Finished the book! ... and ten reflections on the process | #166
Book is live!
January 15th, 2022: Greetings from Austin! I have been MIA for almost a month. I had a fantastic holiday in CT with the family and then after the new year, Angie and I moved out to Austin, where we will be until the summer. I’ve already had a great time here. We spent the first weak out at Creator Cabins hosted by Jon and Lauren Hillis and was able to get some deep work in to get to the finish line with the book.
We moved into the city on Monday and already have been able to bike around the city four times, have eaten at a couple of food trucks, and basked in the 70+ degree sunlight on a couple of warm days.
👋 Thanks to James for the shoutout in the substack newsletter and shoutout to Tyler, Phil, and Jim for becoming paid subscribers and supporters of this newsletter. Also welcome to the couple hundred people who joined since I last wrote in December.
LIVE: The Pathless Path: Imagining A New Story For Work and Life
This book is a part personal story and part bold proposal for a new way forward for thinking about how work fits into our lives. It follows my own journey from small town to the elite world of strategy consulting firm and getting everything I thought I wanted by the age of 27. Through a health crisis and the loss of someone important, I start to realize that the way I was living was not how I wanted to keep going. Without a roadmap, I embarked on almost 10 years of experimentation, reflection, travel, and learning, all of which led me to a different formula for how to think about work and life.
If you want to read it, here are your options:
PREVIEW the intro here for free
Paid Boundless subscribers (paywalled post, linked here)
Buy digital files immediately Gumroad (pdf, mobi & epub)
Pre-Order Kindle E-Book (launches Tuesday the 17th)
Order Paperback on Amazon (2-3 days delivery)
Order Hardcover on Amazon (looks to be 3-4 weeks)
Order other places like Apple, B&N, etc.. (TBD, will update)
📕Ten Quick Reflections On The Process
#1 There is a big gap between publishing blog posts and “writing a book”
I decided to write a book with the mindset of I will throw together some blog posts, edit them, smooth the rough edges and hit publish. I estimated this would take me about three months.
I was wrong.
Quickly, I realized that the level of complexity of a longer piece (let’s say >10k words) was an order of magnitude different than putting out a long essay. I was too optimistic and in the first months, I kept pushing out the publishing date.
From idea to publishing, it took me about 13 months. Knowing what I know now, I think I could do it in 6-9 months. The number one thing I’d do differently is starting working with an editor much sooner. I handed things over to an amazing editor Paula Trucks-Pape, near what I thought was the “end” of the process. Luckily, she had a lot of great ideas and suggested I take a little more time.
#2 The reason it is so complex is also because of personal preference
The reason most people end up attempting to publish something that looks and feels like a book is that as soon as you level up the complexity you can see that producing something pretty close to a book from a publisher is possible.
This is what led me to hire multiple editors to help me, hire a designer for a book cover and proofread and edit it about 100 times throughout the process.
Could I have shipped something a few months ago? Yes. But I knew that I wasn’t done yet and could do better. So I put in that extra 20% to take it to the next level.
#3 Why are there two different covers for paperback and hardcover
Because the publisher submitted two options I really liked. That and I thought that only having one book cover was very “default path” thinking. Trying to embrace the spirit of my book anywhere I can.
Another thing you “can just do”? Put your name as publisher.
#4 How much did this all cost? How much will you make?
Probably all-in, about $4,000-$5,000.
Luckily, the quality of digital tools for self-publishing is pretty good now. I’ll be doing a longer writeup of the process, but here are some of the tools I used:
Book Formatting => Reedsy Platform (Free)
Cover Designer => Picking A Specific 99 Designs Designer ($500)
Editor & Proofreaders => Personal Network ($3-4k)
Buying ISBNs so I can own distribution rights => Bowker ($250)
Publishing beyond Amazon => IngramSpark ($100)
Here is what I’ll make on sales of my book (from what I can tell):
Gumroad: ~$9 or ~89% of the price
Kindle: $3.50 -$7
Amazon Paperback: $7-8
Amazon Hardcover: $7-8
IngramSpark hardcover (B&N, libraries, Walmart, target, etc…): $2-3
IngramSpark paperback (B&N, libraries, Walmart, target, etc…): $3-4
IngramSpark digital edition (Apple, Scribd, Overdrive, Chegg, etc..): $4-5
#5 Writing a book about yourself changes your own self-conception
Throughout the book, I had to deeply reflect on things that happened in my life and then try to put them in the context of a broader narrative of my life (and the book). When I did this, I was surprised at how things that were emotionally salient were not that important but how other things (like certain people believing in me) had a much more important role.
I also had to get to the heart of why all this matters so much to me and why I think it’s important to attempt to get to a better relationship with work.
This part didn’t come to me until about three weeks before I left Taiwan. I was feeling completely stuck and Angie suggested I go ride the scooter around town. During that ride, everything seemed to connect. I sort of broke down emotionally and had to pull over to collect my thoughts and take notes on what I wanted to write.
You’ll find all of that in the intro!
#6 The joy for me was in the creation
In the book, I share reflections from people like Erich Fromm who thought that creative activity was not only a path to freedom but a way to develop a deep connection to yourself and the world. In this respect, this has been the best creative project of my life.
If I don’t sell a single copy, this project would be an absolute success and it was an absolute delight.
#7 Publishing is scary and the voices saying “what will people think?” are more powerful than ever
I’ve learned to ignore the voices in my head that tell me I shouldn’t share what I think or that people might make fun of me. However, that doesn’t mean they’ve ever gone away.
Publishing a BOOK and not a blog feels scary because people have a lot more expectations, not to mention, for a large number of people this is probably the first time they might read any of what I have to say in any depth.
Much of my work and my path have been hard to understand for people but everyone understands BOOK.
I am not sure what will resonate with readers but I’m excited to find out.
#8 My path from here is a bit uncertain but I’m more confident than ever and excited to see what emerges
I’ve been consumed mentally with the book, especially for the past 6-7 months. I’m looking forward to a bit of space again to let my mind wander, explore a broader range of ideas (especially in this newsletter), and also continue to experiment a bit more in my life.
In 2022, I want to try out a bunch of stuff, including volunteering more, taking a DJ class, taking a tap dance class, working with a Yo-Yo coach, looking for ways to practice Chinese again, experimenting with YouTube, leaning back into the podcast, potentially relaunching my Reinvent course, and a lot more.
#9 I was “90% done” for about four months
In a consulting project, I have a really good feel of how long things take. This is from hundreds of reps on different kinds of projects.
Writing a book, I had no feel for where I was in the process. I was overconfident most of the way through the entire thing and thought that for sure I was 90% done back in September.
These final four months were the most challenging and it seemed like the finish line kept moving out on me.
There is always more to be done with a project like this. I did four full readthroughs of the book in the last three weeks. Is there a small spelling error in the book somewhere? Perhaps. I am definitely still worried about that. However, the magic of self-publishing also means I can keep updating it over time.
One big question mark I have is wondering how the covers will look. I haven’t seen a final form of the book yet and will likely see my first version with you on Tuesday. I’m a little nervous but I think it should be okay!
#10 I don’t have a highly orchestrated “book launch”
I am going to read a few things on book launches and marketing a book this week but I don’t have a well-thought-out plan. A couple of people gave me detailed feedback on how to properly launch a book (thanks Jamie and Arvid!) all of which I’ve taken to heart but I’m too excited to launch so just wanted to put it out there.
My feeling is that if this book is going to succeed it will happen naturally and by word of mouth. I had about 120 pre-sales which is pretty amazing.
I do plan to go on some podcasts, so if you have suggestions or want to invite me on yours, I’m game!
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Slightly off-topic, but are you thinking of learning Chinese?
Congratulations! Just preordered my copy.