This is a brief post on self-publishing a book based on my experience to date since I started in February of this year. My first book, ‘Building Passions’ (short title), is due out by end September.
Firstly, you need to commit yourself and your loved ones to the fact that your life will be taken over by something else. The benefit to them might be your happiness and perhaps even some financial reward or recognition.
Secondly, you need to decide if you will write full or part time. This will depend partly on the way your finances play out, but as much if not more on the best way for you to write. In my case I needed a complete break from my day job and a sabbatical wasn’t available, so I had to resign.
Thirdly, you need someone to nudge you along when things get difficult. I was lucky to have an experienced friend who supported my initial plan and gave me tips along the way. But I also accessed a global network of editors and others through a great website called Reedsy.
Fourthly, you need to revise your plans and text as you go along and be realistic about deadlines. What matters is the final product of your efforts – there is no point in writing a book if hardly anyone reads it, or worse still they tell other how boring it is!
Fifthly, you need to understand the complexities of publishing, especially in non-fiction, but not be put off by some of the ‘curious’ professional practices that have existed for ages. If they don’t make sense, question them!
Sixthly, and finally, you need to invest in marketing your book in a way you feel is most appropriate. Social media is a great vehicle for this. If like many you worry about your impression as a public speaker, then only make short speeches or presentations with at least one joke to break the ice. Rely on key friends and networks to push out the good news for you.
Do it now!
I’m starting to hit the critical stages of self-publishing my book on the Brunel and Barry families of Victorian engineers and architects.
If you run projects you can do something called ‘critical path analysis’ to help determine the key deadlines across a range of ongoing tasks. Software programmes will now help you do it more easily.
Essentially, you need to decide, like a conductor, how all the different parts of the orchestra come together to produce the desired sound over a fixed period of time.
There has to be an element of ‘gut feel’ about it, otherwise what’s the point of having humans involved in the process.
To continue with the orchestra analogy, my desired ‘sound’ is an enjoyable and informative experience for a future reader of my book. I’d like this to happen pretty soon after they start the first chapter and come to a crescendo by the end of the book.
The parts are me the writer and image finder, my reviewers, my editor, my cover designer, my proofreader, my indexer, my printer and my distributors. Since I’m also the project manager as a self-publisher, I need to change hats all the time!
On top of this I am learning as I go!
Hopefully, when it comes to my next book in the stable of #buildingpassions publications it will be a lot easier and smoother for me.
But I will still need to wave the baton, smile, frown, urge, gesture, encourage and then take a bow for the team (even if raw eggs are thrown at me!).
It’s getting to the mid-year point and here’s a quick summary of what has happened in 2019 in connection with Sir John Wolfe Barry.
I started the year with concrete plans to write a book about John Wolfe Barry, and probably his father and brothers as well.
To focus 100% on writing I quit my full-time job in February.
In March I restarted the book with a new structure to it.
In April I expanded the title to include the Brunel family.
In May I submitted my finished text to my editor who has just returned it with tracking.
Separately I commissioned a cover designer to start producing concepts for the book. We should have this finished by end June. One issue has been the title which has changed many times!
I’ve spent months thinking about and sourcing illustrations for the book. This was a bigger challenge than I had anticipated due to copyright law. The system seems weighed heavily against first time self-publishers, with some notable exceptions led by Creative Commons.
I started some marketing using social media and this website with the hashtag #buildingpassions . Once the book cover is complete I can do much more.
I’m still aiming for at least an e-version to be available before end September and I’m thinking more about a hard copy launch in early November at a suitable venue.
Next weekend Tower Bridge will be celebrating its 125 years. Not sure if I will be there in person, but I certainly will be thinking about the Barry-Brunel team that built the structure.
I’ve just about reached the end of drafting the text for my book on the Brunel and Barry families of Victorian engineers and architects.
I started in January of this year but only got into it properly from 12 February after I had stopped full-time work in London and the commute that went with it.
So it’s been about 3 months of writing with two restarts in March and April. The first one was on the back of an editorial assessment and the second when I decided to extend the remit to include the Brunel family. Until then it had focused on Sir Charles Barry and his son Sir John Wolfe Barry.
Where do we stand now?
Not as many words as I’d hoped for, but those there have been extensively self-edited and fact-checked – the problem with writing non-fiction rapidly I guess. Fortunately I had prepared some of the way with this website, as well as previous research, articles and talks.
I’ve also learned that finding minimal cost images for non-fiction publishing is a tricky exercise – in fact it makes me rather annoyed that some (inter)national museums, galleries and institutions are raking in large amounts of cash for image rights, when they should be serving an educational purpose through disseminating these as widely as possible, hence also luring people in to see the real exhibits. Enough said!
Next steps are reviews by trusted people and then the text goes off for a developmental edit by start June. At the same time I will start working with a designer on the cover. I’m still on plan to deliver as scheduled.
One upcoming date to note which is highly relevant to this website is 30 June, when Londoners will celebrate 125 years since Tower Bridge was first opened to the public. You can find out here more about activities this special year.
On 30 June 2019 many of us will be celebrating 125 years since Tower Bridge was first opened to the public.
More than a year ago I started putting content on this website about the builder of Tower Bridge with the aim of completing it by 22 January this year, the centenary of Sir John Wolfe Barry’s death. I was actually ahead of target.
So I’ll set myself another goal for the 8 plus months until we reach the end of June next year: add more content to this website specifically about Tower Bridge, but obviously relevant to what is already here. As I did with John Wolfe Barry’s biography, I will blog as I go along. Tomorrow I will start with the beginnings of JWB’s involvement with the project to span the Thames further east than had ever previously been achieved with a bridge.
Hope you come back to have a look.
I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a project manager.
It’s certainly much better defined nowadays than it was in the 19th Century when John Wolfe Barry first started in civil engineering. Indeed the father of project management ‘appeared’ in the early 20th Century when Wolfe Barry was still alive: Henry Gantt had worked for Frederick W. Taylor the originator of scientific management approaches to industry, beginning with US steel in the late 19th Century. He is attributed with inventing the Gantt chart around 1915-20, an all too familiar tool for modern day project managers, though much credit is also due to Karol Adamiecki who was a contemporary of Gantt’s from Poland.
But even if a science of project management didn’t get off the ground until after Barry had died, I’m sure there are aspects of its operation which he would have easily recognised as part of his daily activities in civil engineering from the very start. For example, you need to make sure your scoping exercise for a project pay heed to the demands of all key stakeholders who will be impacted by it. This requires listening skills, not just the ability to direct others. Wolfe Barry seemed to have had these in abundance.
Then there is the whole process of planning and supervising the effective delivery of a project to meet the end requirements of the commissioners. You require a core team of technical experts to work together in harmony towards the same vision. You need to regularly assess progress in reality versus the plan and decide how much you can afford to shift deadlines and resources. You must keep an eye on the financial details or you may blow the budget prior to satisfactory completion. There are many half-finished white elephants out there!
These were all skills which John possessed and building Tower Bridge was arguably as big a test of them as he ever underwent in his career, just as his father had tried to do with the New Palace of Westminster. He must have felt incredibly confident with his project leadership when the bridge was finally opened by the Prince of Wales in 1894.
Admittedly it was over budget, but in his defence it was a unique solution to a unique problem where others had failed in the conception stage.