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9 Valuable Lessons Learned After Writing My First Book

9 Valuable Lessons Learned After Writing My First Book

In 2012, my coach asked if I wanted to write a book. This had been a dream of mine for a long time, so it didn’t take me long to say, “Yes.”

It’s now 2013 and the book is finished. I’m exhausted but happy: this project has been a real stretch! Yet, I have learned many valuable lessons about writing a book and today I’m here to tell you some of them.

1. Crowdsourcing makes you a project manager.

My book was written by using crowdsourcing. In other words, I didn’t write all the content by myself—there were also 18 other contributors (bloggers, marketers, and entrepreneurs) to this project. Maybe it was for this very reason that I didn’t feel like an author at times. Instead, my job was to keep a lot of strings on my fingers, so that things would roll along smoothly.

In addition to doing some of the writing (sections such as my part of the book, the Introduction, the thank-yous, the Conclusion, or contributor introductions before each chapter), I also did the following:

  • Found the people to join my project and a person to write the Foreword.
  • Hired a book cover designer.
  • Hired a typesetter for the book.
  • Negotiated with everyone who reviewed my book about possible promotions.
  • Wrote a bunch of launch guest posts and created other launch-related material.
  • Built a website for my book.
  • Created a promo package for reviewers (and anyone else who wanted to promote my book).

This is probably just the tip of the iceberg of all the work I have done during the project. Yet, I’m proud that I was able to get them all out of the way before the launch date.

2. Get a decent editor right from the get-go.

One mistake I made was not hiring a decent editor/proofreader right from the beginning. Instead, I found a person through Fiverr to do the work.

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Unfortunately, when I created one particular draft that I then sent to one of the contributors, he wasn’t too happy about the end results.

After doing a little bit of searching, I found a good editor whose expertise I then used in this project and who proofread/edited the book.

The Fiverr option would have been more inexpensive for sure, but when it concerns a book project, make sure to pay attention to the editing part. Money shouldn’t be an issue in this case!

3. It is going to cost money—but it’s an investment.

When I calculated the project costs so far, the figure was a bit over $2,000. Obviously, I didn’t have to pay everything at once, but rather, during the project.

I see all this money spent as an investment and it’s naturally going to pay itself back (at least partially) through book sales. But more importantly, it’s going to differentiate me from other bloggers out there in my market (productivity), who haven’t written a book yet.

Besides, this investment can give me other interesting opportunities, like teaching and speaking gigs, and it’s also a nice way to build my email list.

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4. Don’t hesitate to outsource as much as you can.

When you are self-publishing a book you want to outsource as much of the work as possible.

For instance, I lost time on the typesetting part because I wanted to save some money and do it myself. However, after talking to my coach about this topic, he suggested that I should find someone through Elance to do the work for me.

I was happy to find someone who could do the work. At least the next time I write a book, I’ll be sure to take the outsourcing path right away—without wasting my time.

5. Make sure to prepare for the launch well in advance.

I was so deeply concentrated on other parts of the book project that I almost forgot the launch phase entirely.

Unfortunately, I was a bit too late on the launch game. For instance, I missed certain guest blog post opportunities on bigger blogs on the launch day. I learned my lesson and next time I will approach these blogs well ahead of time.

Guest posts (15 at the time I was writing this post) were not the only way I was promoting my book and there are plenty of other ways I did it:

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  • Articles on two electronic productivity magazines
  • Advertisement on one electronic productivity magazine
  • Three podcast interviews
  • A national radio interview by Finnish Broadcasting Company, plus an article on their website
  • Contributors promoting the book on social media, on their email lists etc.
  • Reviewers writing testimonials and promoting the book, also on social media, on email lists etc.
  • A speaking gig at my local computer club

Arranging all this takes time, so for my next book I will definitely give more time and thought to these important aspects of the project.

6. You have to understand your long-term priorities.

Let’s see: I was writing a blog, I had a day job, I had a family (and I still do!), and I was competing in triathlons and marathons. In addition, I was about to write a book.

Obviously, there were a few things I had to stop doing, at least temporarily, and in my case it was my sports hobbies. In addition, I decided to temporarily stop podcasting on my blog and recording productivity videos.

I understood that writing a book would have long-term effects while also building my online business and authority, so some aspects of blogging and competing had to stay in the background in 2013.

I’m happy that I made this decision and it helped me to better focus on the book project.

7. Have a person you can turn to.

When writing your book—especially if it’s your first one—it’s very important to get help and insight from someone who has written a book before.

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In my situation, I now understand that having a coach has been an invaluable thing for me—especially as a first-time book writer. He has been helping me along the way by connecting me to various people during the project, or by giving me helpful feedback regarding the book. Since he is an author himself, he knew the right things to focus on and this saved a lot of my time.

8. Your motivation is not guaranteed.

Eight months after starting the project, I faced something unexpected: My motivation towards blogging and finishing the book decreased alarmingly.

I realized that the growth of my blog had stagnated and all I was doing was just working on the book project. In addition, an old passion of mine (designing web sites) raised its head again and my motivation to continue my productivity blog and the book project was at stake.

Fortunately, I was able to understand the long-term value of my project, thus realizing (thanks to my coach) that it would be foolish to pull the plug now, since I had done a lot of work so far. Seeing this book project as being part of something bigger was an eye-opener and it helped me to keep on going until I crossed the finish line.

9. It’s possible to write a book part-time.

When you are writing your book part-time because you have multiple other commitments, you have to make especially sure you take advantage of all the possible time pockets you have.

In my case, I did the following:

  • Woke up early: I got up in the morning between 5-6am, almost every day.
  • Never worked without a plan: I knew exactly what tasks to focus on after waking up, or whenever writing my book.
  • Slowed down my blogging pace: I posted less on my blog and spent the time saved on the book project.
  • Batched content creation: Whenever creating content for the blog or my email lists, I created more content at once.
  • Took advantage of travel times: I worked on this project during the business trips—either on the train or when staying at the hotel.
  • Asked politely: I asked my wife if was OK to spend time on the book project—instead of spending mutual time with my family (fortunately, I didn’t have to do this too often).

Please note that I used these strategies mainly when I still had a day job. In June 2013, I lost my day job due to economic circumstances, so I had a lot more time to focus on the book and get it finished.

After 431 days, the book was finished! These are the lessons I learned. Do you have any tips to share in the comments?

More by this author

Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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