What I Learned from Managing My First Self-Published Book Project, Part 2

Continued from Part 1

I Wrote a Better Book

How do I make a better book? I removed all the passive voice. I updated the book with the new sourcing material about Twitter and LinkedIn—neither of which existed when I first wrote the book. I updated the templates, because I’ve learned over the years.

I updated the book to exploit the issue of cultural fit. Especially with the advent of hiring for agile teams, the issue of cultural fit is huge.

I cut more than 20,000 words. I excised adverbs. I added more interview questions. Even with the additional sections about Twitter and LinkedIn, this book is still 20,000 words smaller than the original hiring book.

I have a new title and a new cover. Yes, I had my cover designer work on a new cover. I found an editor who helped me edit. I read that book so many times I think my eyes bled. (Okay, not really, but it felt that way.)

Six Months to Electronic Release

I released that electronic book in six months from the time my original publisher said, “No.”

I’d been releasing on Leanpub all along. But when I published the book on Amazon, I knew I’d done it. I was officially an indie author. I asked the Prags if they would carry the book in their bookstore, and they said, “Yes.” (Thank you, Andy and Dave. I knew you still loved me 🙂

Mark and I had wine with dinner that night!

I thought I was done. I had an ebook in all three formats: mobi, epub, pdf. What else did I need to do?

When Will You Go to Print?

I announced the book on my email newsletter, and several of my readers asked, “When will this book be available in print?” I thought, “Oh no. What am I going to do now?”

My friend, colleague, and mentor, Jerry Weinberg, keeps saying, “No one reads print books anymore.” But my email data is saying otherwise. If I build the print book, will they come?

I found a print book designer, because this book is too large for me to do myself. I have to do a spine and a back cover. I know there are too many decisions. I don’t know what I don’t know. I know I need a helping hand or two.

I found a delightful book interior designer. I also discovered Dean Wesley Smith’s workshops, and took them at the same time, so I knew what to look for. And, maybe I’m ready to do this myself the next time.

Everything Takes Longer Than I Expect

The bigger the book, the longer everything takes. Hiring Geeks That Fit has many templates and several images. That makes layout take longer. Heidi, my book designer, starts in earnest in May 2013. We think we are done in late June. That’s pretty fast. She sends the book to the indexer.

She uploads the book to Createspace in mid-July. Yes, that’s mid-July. I have to wait for the proof to see if I like the book. The book takes about a week to arrive.

I’m an Idiot

I find a couple of things in the proof. That’s why we print a proof. That’s not a big problem. But there is a big problem.

There is too much space between the lines on each page and too much space between the words. This is leading and kerning.

I did not realize what the book would look like in print. I am an idiot.

Even though I have reviewed the pdfs Heidi sent me, the problem is that the book does not look professional. It looks as if an amateur put it together.

When there is too much white space on the page, a book is more difficult to read. You need enough text on the page to maintain your attention. You need enough density to keep reading. There is a balance between too much and not enough density of words on the page. I did not realize what the pdfs would look like in print. I’m an idiot.

I felt low and wondered, “Am I ever going to get this book to print?”

Keep Moving

Luckily, Heidi understands styles in InDesign. They still mystify me. Oh, I understand them in theory. I cannot figure them out in practice. I don’t understand how to apply them when I import text from my books on leanpub. That’s a problem!

I think it only took Heidi another week to make all the style changes. I had to order another proof and that one was fine. But, this process took us almost a month.

The final print version was actually available for sale back in mid-September. But I had started traveling and wanted to announce it. I also wanted reviews on the book page on Amazon. I had to ask my reviewers, “Please post reviews on Amazon.”

Do I Do a Book Launch?

I’d thought of doing a book launch, where I ask people to provide my email subscribers presents, but doesn’t fit the way I currently think about my business.

Question: Would you folks like a book launch with presents? Maybe I should rethink the way I think about book launches. I would like feedback from you, my readers.

What I Learned

I have learned a lot about managing my own product development. This is what I learned:

  1. Have a goal. This is the vision in the project charter.
  2. Know what done means. This is the release criteria. I knew that quality was my primary driver. I was willing to sacrifice date for quality. A print book is not something I can easily change once it’s done.
  3. Hire outside help. I can’t possibly know everything. Hire people who can help you. Check their references. (Yes, I know how to do that 🙂
  4. Don’t worry if my consulting work gets in the way of my book work. This happens all the time in my calendar year. Keep plugging.
  5. Small steps help achieve the large project goals. Keep my steps small and manageable. Try to achieve one small step a week. That way I can see my progress.
  6. When other people say “No,” look for other ways to achieve your goals.
  7. Keep the growth mindset. It’s too easy to give up.
  8. Find tools that fit for you.

HiringGeeksThatFit.150So, Hiring Geeks That Fit is available in print! It’s also available in all electronic outlets: leanpub, the Pragmatic Bookshelf, Kobo, Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, which has it in both electronic and print forms.

If you are hiring people, you should buy this book. Now!

If you have read this book, please post a review. Thank you.

My next book is in beta: Manage Your Job Search. Yes, I am using what I learned. No surprise there!

I’ve learned a lot through this process, and expect to learn more as I continue to publish. Thanks for reading.

One Reply to “What I Learned from Managing My First Self-Published Book Project, Part 2”

  1. Hi Johanna,

    Several comments for you…

    1 – I am looking forward to the agile programs book very much. The audience for that may be small, but I assure you we are enthusiastic!

    2 – Would I like a book launch with presents? I’d always thought this approach seemed heavy-handed and gimmicky, But Gil Broza’s “The Human Side of Agile” launch made me rethink that sentiment. I think they key is having gifts that are truly useful and high-quality and easy to actually get. Even though Gil’s giveaways did prod me to buy his book, I still expected half of them to be crap. But they were all really worthwhile! I got good use out of more than one of them. If you did that, and the goodies weren’t top-notch, I think your reputation is tarnished thereafter. I do think Gil’s book had LOT of giveaways, maybe too many. It was hard to make sense of them all and it felt a little overwhelming.

    3 – Thanks so much for these posts on your self-publishing process. I’m working on my first book. It’s really rough going. Your philosophy of small chunks of work, frequently delivered has been very helpful, and it keeps me persisting through disappointing patches. I’ve also really valued the way you approach life as a project like any other. Applying my PM skills to my life is a simple, but revolutionary tactic. I’d love to see a post discussing your writing process in more detail. Nuts & bolts things: Do you do outlines? How do you handle writer’s block? How do you know when to give up on a topic? How do you get things out of your head and into words that make sense to other people?

    Thanks for being such an inspiration. Good luck with the new book!

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