What I Learned from Managing My First Self-Published Book Project, Part 1

The title of this blog is “Managing Product Development.” That means that I manage my own product development, products and projects, as well as provide advice for other people. I have many opportunities to do that. My most recent opportunity arose this past year when I self-published Hiring Geeks That Fit, electronically and in print. Here’s the entire story.

I was having trouble with the publisher of the original hiring book. The print book was not always available on Amazon, never mind other outlets. The electronic book was priced too high and not available on Amazon. And, I needed to update the sourcing information. The world had changed.

I owned the copyright, so that wasn’t the issue. The issue was communication. I was having trouble reaching my publisher. My calls and emails were going into the big bit-bucket in the sky. This Was A Problem.

At the same time, I had proposed the agile program book to the Prags, and they rejected it. I was so disappointed, I cannot tell you. My publisher didn’t love me anymore! No, it’s not that they didn’t love me. They didn’t think there would be a large-enough audience for that book. (It’s a good thing they rejected that book then. I’ve since worked with more clients and refined my thinking. I would have published yet another book before it’s time.)

I decided to take back my electronic rights to the hiring book and create the second edition. And now, I had another book to write, not in the Prag system. What was I going to do?

Writers Need Tools That Work for Writing

When I write, I want tools that help me write. I don’t want to edit as I write. I want to write fast, to get the words out. I edit after I write. I spell check after I write. I look for passive voice, bad writing later. The faster I write, the better I write.

If I write in Word, I edit as I go. Writing in Word—for a book—guarantees me a bad outcome. That’s why many other authors choose Scrivener. It’s a terrific text editor.

When I wrote my books for the Prags, I had an even better toolset. I used TextMate with several bundles. For me, TextMate is a terrific text editor. But how would I use TextMate to create a book?

I didn’t want the hassle of learning how to use asciidoc, although I did install it on my system. I am an old programmer, but really. I want to streamline my book creation, not make it more difficult. I want to turn the crank and have a book come out.

What do I tell my clients? “If it hurts, do more of it and understand how to make it easier.”

I tried to use Scrivener. But when I did a Hudson Bay Start, and exported to a book? You would have laughed at that book. I almost cried. The book stunk—not the contents, the format. It didn’t look like a book.

I needed another toolset. Luckily, I complained to Jason Little, who told me about leanpub.

Lean Publishing and Markdown Works for me

When I heard about leanpub, and writing in markdown, I was so excited. This is exactly what I wanted. I knew how to write in this workflow.

Now, all I had to do was export the old hiring book into html, import it into markdown, and go from there.

This one step took me a couple of weeks to get right. Yes, a couple of weeks. But, once I had it right, it only took me a few weeks to fix what I needed to do in the hiring book.

I’m almost there…

I found a cover designer and had her make a “second edition” cover for the hiring book. I kept calling and emailing my old publisher to explain what I was about to do. The day before I was going to hit “publish,” I received an email from my publisher.

“No, you can’t do this. I just sold the rights to that title. You can’t use that title, even with a ‘second edition.’ This other publisher is going to put the old hiring book up in all the ebook formats everywhere with the old title.”

“When is this going to happen?”

“Any day now.”

That was March or April of 2012. It didn’t happen for another year. But, what am I going to do now?

I can make a better book, that’s what I can do. That’s what I did. If you want to know how, read Part 2, coming tomorrow…

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1 Comment

  1. Jason Little

    Since we last talked I found out about Happy Melly Express…Jurgen’s new company. ( http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/publishing-happiness-happy-melly-express/x/5054851 )They fit in between self-publishing and big-company publishing. They’re helping me with the 2nd edition of my self-published book and the cool thing is, I can pick the services I need help with versus….well, pretty much getting no support at all from my previous publisher!

    Reply

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