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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:

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  • 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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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