Voice from the trenches: Midway through writing a book

writing a book

By Mark Schaefer

I’ve been immersed in an exciting new project and it has literally taken up so much of my … well, my entire BEING, I suppose … that I thought I would give you a progress report. I’m writing a new book.

I’ve been a prolific writer, publishing five books in five years (plus two updated editions, so really seven in five years!)

This has not been a plan. It’s just when I come across a big problem that people are having that extends beyond the boundaries of blog posts, I dive in and solve it through a book.

Here’s the problem I solve with my new book: To succeed in many careers today, there’s a huge advantage to being “known.” Becoming known in your industry can lead to more business, appointments to boards and committees, and better job offers. It can lead to a speaking career, the opportunity to write a book, or a chance to run for political office.

This is something different than “following your passion,” or “hustle,” or becoming famous. It is having a plan to become known and achieving a goal.

But how do you become known? Is there a process anybody can follow?

For the last two years I’ve gone down the rabbit hole to find the answer to these questions and yes, I believe there is a process. I’ve been interviewing dozens of people from the fields of art, real estate, construction, music, business, publishing, and fashion, to name a few. And I discovered a few surprising common themes that have led to their tremendous success.

So this is the idea behind my new book “KNOWN,” which will be out in early 2017.

I wanted to give you a perspective of how this book is coming along, both the victories and the struggles.

How it begins

At least for me, finding the core idea of the book — the problem to solve — is the real key. When I came up with this idea about “becoming known,” I floated it by a few friends, and the reaction was amazing. I became convinced that this book can be a solution that really helps people.

The idea of becoming “known” is really a synthesis of the other big topics I’ve covered over the years:

  • The shift in power, and the opportunity we all have to create influence on the web (Return On Influence)
  • The strategies to cut though the noise of overwhelming information density (The Content Code)
  • The dynamics of creating content to achieve real real business benefits (Social Media Explained)

I spent months doing research: What other books were out there? Where did my idea fit in? What existing models to “become known” exist? (The answer is none, by the way!)

I then surveyed friends about possible interview subjects for the book. By that point in my research I had a thesis, but I interviewed lots of people — more than 50 at this point — to see how my ideas did, or didn’t, apply.

What an amazing process this has been. I’ve met the most inspiring people who literally started with nothing and worked hard to become known and successful. And with their help, I have tweaked, and in some cases overhauled, my ideas to provide a coherent, accurate, and repeatable model of how to become known in the world today.

The impact of writing a book

There is no work I do that is more difficult than writing a book. Writing a book is a family decision because of how much time I need to sacrifice to make this happen.

I started the actual writing over the summer and then had to stop everything in the busy fall speaking and consulting season. Now I am picking it back up again in earnest, literally immersing myself in this for sometimes eight or more hours a day.

The good news is, the book is absolutely flowing. I know I am on to something important and powerful and there is a great energy, joy, and determination behind the work.

The challenge is keeping up the stamina because I know if I don’t complete the project before the heavy travel starts again in the spring, it won’t be completed any time soon.

To give you some idea of the focus and effort required, I’ve noticed that the book has more or less taken over my brain. If I am biking, hiking, or watching TV, ideas from the book take over and start swirling around my mind. I’ve even noticed that when I first come out of a deep sleep, my sub-conscious starts cranking out ideas for the book before I am fully awake. Weird, I know. I’m not quite sure right now if I own the book or the book owns me.

I’ve probably been more distracted, tired, and irritable than normal, but my wife has been through this enough times now to know the end is in sight! Just a few more months to go.

The progress

For many months I have been assembling the major points and research to make the book come alive. I’m about 75 percent through the first draft, but then the real work begins. There is no such thing as good writing, only good re-writing. I want the book to be beautiful and memorable in every way and that requires going back and sweating over every word and sentence.

Because I plan to self-publish (there is NO benefit to working with a publisher these days, but that’s a story for another day), I’ve lined up a professional editor and a person who is working on the interior and cover design. I’m also starting to think about creative ways to promote the book.

So it is a major project. But it will be worth it because the original content from the book will show up in my classes, speeches, and blog posts. It will fuel a new phase of my career, I think.

Most of all, I am keeping this image in my mind of people reading my new book and telling me, “This is what I needed, this is going to help me so much!”

That will be a great day. That is my fuel. And it will be happening very soon!

sxsw-2016-3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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