I’ve shared notes from a number of books I’ve enjoyed reading…now it’s time for my own!
This is my first book, and instead of sharing the key learnings from the book itself (I’ll let you do that once you read it!), I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about writing, about writing a book, and about the editing and publishing process.
Labour of love is definitely the right phrase.
I wonder if it’s a little like becoming a parent, though I hesitate a bit on saying that because I’ve never been a parent myself. But the number of people I know who say it’s hard and there’s lack of sleep and so many things which don’t go to plan…and they wouldn’t change it. They’re thrilled with the small human they get to enjoy and share their world with.
Same goes for me. It’s been a long journey, and I am so grateful for everything I’ve learned along the way. So much so that even at the most confusing stages, or when I wondered if it would ever get printed and published and be ready for me to share with the world, I kept thinking, “But this will be really helpful for the next book”.
There are three more books in my writing pipeline right now. I was telling a publisher about it the other day, how once the first book was moving into the publishing phase, I had already started the core content for another book, and now that it’s published I’ve got the core content for three books. She said, “Karen, you’re like a book writing machine!”
But here’s the thing. I’ve been writing these books in my head for twenty years. I have a book on how accountants are creative too, and a book on rest, and a book on the power of keeping going. All of these started off as blog posts, social posts, notes on my phone, scraps of paper, journals, podcast interviews, presentations, and conversations. I was just foresighted enough to make sure I organised all those notes in one place, so when I WAS ready to write the books, the content all came together fairly quickly.
Here’s what I learned along the way.
I love writing. (Editing and publishing are not writing.)
Writing a book, for me, is the easy part. I write like breathing: it simply flows out of me and I don’t notice the time go by and if you cut off my writing in one area it will pop out in another. My accountant Paul, who wrote the foreword to this book, once asked me years ago, “Why haven’t you written a book yet? You seem to write constantly.” I said don’t worry, I will: I haven’t gathered all the content yet. Once I’d gathered it, I was off and running. I didn’t quite realise what a different game it is with editing, reviewing, and publishing. Those are different skills and whilst I will go through the process in order to get the published book in my hand, I’d far rather just write, and then wave a wand over it and have everything come together magically. (Haven’t found the spell for that one yet.) I’m also far faster at writing book content than I am at moving a book through the editing and publishing process, that’s for sure!
Book writing is different.
The kind of writing you do for a full book is different from any other – like blog posts, social posts, emails, notes. I had written blog posts for well over ten years and some of them I felt quite proud of…but when it came to gathering that content and putting it into book content, things had to change. I ramble a lot in blog posts and social posts, which works okay there. It doesn’t work as well in a book. I repeat myself. Even reading aloud my own audiobook I realised there were many sections of the book I’d remove if I were doing it again, because of the repetition. Sentences need to be shorter, more focused. You need full paragraphs, instead of one or two sentences per paragraph. And the bullet point lists and the numbered lists needed to be kept to a minimum. It’s definitely helped me become a multi-faceted writer: not only having the one kind of writing.
Keep your book notes organised by theme – for years.
If you start to spot a theme in your writing, and you think there’s any chance at all you could write a book on that theme, keep the content for that theme in ONE place. Whether it’s a google doc, a note on your phone, an app, or a handwritten journal, it makes it so much easier to gather all of that content once you do decide to write the book. And if you decide not to write a book on that theme, you’ve lost nothing.
Share the book in as many formats as possible.
I only had a vision of the paperback book in my mind, but once I got started I realised I needed the ebook and audiobook as well, not to mention all the connecting things. A scorecard, my personal brand website for me as an author, a workbook, a video course, the coaching group…they all work together so people can choose the format they’re most comfortable with. I only listen to audiobooks as background noise – like listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks to fall asleep, or listening to a book I’ve already read whilst driving. Otherwise I find myself playing it back over and over until I’m tired of hitting the back button. I have a hard time focusing as it is: an audiobook simply gives me new ideas and my brain runs away with them while the narrator reads on. However, that’s just me. Turns out most of my audience loves audiobooks and prefers them, so as soon as I said the book was coming out that was one of the first questions they asked. So I recorded an audiobook. The same goes for all the other connecting tools to help people make sense of the book and use it in their firm and their life. The more you can connect to your book, the more people can actually use it and be helped by it.
Is the book for the business, or is it a passion project?
The Accountant Marketer was and is very much connected to my creative agency, PF. The book design cover fits with the PF brand; we’ll now include it in the welcome box for all new PF clients; I’ll reference it when speaking to accountants and at events. It’s my book, but it’s PF’s resource. Some of my other books which are coming next have been written more for the sheer joy of writing, and because I have some things I’ve experienced and learned I’d like to share with the world – beyond just accountants. Knowing the difference changes how you approach the book and its marketing. It’s like recording a video that you know is going on TikTok as opposed to YouTube or being shown on a cinema screen. It might be similar content, but it changes the way you put it together and share it.
Self publishing has a lot of faff.
A lot. I imagine any kind of publishing is complicated, but despite what everyone told me I was still shocked to discover the phenomenal level of detailed tasks I needed to do in order to get this book out in the world the way I wanted to. Things like buying ISBN numbers and creating accounts for different versions of the book and creating my own self publishing company brand and back ads and beta readers and gathering book quotes and too many other things to list. I figure it’s like building a house: no matter what anyone tells you, or what articles you read or videos you watch or even supportive help you pay for, you still have to go through the process yourself to learn what it’s really like. (That being said, if anyone wants tips or suggestions to make their process easier, please ask. I’d love to save you some of the exhaustion and confusion I went through along the way!)
I feel more proud than I ever imagined I would.
Publishing a book is a massive undertaking and I have every right to be fucking proud of myself…and I am. Now that I know how hard I’ve worked and what I’ve learned and how this book will help people, I’m more inspired than ever to write more books. After all, my goal in writing this one was simply to help more accountants around the world than I could possibly reach by speaking to them one by one. (Like the story of the person on the beach helping one starfish at a time.) So if I’ve helped one more person, that’s enough. If I’ve helped ten more or a hundred more or a hundred thousand more, that’s also enough. It’s a big accomplishment because it allows me to help more accountants: and at the end of the day that’s what I love to do.