by Alan Shelton (@AlanEShelton)
It was quite a pleasure to work with leadership coach Alan Shelton on his new book. I won’t tell you any more of the story because Alan does a terrific job of that. But his process is one that represents a pretty high level of self-publishing, and here he goes into the details of what it took to get his book into print.
I was delighted when Joel Friedlander asked me to contribute my story of writing a book. At first it seemed obvious to me that I should wait until the book was published and then write the story in its entirety. I have done just that as the book was released on May 7, 2012. The book is entitled Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery. It is intended as a message for both corporate leaders and those who are on the seeker’s journey. How did I get here?
My life has included two apparently diverse experiences. I have excelled in a corporate career beginning as a merger and acquisition expert with a CPA and managed various companies as a CEO, CFO, and COO. While engaged as a corporate warrior I have also spent years in my own personal search, including stints of years with masters in India seeking some truth that I could barely describe.
The culmination of these two activities now has me in the corporate world as a leadership consultant working with the development of executives and management teams. As my personal search flourished and my business life expanded, I was able to see that these two activities were actually one in the same.
My motivation to write came from the hope that I could create a book that would be a resource to any corporate or spiritual seeker wrestling with life in the same way that I have. And so I began.
Now you may think that writing a book would come as second nature to a seasoned business executive. And you would be wrong. I knew nothing about the business of producing books and further had no reputation in any industry that could be considered book related. I just had a passionate need to express something that might help others.
So what did I do? I went to my handy Google machine and typed, writing and publishing books. One of the first entries I found was to the 50 best publishing blogs written by some guy named Joel in Marin County, California. Now I’m from California and actually a product of the 60s, so an intellectual living in Marin County who knew about books was good enough for me.
Step 1: Get an Editor!
By the time I found Joel and his 50 blogs I had already made two intelligent decisions:
- I had written a fair amount of the book and,
- Before I even started I had hired an excellent editor.
I had not written much of anything beyond a business plan since my sophomore year of college. The jury was out as to whether I could write at all. So a good editor was a must and Elianne Obadia—known as The Writer’s Midwife—was the first in what was to become a parade of people necessary to produce a book.
I diligently perused the 50 or so blogs that Joel listed as resources. I also was able to click on some handy video of Joel explaining whether to find a publisher or become a self-published author. And as I listened to that fine counsel it was obvious that I had neither the patience nor the time to be real published author. For if I could publish my book by the age of 59 I really couldn’t afford the extra two years that a formal publisher would need for their process.
When I found out that publishers would compromise an author’s writing in service of their own market position, I immediately knew that my message would brook no such interference. Joel had made these important points in his videos and I took him at his word. Thus I was left with 50 blogs full of resources seemingly designed for an old stubborn Irishman just like me.
Step 2: Get an Advisor!
The first thing I needed to understand was the immensity of all of the tiny detailed particulars in a book. They all needed to be addressed. And so I found a wonderful book consultant in Patricia Benesh at authorassist.com, who was one of Joel’s 50 blogs.
Patricia is an incredible resource. She gave me a step-by-step understanding of what issues I needed to face in creating a book. But more importantly she ran me through an exercise of collaboration in which we identified the mission of the book and where in the market my book might fit. But this was just the beginning.
Step 3: Get a designer!
One of the first things we needed to do was to locate both an interior designer for the book as well as a designer to create the cover, and we were lucky enough to land Joel Friedlander himself to do the interior. We also located a cover designer who created the first cover.
One of the big surprises of the project was that many things we did were outgrown later in the process as the mission of the book became more clear. It wasn’t that the first cover wasn’t a good cover, but as the book took shape it was clear we needed a cover that better matched the book that was developing.
We finally landed a cover on our 20th try or so, but that wasn’t the only change. At first we thought we would be creating a trade paperback. We later discovered the book would be better as a hardcover. So Joel was stuck with formatting the book the first time to match the trade paperback definition, then asked to toss that formatting aside and do a new version for a hard cover format.
Step 4: Get a marketing company!
Early on Patricia had told me that social marketing would be important to the launch of my new book. Of course, I knew nothing about social marketing. As I was perusing Joel’s blogs I noticed a company called Tribalauthor.com. This group is headed by a man named Jonathan Fields and they delivered a nine-week web class aimed at marketing a book.
It was in this class that I was introduced to Jayme Johnson of Worthy Marketing Group in Atlanta. I had to convince Jayme that my book was worth her effort for her company hadn’t yet taken on a self-published author. Luckily, Jayme felt that my book was a worthwhile exercise.
Step 5: Start the execution!
Jayme created a document she called a roadmap, which was a week-by-week action summary for the next 6-months. It included getting endorsements, selecting book covers, social media objectives, connecting with bloggers, and even managing the various iterations of the book.
Many of you may not know that when you write a book the first version is an advance review copy. In my case this was a book with no cover design, no foreword, and printed in a quantity of about 100 at 48hrbooks.com. These books are sent out to endorsers who hopefully will write something influential about the book that will compel readers to want to read your work.
But that is not all. There is a second version of the advance review book that in my case did include a cover and a little more material that was distributed to bloggers and mainstream outlets in advance of the final publishing. And finally there was the printing of the final. In each of these versions a manuscript must be updated and reworked and your designer is called on again and again.
Step 6: Get a website designer!
You’ll also need an author website. This will be your platform for your book and for your efforts to reach into the world of social media so that readers will know you’re there. It might include your blog, biographical information, book information, and the way for readers to buy the book.
In my case Patricia put me in touch with a wonderful company called Monkey C Media in San Diego, California headed up by Jeniffer Thompson. They specialize in creating author websites and soon I had a beautiful platform. But once again this was not the final act in the website space. Once we’d created the original website we realized that the book was resonating in a different way than we had anticipated. So Jeniffer, a website guru, got to redo the entire site in a different motif.
Step 7: Social media, are you kidding me?
For those who know nothing about social media, get used to these words: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs etc. etc. By the time you are done learning about social media you will know enough to get you labeled as a geek in any crowd. In addition to knowing about social media get prepared to interact and engage in conversations in a variety of forms you didn’t even know existed.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of writing the book is how today I longingly look back on the actual writing of the book as the quiet period of the whole exercise.
Step 8: The Finish!
Because my book was gaining interest in the market, I selected Rob Nissen. A publicist is someone who routes you and your work into the mainstream media spotlight. For me that meant exposing me to Forbes, Bloomberg, fast Company, Psychology Today and so on.
The Big Picture
The book came out in early May, 2012. I’m now sending out books both hardcopy and digital as fast as I possibly can. These are going to leadership influencers and other folks who can help expose the book to a larger market. In addition, I am currently writing some 8 to 10 articles weekly for blogs and magazines. I also spend a lot of time each day commenting on responses to my articles and on other blog articles relevant to my subject.
The task has become so big that I have hired a couple of social media people to help me get everything done. One of those is Stephen Katz who is in charge of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc. He also helps me execute on any e-mail campaign to influencers from our social media experience. Benita Peters exclusively handles Amazon reviews and my author’s page in addition to Goodreads. Her job is to create reviews and build followers through that channel.
The book journey could fill a book itself. From ISBN numbers to getting permissions to the excruciation of the editing process the detail is more than can be remembered. I have lived with the people I have listed above. They are more than resources. They are my family. We all work like donkeys and then come back the next day and do it again. I relish the adventure and would gladly do it again.
But make no mistake; this is not an adventure for the timid. You will be called on again and again to make decisions. You will then tear those decisions down and rebuild them only to discard those as well. You will make decisions about distribution, marketing, and budgets that are the equal of running any entrepreneurial venture. You will climb a mountain with no end in sight!
I am sure that I have missed a lot of the detail that goes into creating a book. The one thing I must tell you is that writing a book will dominate your life. If you are not prepared to sacrifice most everything that you have known up until this point, then I would advise you to think again.
In the world of books and authors there is no such thing as enough effort. Every day at the end of the day I can safely say there is more to do than what I have accomplished that day. Writing a book is an experience that lives you. It is not an experience that you get to live.
Alan Shelton is a leadership coach, consultant and the author of Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self Mastery. He lives in a refurbished fire station in Oceanside, California, with his wife Justine and their three family dogs.
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