The book writing process (and how much of it was actually writing!)

Writing a book – for me anyway – was not the hard part.

It was understanding the whole process – what would happen when, and what percentage of the process would be used for far more than just writing.

Turns out for me, a LOT of the process happened after the writing was done.

A friend who is planning on writing his first book asked me what I wished I’d known before I started, and it is this:

Of the 100% of time spent on writing and publishing this book, for me it was split out roughly like this:

  • Strategy 10%
  • Writing 15%
  • Editing, reviewing, and more editing 40%
  • Design, distribution and publishing 20%
  • Marketing 15%

Under each of those sections, there were categories and areas within them. Here’s some more detailed information on each of those.

Strategy (10%)

1. First, concepting: this included questions such as…

  • What’s motivating you to write this?
  • How are you the best person to talk about it?
  • What audience do you have?
  • How will it stand out from other books in this area or industry?

I got a ‘concept review’ which asked those kinds of questions and pushed me to re-examine my book and its purpose.

2. Then, Outline: this is where I sketched out the structure of the book, including:

  • Is there an introduction? What does it cover?
  • What are the titles of each chapter?
  • How does each chapter begin (the “hook”)?
  • What are each chapter’s key points?
  • How do you tie the chapter together and transition to the next chapter?
  • What’s the conclusion?

When I began, I had a fairly clear book layout – I was writing it based on our 12 week Accelerator coaching group, so I knew the purpose, the twelve topics and chapters, and the key points of each. I still found huge value in this strategy work, because it pushed me to pull the content together more seamlessly. I had a lot of words (60,000 of them) in a Google doc, but once I went through this process I realised it didn’t tie together as cleanly as it would in the end.

3. Coaching: I got coaching support to lead me from the outline into the writing, to result in a full manuscript. We covered things like:

  • How does the current version deliver on your vision for the book?
  • Are your values shining through?
  • Do the chapters make sense and are they easy to read?
  • Is there anything which is confusing or will make it difficult for the reader to grasp the concept or theme?

These coaching sessions connected together with the writing as well.

Writing (15%)

This was the actual hands to keyboard part. I started with a Google doc split out into twelve chapters, and the end product still followed along those lines.

But I discovered book content writing is very, very different from blog post writing.

One of the biggest changes I made was to remove a lot of bulleted points and lists, and to create more paragraphs. Less of “bam, bam, point, done” and more of connecting threads. I shared more stories. It was fascinating how much I thought I had, and how much more there was to actually write.

For me, writing flows. Easily. I got to 140k words in what felt like no time… which was why the editing process was SO long for me. I had to bring that down to at least 100k or less (most business books are 45k-60k words, it turns out).

I’ve definitely learned my lesson for future books: the word count on book two is currently at 48,900, which feels a lot more reasonable. Also cuts down on editing fees, since over a certain level (usually past 60k or 80k words) you start to incur further costs by the word! Some of my line-edits and copyedits were more expensive because I was incurring extra fees for my longer book.

Editing & reviews (40%)

This was the intensity of the process for me. By the time I’d published my book, I had read it – in full – at least six times. Not to mention reading and re reading certain chapters individually!

I’m very grateful for a solid editing process. I realise now my first draft was fairly scrambled, and even my first full manuscript was nowhere near ready to publish. Here are some of the edits my book went through:

  • Self edit 1 (approx 6 weeks) – this was where I read through my whole manuscript as a proper book. I read it through twice: once to simply read it (making no notes), and then secondly to make notes at any point I noticed errors or issues or confusion or mistakes.
  • Developmental edit (4 weeks) – This was done by an editor, who reviewed my book to see if it made sense, if it flowed and “worked”, if it would be appealing to my audience. This was an extremely helpful edit to point out what I’d done well, and how many areas I’d repeated myself or was unclear.
  • Review of dev edit (2-3 weeks) – Another read through of the whole book with the review notes, making edits and changes and accepting or rejecting the suggestions.
  • Second self edit (3-4 weeks) – Once I and the dev editor were agreed, I read through the entire book again, with all the changes made, to see what I noticed or needed to change before it went to the next detailed edit. This was where I reduced my word count from nearly 150k words down to 100k words – which was really tough. I found it hard to cut things out.
  • Client review (4-6 weeks) – Because I’d gotten to the point where it was tough to know what to cut out, I asked a “beta group” to help me out. There were 13 chapters, so I sent one chapter to each of the 13 accountants who offered to help, and they provided notes, questions, and suggestions to help me cut out those 50k words.
  • Third self edit (3-4 weeks) – Now that I’d gotten all that feedback, I read through the whole book again with a big picture view, cutting out what was repetitive or unnecessary. The biggest learning for me at this point was how much in my book was still about me, or about my agency, as opposed to being about accountants and telling their stories. That was a bit humbling to have every single reviewer say “Listen, this is nice, but we don’t need to hear more about you. Cut it out.”
  • Line by line edit (4-6 weeks) – Now I was ready with a more clear manuscript, for every single line to be reviewed for spelling, grammar, links, and any other details. This edit varies depending on the length of the book, and because mine was quite a big one at this point (100k words), it took a bit longer.
  • Review of line by line edit (2-3 weeks) – Another read through of the entire book with all those edits, accepting and rejecting and adding notes.
  • Copyedit (8 weeks) – This is the final technical edit in preparation for turning the written manuscript into page layouts which are ready to be printed. This one was much more intensive for my book, again, because of the length and the other changes we’d made throughout.
  • Review of copy edit (2-3 weeks) – Another read through of my entire book, checking the suggested changes, accepting, rejecting, explaining why, asking questions.

That’s the short version of all the edits – there were other edits such as the copy for testimonials and quotes, the back cover, the back ads, and other aspects of the book.

Design and distribution (20%)

This was the part which was the newest to me: things like ISBN numbers, where to buy them, how to register, setting up a self publishing ‘house’, creating accounts where the book will be published, and getting the book ready to be shared with the world. This included things like:

  • Buying ISBNs, setting up accounts – These are small things, but mighty. Understanding how to buy and register these, registering for copyright, setting up BookFunnel, Ingramspark, KDP, Amazon, and many others
  • Creating a ‘self publishing house’ – This is the name of the ‘publisher’ when you self-publish, which in my case is called Keep On Publishing. In the end it’s fairly simple – you choose a name which fits with your current book and future books, and create a logo for it – but this took a good bit of work and was another piece I didn’t understand before heading into this
  • Confirming the title, subtitle, foreword, and book sections to include
  • Design & illustration – it’s not so easy to simply submit an illustration to go in a book – they often need to be re-designed so they will print properly, and that affects the layout
  • Praise & kind words – getting quotes from those who pre-read an early manuscript of the book, for including within the book itself
  • Back ads – pages at the back of the book to promote next steps (in this case, sending people to the Accelerator coaching group or a link to download the free workbook)

Note: Some of these items were started much earlier on in the process, but continued to be reviewed and updated throughout. For example, we had a title away back in concepting, but continued to refine it until we got to the book cover when we needed to confirm the title and subtitle so we could lock in the cover design.

Audiobook (extra! after publishing)

Closer to the end of the process I decided to go ahead with the audiobook, and be my own narrator. After all, it’s my book, my experience, and my stories: it made sense for me to read it. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it but decided to just go for it, and this included:

  • Identifying a studio to help me with recording the book and editing the files
  • Going to the studio to run a tester, so I’m familiar with the process and we check to make sure the studio is ready for all the recording
  • Blocking out three full days for recording the book (for me it was approximately 1 hour per chapter, so that was 13 hours of reading aloud)
  • Waiting on the edited files
  • Reviewing all the edited files (including having 13 members of the PF team each listen to an audio file of a chapter and identify any issues or errors to fix)
  • Setting up all the audiobook files with Findaway Voices for ultimate distribution (back up to design & distribution for many of the same items, including an adjusted audiobook cover)

The audiobook files are now done and being uploaded, so reply to this Note if you want to be notified as soon as the audiobook itself is ready to purchase!

Marketing (15%)

For me this was the easy part. I own a marketing agency, so we took care of the marketing and promotion ourselves. It would be a whole other, very complex note to indicate everything we took care of for book marketing, but it included some of these:

  • Creation of a pre launch team, beta reviewers, and launch team
  • Setting up a new instagram account and creating content to share
  • Creating a waiting list for those who wanted to pre order the book
  • Building an email list of people interested in the book (and future books)
  • Taking small portions of content from the book and sharing them as teasers & intros on social
  • Coordinating with the whole PF team to help promote and share the book (pre-orders and orders)
  • Planning and delivering a live book launch event
  • Gathering quotes for reviews
  • …and loads more!

Oddly enough this process hasn’t prevented me from enthusiasm about future books.

Although there were sticking points during this process, and sometimes I wondered if it would ever complete, every time we got through yet another one I thought, “Well, this is great to know for the next book”. I’ve got more to say and more to write (some of which I’ve already written and is moving into concept review now!), so I’m looking forward to sharing those with you all.

Above all what I love the most is conversations and messages from people who have read it, or are in the midst of reading it, and who are sharing what they’ve learned. What inspires them and motivates them to do great marketing.

That’s why I wrote it, and that’s why more books are coming. Inspiration leading to change, one person at a time, is what matters to me. 

Thanks for being part of the journey!

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Road trippin and tomb hunting in the northern Irish countryside with one of my life besties. It’s a satisfying thing to climb these hills and watch the clouds move… and explore the old tombs which are older than the pyramids. 

Here we go. 

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What will you do when you’ve arrived?

One of the things business owners tend to focus on is getting the business to run without you.

Systems, team, leadership, pricing… you work so hard on each of these and it often takes longer than you expect.

Maybe you have a vague idea of what you’d do with all that free time once it appears, but I’d guess just as many of you aren’t 100% sure what that will look like.

Every day is so full you don’t have to time to pause. “I’ll spend more time with my family”, you tell yourself. More holidays, more of whatever fills you up.

It might be cooking or DIY or reading, but equally it might be writing a book. Coaching. Speaking. A second or third business of a new kind. 

Which means NOW is the time to start thinking about it.

That can feel overwhelming, if things aren’t “sorted” yet. You still have team issues, or the systems and tech are taking longer than expected to deliver results. You’ve lost some clients, or are struggling to get new ones.

The fact is, all those things may be indicators you’re closer than you realise.

These issues will get sorted – and the moment they do, you could hit a point where you have that spare time. You have a little more energy, or money, or space and freedom. For whatever. 

Now what?

What’s that “whatever”?

That’s when you start looking at your personal brand.

It’s different from your business brand. Instead of being focused on an audience, buying a service; instead of being something which summarises an entire business including clients and team, now you have the opportunity to consider what summarises YOU.

What you care about. The message you’d get out to the world if you could. The kind of people who think the way you do.

If this is even a *glimmer* of a thought in your mind, I’d love to hear from you. I’m working on a live workshop event in the UK, and I want to make sure we cover what would be the most helpful for you, right now.

Before everything is “sorted”.

*Full post in bio: sign up for my new email and monthly newsletter, Creative Headspace. Starts 1 March!*