You think you want to write a book? Me too. I thought about it for years, until one day I got tired of the idea dangling. What changed? Friends and family grew bored hearing about the concept and said “do it or stop talking about it.” In hindsight I’m sorry it took me so long to make it happen. Putting my story out in the world has been transformational. In the spirit of sharing an experience to help you when you’re ready, here are 7 things I learned in 2016 from writing my first book – Odds On: The Making of an Evidence-Based Investor
- If it makes you nervous or excited or you feel like you might cry, then share it…the juice is in the vulnerability. For example, I debated about sharing a major health crisis in my book and thank goodness it made it in. The reader stories that have come from sharing that experience have been deeper and more meaningful to me than I imagined possible.
- You’ll have fans and haters – detach from both by predetermining your emotions around your work. Because the book I wrote did what I wanted it to do (which, by the way, should be written down and kept in mind every step of the way), I wasn’t dependent on the reaction of others for joy. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel good, just saying that it isn’t the thing to crave.
- Write or dictate, but don’t edit the first few drafts. You can hire people to clean and polish. write without capitalizing without commas just get it out – see what i did there. It will take time to retrain your brain to do this, but stay with it! Our need to continually perfect what we are doing is like going over 100 speed bumps. You’re slower, less comfortable and more easily worn down when you perpetually edit. Spray WD-40® on the tracks.
- Develop a mantra as you promote the book – mine was asking others to: read the book, tell a friend, write a review. Repeat, repeat, and repeat.
- Endorsements don’t sell books by themselves, but they help if the people you get matter to potential readers. When David Booth (CEO of a pioneering mutual fund company and person for whom the business school at the University of Chicago is named after) agreed to do a blurb for me I knew that would impress investment people, but most humans don’t know why David Booth matters, so getting a diverse mix is critical.
- The business of making books is lousy. Don’t expect to make big money and do expect the process to take at least three or four times longer than you think it’s going to. Prepare to lose time and money, even if you hire a lot of help and sell a lot of books. I threw launch parties in two cities, built a web site for the book, hired top editors, signed on with PR agencies, and more…and I’d do it all again. In fact, I might have to do it again to benefit from what I learned going through it the first time. But I won’t unless I have something important to say.
- For me, influencing the lives of others is the most satisfying symptom of writing an important book. When a stranger is in my inbox, from another state or even another country, sharing his/her reaction to Odds On … it feels oh so cool.
- Bonus comment and resources – The cover and the title matter. Wrestle with both till you get it right. Hire a smart person to help, as you’re so close to your content you lose sight of what’s what (curse of knowledge – see Heath brothers Made to Stick).