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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 January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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