Some of you may know, we have happily finished authoring 85,000+ words of customer engagement magic entitled "Wikibrands - Reinventing Your Business in a Customer-Controlled Marketplace (McGraw-Hill)" . It's due out in the late Fall - just in time for your holiday business stockings. Of course I'm biased, but it really is good, almost gift worthy.
The shorthand I've been using to describe it is: Wikinomics, just written four years later and deeper inside business. Of course, another distinction is that we're more about providing a roadmap for engaged business and a recipe for reinvention than an academic study. In truth, as a post-modern author, the toughest work has now just begun.
For a heads up, on our central arguments, content, business cases and where we go from here, have a glimpse.
Debuting as an author with a just finished manuscript, many revelations appear and crystallize just now after the long period spent interviewing, researching and writing. Perhaps grizzled veteran writers know the vicissitudes of publishing but you've caught me fresh. In the wake of writing over late nights, during short flights and between bites, clarity has eventually come.
One of my favourite authors Hemingway once mused, "if a writer knows enough about what he is writing
about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an
iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."
If that's true, my fellow writer Mike Dover and myself have left a virtual Northwest Passage of insight below the surface and left out of the finished book. Look forward to a "chockful of content" on our associated Wikibrands blog and wiki later this summer.
We not only have in-depth learnings about our study of interest - customer participation, online community, brand collaboration, social influence, word of mouth and grassroots marketing, but also about the process of publishing itself. When you spend three years thinking seriously about a book, studying over 200 individual subjects of interest and interviewing just as many experts, patterns emerge and insights, perhaps after a short period of confusion and dissonance, become entrenched.
Take advantage of my literary-induced sleep deprivation, here are the top sixteen things I learned about the process of putting my soul into this publishing exercise, hopefully you can apply them to your own efforts:
1) You're never more informed about your subject of interest than the day you hand in your manuscript. Like training for a marathon, your peak performance happens right before the race. Celebrate now and prepare yourself for the long slow decline out of the giddy discovery phase and deep content sifting phase and enter the "career and life getting in the way" phase.
2) Most of your interviews will provide some level of new insight or validation - ten percent will provide gold, know which one is which wherever it comes, from and make sure they get in the book.
3) Thinking up a concept is so much easier than writing about it; the actual seed idea or kernel thought takes twenty times less time than validating, supporting, writing and providing evidence for it.
4) Continue to ask yourself - is what I'm writing here valuable to readers? will it make them think differently? will it broaden perspectives? will it help them change their environments? will it provide practicality to their day jobs? In a connected content-driven world, to earn $20 plus dollars out of someone's pocket, you need to provide utility against what is generally already available.
5) Genuinely stretching new ideas are tough to find - most new ideas have subtlety and nuance; finding different lenses into existing ideas is a majority of what good books do.
6) When you invite people to contribute - some will be important for advancing your argument, some will be important for connecting to others, some will be important for being your advocates when the book eventually comes out. Keep all those relationships going and provide reciprocal benefits
7) Positioning is key - try to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, but no broader. In our case, marketers are traditionally "book resistors" - we've taken the idea of "brand" as a key business value driver and thus, we're intending to appeal to the broader business audience, from entrepreneurs to the C-suite.
8) Supporting point #7, people do judge books by their covers - do not compromise on merely an acceptable cover, hold out for something that is iconic that explains your concept perfectly and achieves shelf impact (note: cover on Amazon and in this post are draft cover versions).
9) Involve and ask your audience - it's amazing what they know and how they can steer you away from publishing potholes. It also supports our central argument that when you get people involved at even a basic level, when listened to and treated well, they will over time become referral engines, advocates and evangelists.
10) Practitioners provide credibility and stories; experts provide sophisticated understanding and quotable quote. Include both. One of our peer books had absolutely no endnotes, it was merely personal opinion and not surprisingly, read unbelievably shallow and pompous. People want to hear the truth well told rather than just your expert musings.
11) Be prepared for long waits on interviews - the larger the company and the more senior you get, the longer you wait. Some will pleasantly surprise based on their speed of getting back to you and candour, others will massively disappoint.
12) Twitter may be a great way to get in touch with people you don't know but horrible for setting up meetings (Twitter are you listening?); on balance, good old fashioned email and LinkedIn provide much better traction for connecting with people important to your content.
13) Never underestimate the selflessness of people who love their jobs, embrace your thesis and want to help you out (thank you all that provided your valuable time with us).
14) It's an emotional rollercoaster. There will be moments in time that you won't want to finish, there will be other times when you're ready for a second book.
15) For a business book, you need to balance substance with style. Too much of the former, makes it boring; too much of the latter, makes it puffery.
16) As alluded to, most modern authors understand that actual writing is less than half the battle - the pre-writing pitch effort and the post-writing promotion effort is just as time consuming and requires a different and much more extroverted skillset. Relish your role as a personal brand brandishing your self-made arguments.
If you're thinking about writing a book,go into it with eyes open. It requires a lot of effort but at some point you need to get off the couch and just do it. The windfall in reputation, connections and speaker fees can be large; the money made on the book itself may be one of your lesser revenue lines. We are fortunate to have such great editorial and publicity staff at McGraw-Hill but plenty of self-publishing sites exist, Lulu.com and Blurb are popular faves to do-it-yourself.
Look forward to seeing you on our road trip of pre-promotion in the Fall. To be sure, Wikibrands will be jam-packed with promotion, speaking, recruiting a universe of ambassadors, creating extended content, building an awards program and involving our readers. Join our advance Facebook group and Twitter page. I'm looking forward to the outreach, critique and exposing what we think is a valuable addition to the fabric of the conversation about engaged business. We hope you'll join us too.