It seemed like such a natural progression: several people who enjoyed my blog (in its former incarnation as a project management blog to help freelancers organize their work) mentioned to me that it would be a good idea to put out an ebook. I agreed, it would be a good idea.
Being a good little project manager, I worked out that it would take about 8 weeks, plus 2 weeks of editing and general tweaking. I thought squeezing in a section a week on top of my normal work sounded do-able, with some nice photos, charts and worksheets. After all, I already had all the information at my fingertips, I knew the topic backwards, forwards and upside-down. No problem!
That was last May. It is now January, and I have just finished putting together a sales page and uploading the finished product.
BAD project manager.
What went wrong? And why have I developed several new nervous ticks?
The rationale behind project management is that you should a) Use your own experience to estimate how long tasks will take, or b) Get advice from experts if you don’t have that experience yourself. My reasoning was that my day job is being a freelance writer, so I should have no difficulties estimating how long it takes to put an ebook together.
You may smile at the over-confidence of the innocent.
To be fair, the actual text took about 8 weeks. Things started to slip producing the images, but not too badly. I sent the Word document around several trusted freelancers and writers to get their feedback and waited. We are now at August, when I was hoping it would already be flying through cyberspace, delighting readers and bringing order and organization to their schedules. “Thanks to you I now have a detailed and reliable project plan, rather than a pile of post-it notes stuck around my computer!”
Oh, the irony.
Of course, you can’t rush people who have generously agreed to read through a draft of your book. You forget that they are just not as excited as you to get it out there, righting what once went wrong, to infinity and beyond.
October. Drafts came back, edits were made. Time for the layout. Maybe over a weekend?
I won’t tell you the name of the software I used for the layout. I have done a little desktop publishing in my time, and thought I should be able to do it myself. Looking back, this reminds me of the handymen who (we discovered after a waterfall appeared one day in our kitchen) fixed our water pipe with duct tape, or the double-glazing company who filled in the hole in the solid brick supporting wall with insulation foam and plastered over it.
There are experts on this beautiful planet of ours, they are experts for a reason. Pay them money.
It did not take a weekend to do the layout, it took about two months. It shouldn’t have even taken that long but I came to the point that I couldn’t even click on the software icon on my desktop without also opening a self-help breathing exercises website. In with fury and frustration, out with peace, 4, 5, 6.
Thanks to a little break I can now step back from the swirling abyss, and even laugh (a little maniacally)
Things I learned from writing an ebook:
- Stick with your strengths
- Factor in that no-one else is quite as overwhelmingly enthusiastic about your ebook as you are
- Don’t do your own layout in fancy desktop publishing software unless a) That is your job, or b) You enjoy pleading with your computer at 1am
- There are a lot of companies that want to help you sell your ebook. Not all are created equal. Some are not your friend.
The ‘Choosing an Ebook Seller Website’ might have to wait for another day: I still have a few twitches that have appeared at the very thought.
But I am very, very proud of the beautiful ebook I have created. I am, at last, happy with it and the way it turned out.
Thank you to everyone who helped me with drafts, offered feedback, gave detailed edits, wrote reviews, or untangled me from wires and tear-stained leads at ungodly hours in the morning. I couldn’t have got here quite so intact without you.
The Freelancers’ Guide To Managing Projects is now available, priced $9.99. I hope it helps you in your work and takes some of the stress from your schedule.
Image by Flickr user Abeeeer