writing

No time, money or skill? You can still get your book written

No time, money or skill? You can still get your book written

If there’s one thing you learn from spending a chunk of your career in the world of books and writing, it’s that there are a lot of great stories out there. Personal stories of remarkable success against the odds. Business stories of risk taking and growth. Political stories of intrigue and persistence.

It would be great if all these stories could be told. As Spanish philosopher George Santayana famously wrote, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. Ideally, the stories would be recorded in books because books last. They go onto shelves and into libraries. They won’t disappear or become unreadable with new technologies.

Unfortunately, many terrific stories are never written down. Sometimes that’s because their owners don’t want to share them. Often

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The economics of self-publishing a book

The economics of self-publishing a book

In my last blog post I explored the myth that writing and publishing a book is guaranteed to make you rich. A couple of posts before that I wrote about how self-publishing a paper book is easier, and less expensive than ever.

This time I thought it might be worthwhile bringing these two posts together and doing some number crunching. What do the economics of self-publishing look like in Australia in 2017? A warning: what follows may be a bit dry (unless you're an accountant and into such things).

To make these numbers real, I'm going to focus on a typical example. We're going to publish a 200-page non-fiction paperback book of about 30,000 words.

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Is your book already written ... you just don't realise it?

Is your book already written ... you just don't realise it?

Raise the topic of writing a book and most people will look at you aghast. The very idea of writing a book conjures visions of a gargantuan task, the literary equivalent of climbing Mt Everest (albeit without the need for supplementary oxygen). You may even be thinking along the same lines. Writers write books, and I'm not a writer.

A blog, on the other hand? No big deal. Tell people you're writing a blog and some will be impressed while others will secretly be wondering if you'll manage to get out more than three posts. 

Nevertheless, a blog seems more manageable than a book. A post once a fortnight, say. About 600 words. You don't need to be a writer to do that – just capable of writing a few coherent sentences.

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My favourite new tool for writing is not an app. It's a standing desk.

If there's one thing that writers do well, it is sitting. We are experts at it, simply because we get so much practice. We spend most of every day parked on our posteriors. Typically this is combined with a well refined hunch over the keyboard to provide the perfect recipe for a lifetime of tight shoulders and cricked necks. 

This is not good. Humans weren't designed to spend most of our time sitting. If we were we wouldn't need expensive chairs with height, tilt and lumbar adjustment – none of which ever seem to be quite right. On top of which we now have those pesky scientists exposing numerous risks to our health from prolonged sitting.

So what to do?

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Starting a new book writing project: embracing the unknown

Starting a new book writing project: embracing the unknown

I've recently started working on a new company history project. I've conducted interviews with about 20 people and had those interviews transcribed. I've also been provided with a number of newspaper articles and other items from the archives. All up I have about 200,000 words of raw material that needs to be condensed down to about one tenth of that for the final book.

At the moment I don't have a clear idea of what the finished product is going to look like structurally. I have some major headings in mind, but what order they will be presented in is unknown. And those topics may change too. There might be a few 'ins' and 'outs' along the way.

But that's okay. What I've learnt over the years is that uncertainty at this stage of a book project, or any large creative project for that matter, is quite normal.

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How to ghostwrite a memoir in 7 steps (and 7 years)

How to ghostwrite a memoir in 7 steps (and 7 years)

Regular readers of this blog will have known that Scattered Pearls, a memoir of Sohila Zanjani, co-written with myself was due to hit the bookshelves in Australasia in early April this year. And indeed it did – on April 1, no less. It's incredibly satisfying to have the book out there, especially as it's taken a long time to get to this point.

So how did we get to this point? It's a question I've been asked a few times, and I think it's a good tale that I hope provides some insight into the writing and publication process. (Please forgive the longer than normal post.)

1. Find your subject

Sohila and I had known each other a few years before we started on this project. I had done some work for her as a consultant, and kept in touch via an occasional (paper) newsletter. As I moved the focus of my work to writing, I added the word 'Ghostwriting' to my list of services on said newsletter. Sohila noticed that and gave me a call.

2. Take a punt; make a commitment

We met.

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The power of a 'go to' routine

The power of a 'go to' routine

I've been a self-employed, home-based, full-time writer now for something approaching a decade. Which likely makes the extroverts amongst you a bit jittery. But it's a way of working that suits my particular personality quite nicely, thanks.

I'm often asked how I manage to work at home and not become distracted by other things around the house – housework, hobbies, even just the television. The answer is actually very simple: I have a routine, and I stick to it.

In fact the routine I use is more or less what I've been using ever since the first day I started working from my home office. Back then, I realised that if I was going to make the work-from-home thing work I would have to be disciplined about it – especially as I am someone who generally dislikes routine. From the very first day I was at my desk by 8am and it has been that way (give or take 15 minutes) ever since. 

The routine I use is built around my energy levels.

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Stay on the path and reap the reward ... whenever that may be

Stay on the path and reap the reward ... whenever that may be

Yesterday I received from our publisher a 'uncorrected proof' of a book I've been working on ... working on for the last seven years. Scattered Pearls is a memoir of Iranian-born Sohila Zanjani that I have co-written with her; it will be released in mid-April. The proof is effectively the final book – fully laid out and bound with the final cover. The final version for bookstores will have a glossier cover and include a handful of last-minute corrections.

To hold this book in my hands and flick through its pages is a surreal experience.

It's not the idea of a finished book that is so outlandish – I've worked on many of those now, many in the intervening seven years. It's just that this book has been such a large undertaking, so it's hard to believe that it's DONE.

My point in relaying this is not to suggest that Sohila and I are legends in our own time for having finished this project. Nor is it to create the impression that writing your book will be a herculean effort.

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Relearning the art of focus for greater productivity

Relearning the art of focus for greater productivity

One of my favourite albums of 2015 (and a favourite of many it seems) was by Melbourne artist Courtney Barnett. It also has a ripper title: Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit.

'Sometimes I just sit.' Imagine that.

When did you last just 'sit', as opposed to 'sit thinking' or, more likely, 'sit staring at your phone'?

I tried to do it the other day, while killing some time before picking up my daughter. I left my phone in my pocket, so I succeeded in avoiding that last one, but I found it almost impossible not to have the brain churning over my to-do list while I watched the world go by. 

Perhaps it is the modern malaise that we are destined to be 'always on'.

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Don't kid yourself. There are no shortcuts to writing a good book.

Don't kid yourself. There are no shortcuts to writing a good book.

They pop up now and again, either in my email inbox (as uninvited guests) or floating around social media. ‘They’ are the latest wonder solution to writing a book. ‘They’ are usually accompanied by a very long sales-pitch website featuring long lists of benefits, numerous glowing testimonials and, right at the bottom, an ‘order now’ button and a money-back guarantee. Either that or a great ‘limited time offer’.

The promise is to help you get a book written, easily and in quick time, by following a secret formula or revealing some other shortcut such as recording yourself speak and having those recordings transcribed. A bit of tweaking and … voila! It’s a wrap!

Unfortunately it is not that simple, and it can’t be. Not if you want to write a good book.

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