Sure, writing, editing, proofing are all hard but those are all under your control. Someone actually buying the thing, that’s totally out of your control (well, maybe not totally).
A Little Background
About a year ago, I decided to write a book about management. Specifically, about how to eliminate the frustrations all of my technical manager friends have. You see, we all came up through the ranks because we got stuff done (sound familiar). In high-tech, if you get stuff done and have some minor desire to manage, they promote you. The problem is, no one every pulls you aside and says “you have a new job. It’s very different than your last job. You get no training, no support but we except great things. Enjoy.” It took me over 10 years (and an MBA) to figure out why I was so frustrated with technical management — no one ever taught any of us how to manage engineers. So I decided to write a book about how to eliminate the frustrations that technical managers have. That turned out to be harder than it sounds.
You’re A Hack
With ideas swirling around in my head and a daily 1.5 hour train commute, I settled in to write my treatise on technical management. The 1st outline was 25 pages. My first chapter was 30. It rambled. It jumped from topic to topic. It was a mess. By this time, a bunch of my friends got wind of what I was doing and wanted to see some early drafts, warts and all. My first chapter (I had chapters back then) was a rambling pontification of my philosophy of management and why I had it all figured out. It sank like a lead ballon. Believe me when I tell you this, people are not your friends unless they look you in the eye and tell you your masterwork, needs a lot of work. So, ego bruised I signed up for a writing class. This was the best thing I could have done.
Write, Write and Write Some More
My problem was organization. I had none. Well, not entirely true. I had pretty outlines and my prose was OK but the real problem was I had not organized the material for the reader. Pay attention to this, it’s important. The reader, you see, is your customer. You need to cater your material so that the reader gets something out of it. Peak the readers interest, teach them something and they will continue to read. Bore them. Talk down to them and they will never return. This is the single most important thing I learned in writing class. Actually, there is one more important thing. Writers write. They don’t think or ponder or daydream. They write. So, if you want to be a writer, then write. In fact, you need to write a lot. All that writers block stuff. Not real — just lazy writers.
It Pays to Know Something
So this class, Creative Nonfiction at UC Berkeley Extension, changed my whole approach to writing. We had great discussions about form and function. What made a good story. How our prose could use models to craft a better narrative or dialog. That class made me a better writer. Actually, that class made me a writer. The other cool thing was that we could do our own project. Ergo, the perfect catalyst for getting my book done. Remember when I told you that good friends look you in the eye and tell you the truth. Well, good teachers do the same but with a twist — they actually tell you how to fix it. This, my friends, is how my half-baked, rambling drivel turned into a well organized, easy to read, guide for the managerially challenged (Thanks Steve).
Building A Platform
So now I had a book. Well, a manuscript for a book. The other most, most important thing I learned in class was your platform. Basically, your platform is your following. More specifically, it’s how you can get the word out about what you do. Platform can be your blog, books, teaching or profession. It’s really anything that people know you for. For an author, you want a large platform so you can sell more books. Specifically, if you want a publisher to sign you, they need to know you can sell books. They figure that out by looking at your platform Pretty simple really, but hard to get done.
Nowadays, the easiest way to start building your platform is to blog. Typically, you want to blog about what your books will be about. That way, when people stumble upon your blog and like it, they are more inclined to buy your book. Other platform building tools include: Facebook, Twitter, teaching, guest posting, etc.
So Here’s My Problem
Promotion is a tricky beast. You really don’t know what combination of things will actually get the word out. So you do a lot of them and hope for the best. A couple of problems compound this for me. These are:
I have a full-time job: It’s challenging to promote a book and work at the same time. Lucky, I live Frustration Free Technical Management every day, which makes writing and talking about it easy. If your interested, check it out here.
My publisher is great but does no marketing: In fact, most publishers don’t do a lot of marketing. They basically leave it to the author.
Inbound Marketing is time consuming: Commenting, SEO, Twitter, Facebook and Blogging. It’s all so much work and you never know where the return will be. You really have to enjoy this or it will grind you down. For me, writing is a great release and I really enjoy helping people, so it takes time but it’s not burdensome to me.
My budget is tight: Actually, I have no real budget, other than my time. I am going to give away some books, so I guess that counts.
Even though I have constants (what project doesn’t), I created a promotion that I think is doable. You can check it out here. If you have any feedback or suggestions, feel free to drop me a note. I even started a question on Answers.OnStartUps to get feedback. A lot of my promotion tasks came from there. If you are a technical manager (or any type of manager), check out my book. I am convinced that it can help you become a better manager and reduce your frustrations. If not, just send it back and I refund your money.