If you’ve ever been curious about writing a book, or maybe envisioned yourself writing one, you’re definitely not alone. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I never thought that I would write a book. Our book, Big Plan for the Creative Mind is a compilation and narrative of interviews that where we talked to thought-leaders about their perspective on how creatives could best set goals in their businesses and in their lives. It was a great opportunity to, first of all, learn from these leaders but also to compile them and to be able to see what was similar between the different strategies, tactics, thoughts—and find what made them all unique.
I was really excited to showcase people’s differences as well as their similarities so that we could get everyone (read: creatives) on the same page and encourage people that they too can set goals: even if their lives, businesses, or ways that they like to work might be a little bit different from others!
If you’re considering writing a book—you can totally do it. I had many conversations with Jodi Brandon, our editor, before we even started the book writing process. I’m so glad that I did because she gave us a lot of insight (she’s a lifesaver). I was getting too caught up in future tripping around what I didn’t know, and how to get a book out, and how to organize a book and lastly, write a book! I was going through all of these ruminating thoughts and putting the book writing process off to the side.
If you guys have been paying any attention up until now, you might know that there was actually another book in the works. About a year ago, Jessica Rasdall—who just published her book Shattered—and I went on a book writing retreat where we did some thinking, organizing and we started writing our books. I was working on a different book at the time but that practice helped set me up for success with Big Plan for the Creative Mind. (Hopefully that other book will come to fruition later on, too!)
The book writing process for Big Plan for the Creative Mind was collaborative and had many contributor-centric components. I worked with Dannie Fountain as co-authors. So, our jobs were part moderator, part curator of content and part bringing the discussion about.
I wanted to break down all of these pieces and show you what it was like to write this book, what we did, and the process behind everything. So that if you’re looking to write a book, you might find some of these tips helpful.
The First Stage
Dannie and I first came up with a concept. Then we thought about a couple things like:
- Are we going to be self publishing?
- Or would we rather go through a publishing house?
We decided pretty early on that we were going to self publish. We entertained the idea of a publishing house and actually had a meeting with a publisher. But since the timeline we were working with wasn’t conducive to the publisher’s timeline, we decided we really wanted to get the book out on Halloween 2017 and went forward with doing it our way. And you know what? I’m not feeling bad about it. I’m really excited to have had full creative control and the flexibility we needed!
Figuring Out What it’s All About
After we decided on the self publishing piece, we then sat down to figure out what the framework of the book was.
- Why were we doing this?
- Who were we writing it for?
- At the end of the day, what did we want our readers to take away?
Once we had figured out those three pieces, it was much easier to move forward with what we were doing to do in regards to content of the book. After that, we created a bone structure of what we wanted each chapter to look like and who we wanted to be a part of the book.
We created a list of 20 people that we wanted to ask to be featured in the book and then we had to figure out who would be the best fit of the list to offer insights. We took into account different industries, different perspectives, different personalities and lifestyles—because that’s what the core of the book is about. It wasn’t just about one person and their perspective that made it “good,” but rather the compilation of the different voices in our metaphorical choir.
Big Plan for the Creative Mind isn’t just about one person being great. We wanted to show that there are so many ways to tackle goal setting. We wanted to capture the myriad of options and opportunities for goal setting that are out there. While we had 20 people on our list to begin with, but we didn’t ask them all. We picked the people who would have the most cohesiveness with their stories and the most differences as well. Also, we decided to choose thought-leaders in the industry in terms of their creativity or because they were already talking about goal setting or they are planners! We really tried to have a diverse group of people in all kinds of ways so we could capture the essence of what our creative industry is struggling with and what they are challenged by in the practice of goal setting.
Getting Down to Business
We asked each of our contributors for a one-hour interview—that we recorded on Zoom—and then had the interviews transcribed on Rev.com. It was about a 24-hour turnaround to have them transcribed. From there, we distilled the conversations into third person narratives while being mindful of the themes and messages.
For the interviews, we had three different sections that we’d go through. First, we asked the contributors to talk to us a bit about their lifestyle—what does it look like in their daily lives? We had about 10 lifestyle questions that we would rotate through. Some of them were just fun ones, some were more in-depth. For example:
- What’s your secret power?
- What’s your Sunday Soundtrack?
- What is your favourite personality quality?
We asked those kinds of questions first as an icebreaker to the rest of the interview. Then, we switched over to the goal setting questions. Those questions were outlined, but it was really a conversational interview. We tried to hit on major points that were important to us, like:
- What is your philosophy around goal setting? What does that look like for you?
- What happens when your goals don’t go according to plan?
- I plan because… (a fill in the blank question)
At the end of the day, we wanted to have something that was cohesive and had a common thread throughout the book. Each person had an “I plan because…” statement. Those turned into dividers between each of the chapters and contributors.
Those are the three pieces that we used in the interview and then anything else we asked outside of that got turned into the narrative of the book. It was great to be able to see the differences and similarities between each of the contributors and think about how other creative entrepreneurs could learn from their stories.
Each of the people that we interviewed already had their own planning style and we really wanted to capture them all in one place so that people don’t have to go scouring through blogs or Facebook Lives to find what they can in one book!
The Editing Process
Each interview that we did went through three different edits. One edit was to go from transcript to narrative. Then, the narrative got read over by one of us—whoever didn’t do the writing. Finally, the last person that looked at each narrative was our editor. Each one went through three different positions in the book editing process and then we compiled it all together. After we had all of the manuscript chapters, we made sure that everything was consistent throughout.
Our graphic designer, Kaitlyn Kessler of The Crown Fox, turned all of the “I plan because…” statements into these gorgeous images for the book. Then we also had some pull quotes from the interviews that we thought “Oh my gosh, these are so good”—like a one-liner that we wanted to use in our social media collateral.
Jodi, our editor, pulled out some of those quotes when she was reading them and I pulled some of them out too. What I think we ended up with are some really great, inspirational quotes that people need to hear! We captured them all into a separate Google Doc so that we would have something to turn into graphics for Instagram and Facebook when the time came.
Keeping Everything Organized
Us goal setters like to keep things organized! For me, it was having everything separated into different Google Docs. One folder was for interviews and transcripts, another was for the first version of the narrative, the third was for the edits and finally the fourth one was for the completed chapters.
Once we had that, we could pull them down into our Word Docs to send over to the typesetter. The typesetter then turned it all into a manuscript—which was the most beautiful and gratifying process for me! See the contents of the interviews turn into a 200-page book was so validating and rewarding.
These are the major pieces that we went through to complete Big Plan for the Creative Mind. However, then there’s the marketing process which is totally separate! Some of the collateral pieces that we were thinking about right from the start of this book writing process—which helped in streamlining everything—were:
- What are the quotes we want to use for social media?
- What are the questions we want people to answer by the end of this book?
Then we set those things aside so that when the time came to start thinking about marketing, we didn’t have to go back to the manuscript to pull things because we had already done it. That was definitely something that I learned in the process!
Getting the Book Ready for Launch
While we were in the manuscript process, which I owned, Dannie owned the process of getting us setup on Amazon’s Create Space—the platform that we chose to use to self publish. However, before we could get down to that business, we needed to buy our International Standard Book Numbers—or ISBNs. The ISBN is a 13-digit number on your book that identifies each edition and variation of it. We bought a packet of 10 ISBNs so that we could use one for the hard-copy and another for the e-book. Then, the eight that we have left can be used for our subsequent books!
We started a pre-sale for Big Plan for the Creative Mind and we made some orders pretty quickly and got on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list before our book was even turned into a manuscript! That was really cool and also super encouraging for us to stay accountable for our work.
This process can be so nebulous and it can feel like you’re doing it alone—and then all of a sudden you have people buying the book before you even complete it! It’s such an incentive to get it done and send it over to the typesetter and get it turned into an actual book.
We also had three major concepts for the book cover. We wanted people to get really excited about the book with us! So, around two or three months before the Halloween launch date, we asked our communities, “Hey! Which one do you want to see on the cover of our book?!” and we actually had people vote! A lot of people commented about what they wanted to see or what they would want changed. We incorporated some of those comments in our decision making to ensure it was the best cover ever! It was super fun to be able to engage people in that and have them be a part of the process.
In that engagement, we also asked people to be a part of our Street Team—people who wanted to be cheerleaders for the book and who wanted to share the book out with other people once it was launched.
The Timeline Process
The last thing I wanted to talk about is thinking about your project plan. At the very beginning of this, we talked about general timelines. When do we want it published? Okay, it makes sense to launch around the time that people are launching their planners. Planners launch around September/October. So, we thought, why not launch right in between when the planners are launching and when people are beginning to start their goal setting process? It’s the sweet spot!
Then, we started working backwards from there. Our interviews took about 2-3 months depending on our contributors busy schedules! We reached out to them in December 2016, then in January 2017 we scheduled them, and then we had the conversations in February, March and April. From there, we started working on the manuscript.
It’s definitely been a very interesting process! It’s helpful if you can nail down the dates that you want to get your first draft done by, your second draft done by—and then start thinking about how much time you need to dedicate to this. I would give yourself a little extra time than you think. After all, it’s not like writing a blog post! It’s so much longer. It really is a fun process though! If you can secure some dates, it’s fun to be able to work piecemeal and see when you’re getting closer to the book.
Every book is different but in sharing this process with you, I’m hoping we’ll get to read some of your wise words.
We’re so excited for you to read the Big Plan for the Creative Mind so that you can start tackling your big goals.