At some point last year, Qocreate’s founder and CEO – Mike, a.k.a. My Boss, The Boss, and/or Boss Man – floated the idea of publishing an eBook about proposal writing and development. Mike is a writer and a reader and had been itching to write a book for some time. Perhaps the time was now.
But the work, we all said. The proposals. The marketing. The app development. The management of a business with clients and employees. ALL THE STUFF. How would he find the extra hours?
Somehow, he did, and Goddamned Good Proposals dropped on August 15.
We are all incredibly proud of Mike for this accomplishment. Although it is in digital format, he has written a book, not a beefed-up PowerPoint presentation or a collection of thoughtfully designed quotes posing as advice. While we initially released in PDF, an EPUB version is imminent, and after that – who knows?
This project became a pet of mine, too, even though I’m not its creator, and that’s what I’d like to memorialize here. We’ve learned a lot collectively about what it takes to produce long-form content like this. Here are a few tips in case you, too, are burning to write a book.
Organize. I know we say this in every blog post about proposal writing too, but here’s the thing: writing is writing. Mike started out by developing a solid outline down to the subsections, and then he wrote to that. I assume that helped his writing process, and it certainly facilitated my editing and planning processes: we set an editorial calendar based on chapters right from the beginning and wound up releasing pretty much right on target. I was able to balance my regular workload around the editing that I needed to get done at any given stage.
Research. We knew nothing about eBook production when we started. I did a few hours of research and quickly figured out that this can be a very complicated process or a much simpler one. In the end, we decided to do it in steps to get the book out on our preferred timeline, and to release under a Creative Commons license because the widest possible distribution was our goal. That said, we now know a lot more about ISBNs, self-publishing, sales tax on internet purchases, and the like than we did before. All of that might stand us in good stead in the future.
[If you are interested in self-publishing a book or eBook, I can’t recommend Brad Frost’s blog post on the subject enough. Tons of good information there.]
Be flexible. It may happen, somewhat unbelievably, that the incredibly busy author of the book you are editing is way ahead of schedule. Your carefully thought out plan for illustrations might turn out to be prohibitively expensive. You draft a Request for Proposals for the book’s design and then realize that you already know the perfect person to do the work. In any case, going with the flow will stand you in better stead than trying to Stick With The Plan at all costs.
Here’s how we dealt with those real-life examples: I edited as soon as sections were finished, no matter what, and we gained “extra” days in the schedule that permitted more time for design; we canned the initial plan for illustrations; we saved time (and money) by asking one of our favorite designers if she could design and lay out the book, which she did, while ALSO illustrating it in a whimsical and funny way. So: sometimes the closed door really is an open window, or whatever that saying is!
Edit, edit, edit again. I had forgotten a hard-learned lesson: that handing final copy to the designer the first time saves a lot of time in the end. Make sure the author, the editor, and another set of eyes have all done a final-final edit before copy gets sent over; it will make turnaround much faster.
Market. Mike’s eBook is free to download and, because he chose to license under Creative Commons, can be shared and modified in pretty much any way a reader wishes. That said: the book is not going to download itself. So how do we get this great work out there?
We started working on a marketing plan specifically for the eBook about sixty days out from our anticipated launch date. (In the future, I’d start planning even further in advance.) Our plan is a mix of social media, pitches to traditional and digital media for earned placements, a bit of paid advertising, and events.
We have yet to see what works best – look out for a future post on this topic!
All in all, I am really happy with the product that we turned out, especially considering no one on our team had ever written, edited, or produced a book before. And that’s my final point. When someone on your team suggests that you do something that seems crazy, do it anyway. It may become one of your favorite projects ever.
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