Multiplication Center

Day 18 of 18 to Write a Book

October 19, 2010

For my 23rd book, I tried an experiment of posting a report each day I did major writing. I got through day 4 and then bailed. Instead of writing a blog, I spent the time instead working more on the book.

Now the book is in the publisher’s hands. And I think it’s really good. Hurrah!

Someone asked me, “What’s the rest of the process?” Great question. Here are some thoughts:

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1. Editing. The publisher now works over our manuscript on two levels:

– Our editor reads it for overall concept and asks big questions: “what if you switched the order of these two chapters?” and “please add a short illustration here, here and here” and “your argument is weak here, please develop it better.”

– Meanwhile a copyeditor asks a lot of small questions. For instance: “It’s unclear here. When you say they, what do you mean?” or “this factoid needs documentation as an endnote.” The copyeditor also catches typos (ouch, as we tried so hard to proof it well) and inconsistencies, such as 24 here but twenty-four there.

Meanwhile my co-author Scott Thumma and I think of ways we want to tweak the book, helped by friends who read the entire manuscript. I usually try to finish writing a book 6 weeks before the deadline, so friends can read it and make suggestions. This time a few (including our editor) did so with a very rough version, making extremely helpful comments. But now we can give the whole book to a few people asking, “If we could make ONE change to strengthen the book, what should it be?” One friend already did so. She said in essence, “You’re telling me new things to do, and I think you’re right that I should be doing them. But can you also help me know what to quit doing so that I can make time to do this instead?” We might insert a paragraph to that effect.

Then the book comes back to us to review and answer all the questions. Typically we have two weeks to do so. I wish I could say that publishers never have questions and friends think the book is so good that they don’t have suggestions for improvement. Alas, I and my co-author (and our support staff) instead clear space to address everything that’s been raised. This is our final moment for tweaking the book’s content.

2. Foreword and endorsements. If a book is to have a foreword or endorsements by well-known persons to lend credibility to the book, this is the moment to secure these, if we haven’t already.

3. Cover and Marketing. At some point the publisher will show us what they’re thinking about for final title/subtitle. The wording is technically their decision, but they want authors to be happy about it. They also show 2-3 ideas for cover art. They also begin the discussion about promoting the book: what they hope to do with the money allocated for the book, and what we authors can do in our own efforts, which need to be considerable!

Authors today bear a major responsibility for marketing their book. One idea Scott and I are thinking about, for example, is to post different YouTube or Vimeo clips, each with a key idea from a chapter (something of genuine value to viewers), followed by an invitation to buy the book in order to learn more.

4. Proofing. The publisher hires a professional proofer, but also wants the author(s) to read it carefully. Authors can typically catch a misspelled name or a paragraph that accidentally got omitted, neither of which a proofer would notice. At this point the only new changes allowed are emergency fixes: maybe someone we name died or resigned or a website changed, and so one or two words need to be changed.

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5. Publication. Now we wait while the book is printed. There are usually several release dates: one when it comes back from the publisher and another when it’s had enough time to reach book stores and warehouses like Barnes and Noble. Then after a quick celebration (my wonderful employer gets a cake), it’s time to help get the book into as many people’s hands as possible.

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Bird-Warren-Oxford3.jpg Warren Bird, Ph.D., is Research Director at Leadership Network, and co-author of 23 books on various aspects of church health and innovation.

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