What I learned from writing and publishing two books

The short answer is a lot…but that isnt very interesting, nor very helpful. To say the best way to learn about a subject is to write a book about it is undoubtedly true. It forces you to really think about an idea and then ground it down to make it as succinct and interesting as possible. My greatest learning experience has been writing my second book, closely followed by my first book.

I really would encourage anyone who has a passion for a subject, or that knows or has experienced something different or can bring a different perspective to write and publish their work. For me I’m sure there will be a third. But before I get to that, I thought I’d put together a brief, practical guide to anyone who fancies picking up the baton and doing the same. Hope it helps 🙂

On writing…

Writing a book isn’t for everybody though. It is painful at times. In fact it can be painful for lots of the time. But like most things worth doing very rewarding at the same time. Rewarding, but always uncomfortable, and thats probably how any creative process should be.  The hardest thing is to keep the motivation to plow on when it might be many months before it sees the light of day. The best way to counter that obstacle is to make a public commitment to write and publish a book, and bring other people (friends, family, colleagues but especially potential readers) along for the journey. Once you get even a small snippet of encouragement that you are onto something it then becomes difficult to let go.

The best way to get into the groove of writing is just to write. Don’t worry about your spelling, grammar or whether the paragraphs all flow well. The best way to get stuff out is to just splurge it out. To that end though there are ways in which you can deal with the consequences of that splurge. I used a writing tool called Scrivener that allows you to easily see the structure of the book and individual chapters in much greater clarity. You can then switch the structure around as you see fit without having to scroll down through Word and having to cut and paste big chunks of text.

On research…

I hear about some authors that say they spend most of their time researching and then the final part of the process of completing a book is the writing part. I don’t like to do things that way. Sure, you need to do some research at the start to get moving, but I find that putting some words down helps to crystallize the ideas in my head, which then gives me a clear idea of what I need to look for next.

The other things I use that make my research a lot easier are Evernote and Pocket. Evernote is great for recording ideas and bringing together research. I’ve also used it occasionally for drafting whole sections when I haven’t had access to a laptop. Pocket, an app that saves and bookmarks all the useful articles and stories I find is one thing I would not be without.

On publishing…

When I published my first book I got the ebook out first, followed by the audio version a couple months later and it took me a whole year to get the paperback version out! This was partly my own perception that, well surely very few people want to read paperback versions anymore and partly my lack of knowledge about how easily it would be to do. For my latest book all 3 versions will be out much quicker.

I used a service called Pronoun to publish my ebooks. Upload your Word file and they format your book for Kindle and other ereaders taking out hours of hassle. Add some details about your book, decide on the price and then hit publish. And thats it. A few days later your book will be in Amazon, followed a few days later by iBooks, Google and a  number of other online book stores. For the paperback version I used Createspace (again an Amazon company). They provides a free (or close to fee free) way for authors to get their book in print. Forget about needing to stuff your attic with a load of your books on the off-chance that someone will buy it, Createspace prints a copy of your book on demand when someone purchases it.  Finally for the audio version I used ACX. Its a service (again owned by Amazon) that brings together authors with voiceover experts. For authors all you need to do is outline your book, what you will be doing to promote it, think through the type of voice that suits your book and then hold an audition. At the time of writing Audible pay the author/voiceover $25 whenever someones first download is your book – these payments add up much faster than you think.

Sell totally through Amazon or sell to multiple booksellers? There are arguments to both approaches. If you sell solely to Amazon you will not be able to sell anywhere else. The advantage is that, especially if you are a new author is that instead of sales spread across several stores they will be concentrated on Amazon. This has an advantage in terms of potential readers finding your book. The downside to publishing through Amazon solely is that you will be enrolled in their Amazon Unlimited service. Instead of being paid when a reader decides to read your book, you will be paid on the % of the book they read. This might be a gamble you are willing to take if you are an established author, but for a relative newbie and especially for a non-fiction author where readers dont necessarily want to read the whole book or even that much of it you will be limiting the amount of revenue you can generate. For both of my books I have taken the approach that its best to cast the net as wide as possible.

Self publishing your own book means its all down to you. And that means you need to set yourself deadlines.  Treat it in the same way as if you were working for a company. If you don’t, it will slide and years from now you will have a finished manuscript. But, one that you not want to let go. You will keep smoothing out little edges. I published my first book knowing that it wasn’t perfect, but if I’d waited for perfection if would have never been published.

On promoting it…

If you are writing and publishing your own book then getting people to actually know that its out there is down to just one person…you. And to be honest from what I understand talking to other authors, even if you were to be published by a publishing company unless you are a famous, established author that is no different.

Try and keep your followers (that minimum viable audience) interested and engaged in your journey as you go along. Don’t think that you need to have millions of followers on Twitter or Facebook to then be able to sell your book. Having a small group of people in the know, especially if some of them can get the word out to a much wider group of people is a big help.

On whats next…

A work of fiction might be on the cards next – with a take on economics/commodity markets naturally. Or it might be something entirely different. Dare I say it, I’m open to suggestions.

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Peter Sainsbury

Materials Risk provides commodity market insights across your supply chain by highlighting emerging risks and opportunities and providing advice on commodity buying and managing risk. All views expressed on this website are those of Materials Risk only. See our About page and terms and conditions for more details. Materials Risk was founded by Peter Sainsbury who you can follow on Google+ and Quora