in Skills+Tools, Startups

How to write your first book and How I did it?

Raja Pabba- Writing Book

How to write your first book (source: www.unsplash.com)

Now that my first book is published, many ask me how I did it. Most want to know how to write their first book. For many they can go battle a dinosaur than handle the pen to write few sentences. In this post, I plan to provide ideas on how to write your first book and how I did it? in three sections.

  1. Clarify why we fear writing
  2. Provide ideas to write your first book
  3. How I did it in a nutshell

1. Fear of Writing: Let’s start with the common fear of writing which seems worse than public speaking. I think this is  more a battle of mind than anything else. I have seen people tremble at holding pen than picking up the sword to battle with dinosaurs, well figuratively. This fear predominantly stems from our own standard we establish to do a good job whenever we set out to do a task. Hence, this drives us to think that when we write, we ought to write well from the get to. Perhaps thinking about it as a two step process – Write and Share/Distribute. This fundamental understanding is what causes many not to take the first step of writing their first word. If you ask any writer, they will tell you that they had to deal with their writers anxiety in the beginning and the way people have overcome is to first un-learn or de-bunk the myth that writing is a sequential process and it is not. It is an iterative process, where you Write, edit, edit……revise, re-edit..until you get it right before you share. This understanding when internalized leads to writing without the *fear* of not getting it right the first time.

2. Ideas to write your first book. Assuming that you have mentally overcome your fear of writing, the next logical question is what to write?. Before we decide on what to write, the best place to start would be, why do we want to write? Your answer could be one of the reasons listed below or different

  • Do you have a personal story to tell?
  • Do you have something meaningful to share that could benefit others?
  • Do you have expertise in a specific topic or subject or hobby that is useful to others?
  • Do you have a specific point of view on any topic?
  • Do you have the ability to show relationships between unrelated things?
  • Do you have material that would make people laugh?
  • Do you want to share how you did something that was hard at first?

The above list of things can provide you inputs to the ideas on generating ideas to write your book. If book is a too much of work for you, you could begin by writing blogs where the idea is more important than the grammar or voice or effective use of English. I remember reading somewhere that each individual has about 30,000 words worth of material in their head. All they have to do is extract and write it! (Note: I intend to write a post on ways to generate ideas in the future, writing this post/section gave me inspiration)

3. How I did it:  I had a long desire to write and had to go through my own challenges on how to start. During my research, I realized the nature of writing to be more an iterative process rather than sequential process. This gave me the confidence that I got mess up my initial outline or draft and refine as I added more content. In addition, due to my profession, I spend a lot of time creating power points to present findings, analysis and recommendations to executives/clients. To get over my inertia, I resorted to the concept used in my profession called creating “Ghost Decks”. The concept is about creating an outline for your entire power point deck that conveys the story line or results to communicate in a structured manner. After finalizing the tools and the process, the next step was to pick a topic. Like the items mentioned in section 2, my topic was to share what I had learnt with my #SaaS #Software #Startup that I had founded. It was an amazing experience filled with lessons learnt every day. Initially, I started off writing a power point deck/outline on how to start a Software Startup. After spending about 4 months, realized that there are way too much material on this topic and found as I was mentally narrating my own experience that there isn’t much written or discussed about professionals who are in corporate roles that want to join a startup to satisfy their personal or professional curiosity or interests. I readjusted (or pivoted) the outline to this new topic and later began adding content to the slides. What helped me most was that I created graphics, again using power point skills that helped me structure and organize the content. Once I had developed a good outline with content the next step was to shape it into a book and here’s what I did given my budget and time constraints.

  • Publisher vs. Self-publishing: Technology has disrupted many industries and book publishing is no exception. In the past if you had to publish, you had to go to one of the publisher and these days there are many services available that is enabling self-publishing. I chose Amazon’s CreateSpace platform for my book. There are similar choices available with other providers as well.
  • Editor/Ghost writer: In this day and age (inspired by World is Flat book and 4 hour work week), I began looking for ways to hire individuals to trade my time for their time/skills. I found Odesk and Elance to be a great resource. I posted my need for a Editor/Ghost writer and then got proposals from multiple service providers and then ended by picking two. Eventually, based on progress on alignment of ideas and style, voice etc. I settled with one.
  • Title/Cover Design: Coming up a title is largely a personal preference with matching content. I had iterated couple of different titles and polled with friends and family for their choice. Cover Design, besides matching the concept also depends on personal preference. I had used individual providers from the sites above.
  • Formatting: Once you have completed the script for the book, the next step would be to format the book that matches your delivery mechanism – printed version and electronic version. When I first started, I wanted to publish on iTunes using Mac’s iBooksAuthor editor, later decided to self-publish via CreateSpace. That means, I had to format the book that matches with CreateSpace specifications and Amazon’s kindle specifications. I hired individual service providers that provide these services. In addition, I had to re-create graphics to match the quality required for printing.
  • Channels. Places where you want to sell your book. I chose to sell through Amazon so had used all the channels offered by it including selling in different countries.

Once, I had completed all the steps above, here’s the finished product.

Startup Predicament Book

Startup Predicament by Raja Pabba

This has been my journey on how I published my first book. I’d like to hear yours and any ideas you wish to share.

Raja Signature

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  1. Excellent insights, Raja. Your blog provides information to rookies who have many good ideas and experiences but are unable to share. Congratulations on your book!