I was presented with a speaking opportunity that also offered to promote and host a book-signing event for me…all I needed was the book! This gave me a tight schedule window, with a strong motivation to deliver within schedule. Also, given that the book was to be about how to improve the speed and reliability of projects, it seemed appropriate that my “book project” should try and benefit from the very techniques that the book itself describes.
Fourth, I enlisted the help of two co-authors, each of whom already had some content written up for their specific areas of expertise; the content required significant editing as well as some re-writing and graphics work, but better than starting from scratch, and better than trying to create new content I didn’t know quite as well myself. (Note that I was careful to pick two guys I already knew well and trusted highly!)
Fifth, I relied on my network to locate an excellent, affordable, and very fast professional copy editor. OK, actually it was my sister, so maybe this was more due to simple luck than superior networking ability…then again, maintaining strong family relationships usually requires more than just luck, so maybe I’ll take some credit for maintaining my sister as a “networking asset” after all.
Sixth, I used a print-on-demand (POD) publisher known for providing pretty good support to first-time authors. While I can’t say I was thrilled with every aspect of my particular POD company’s service levels, they ultimately came through with what I needed, when I needed it. They also were fine letting me do some parts myself, such as the eBook conversion, to save money where it made sense.
And finally, I changed my attitude. With the aggressive schedule, I knew there was a reasonable chance that I might fail. As a result, I decided that I was going to make sure I at least learned enough about the process to understand how to succeed in the future, if not at this first attempt. While I was highly motivated to deliver a finished tome that I could be proud of, I took the attitude that learning an unfamiliar process that could benefit me in the future was the minimum objective. This kept things fun, even in the middle of some stressful situations—I ended up learning the basics of designing “minimalist” book covers in Photoshop, the fastest way to generate both color (eBook) and grayscale (print) versions of the same image, and what promotional tools and techniques are available at zero/minimal cost.
So if you’ve always wanted to write a business, how-to, or other technique-oriented book, but have been held back by the unappealing notion of a long, arduous authoring process, try these seven techniques to help knock it out in a month or less—in summary, they are:
- Blog for a head start.
- Build training materials for an even bigger head start.
- Get a very real near-term deadline, such as a speaking opportunity connected to a book promo event.
- Get a co-author or two (that you trust!) to help carry the load.
- Network to line up a strong, reliable copy editor ahead of time. This is now easy—you can just ask me to put you in touch with my sister…while you may not get the “family” rate, she really is quite good, and won’t break your bank. (No, I receive no kickback from her, though she often brings a nice bottle of wine when she comes to visit!)
- Use a good POD publisher that can help you where you need it most. There are lots of blog posts and reviews for which ones tend to rate more highly than others; I’m happy to share the pros/cons of my own experience as well (just send me an email at Mike@FortezzaConsulting.com).
- Focus on the “learning” objective, so that you’re guaranteed to succeed. If you also get your book done within a month, then that’s just a bonus…also, even if you end up taking twice as long, and are only able to make it in time for the next book promo, that’s still pretty great, and most likely better than 99% of all other authors.
Good luck—let me know if this approach works for you!