I Tried to Write a Book and Failed

I Tried to Write a Book and Failed post image

Do you love to write and edit? Would you consider working with me for 3 months and possibly more? You’d help me finish the TMBA book. We’d compensate you with some $$$ and infamy. It won’t be easy, though. The details are in this post.

Update: The deadline has passed on this search. Thanks for everyone’s interest! 

The whole “I’m writing a book” thing has been a huge learning experience. Hundreds of thousands of words, lot’s of helpful advice, tons of hours, and nothing to show for it, except perhaps feeling the force of some entrepreneurial correlate to the Peter Principle. I can’t say I’m that bummed about it. It’s led me to learn and a ton, and I’ll keep plugging on one way or another. I love writing. And this post is a prime example of why every single morning I wake up to a blank sheet of paper before I do anything else.

Much of what I call writing is, for me, just structured thinking. Attempting to solve problems by type type typing away. Sometimes it works! If you’ve followed for a while you’ve seen it— parties, meet-ups, gigs, jobs, internships, offers, forum posts, and talking points for podcasts. I still struggle with essays, policies, and of course, book(s). So while I struggle with those things, let me take a brief interlude to focus on something a little easier. Hatching a plan. 

*  *  *

Recently, I’ve had to face some sad facts about my writing habit:

  • In 2013, I only published 7 articles at TMBA.
  • In 2013, I wrote over 350,000 words that never got published (more on that in a future post).
  • I have a still born book, over 70,000 words, sitting on my hard drive. It was started in 2012.

Regarding the book…

Over the past two years, count them, two years, I’ve given the manuscript to a handful of capable people. I’ve received some wonderful feedback on the content and direction of the work. But the primary thrust always boils down to, “it’s not done yet.” I knew it too. I was wasting those people’s time, and I suspect that many of them knew it but were too kind to say so. “Go work dude!”

It turns out I’m great at opening up my laptop and blabbing on. But I’ve got a long way to go when it comes to re-writing and re-working those words into thoughts that are worthy of the time of others. And by “worthy” I mean that you can read them straight through without getting confused.

I’ve tried deadlines, writing retreats, collaborative writing, dabbled in prescription drugs and healthy diets (oy!), but the reality of why I haven’t put out a book yet is simple– I didn’t make it a priority, and I didn’t give it enough time.

How long does it take to write a book?

Neil Strauss was recently on Tim Ferriss’ podcast talking about his writing process (great stuff). On it Tim Ferriss said something interesting– that his estimation for how long it takes to write a book is 1 year of full time work. No side projects. No business. Just book. After having spent more than a year working on a book on the side (and to the detriment of other projects like this blog), this seems accurate.

For me, it’s not really the writing that’s difficult. It’s the re-writing. I have 9 chapters (plus another 9 on the cutting room floor). 70,000 words in the next file over on my desktop. But it’s a draft. And the problem with a draft is that you’ve just begun. It needs to be painstakingly ironed out, cleaned up, researched– caulked up for continuity. Everything needs to get simplified.

So how much longer does your book need?

I’ll estimate— and keep in mind how bad I’ve shown myself to be at estimations– that somebody, preferably me, about 8 weeks of full time work to finish the book.

So let’s say 12 weeks.

And then there’s the issue of priority.

If I’m being serious about our other projects— the active investments I’m working on with bossman (ones I consider critical to my financial future), the DC, our events, this blog, our podcast, I just can’t find those 2 months in 2014. It’s simply not a priority anymore, especially given my track record.

And you want to know the real shiz? I love working with bossman and if I demand to disappear while he manages two businesses and a few new opportunities while I gouge myself with Diet Coke and writerly cafes— essentially go AWAL for two months with uncertain prospects— is simply not something I’m willing to do right now (and something, frankly, I haven’t been willing to do from the beginning, which is another reason there is no book).

A win / win?

It occurred to me today that polishing off this manuscipt is certainly work that I would love to do if my circumstances were different, and perhaps there is somebody out there who feels the same. That’s reason enough to give it a try.

So. I need somebody’s help. What is that somebody going to do? Here’s the idea:

The gig:

  • Note: it’s relatively easy to apply for this gig since I know you can’t make a full on pitch without having seen the project spec. Know for now that the book is based generally about popular TMBA concepts like “The 1000 Day Rule” and “Rip, Pivot, Jam” and is meant to be a summation of the concepts and stories we’ve picked up over the years.
  • Turn our 75,00 word disjoined manuscript into a 45,000 to 70,000 tight, useful, entertaining book.
  • You will have three months to complete the task.
  • Daily target is to edit, polish, or completely re-writing 750 words for publish.
  • This is a terribly difficult task, I know that. It’s a full time gig. For those of you watching at home, you might notice that that’s only 45,000 words. I’m assuming that 2-3 of my chapters are ready for publish as is. You might also determine from this math why great blogs are so rare.
  • You’ll send daily status reports along with a Scrivener file for review.
  • We’d like to add a few case studies to the book, as well as some comments from bossman, this will mean arranging and transcribing a few interviews, and soliciting and small handful of useful quotes and adapting the content into the text.

The terms:

  • You can live anywhere you like, provided you can get a lot of work done.
  • The earlier you can start, the better. (We are ready to go July 16th), but can wait (it’s been 2 years!).
  • I think it’s worth mentioning that my business has a demonstrated track record of investing in content. There most certainly will be other projects like this in the future, and we will likely see an ROI from this investment. That’s to say if we get along and work well together the opportunities in my company, and most certainly in our immediate network are there.

About you:

  • You love to have conversations that criticize and analyze your work at a granular level. Do you think I should have used granular there? Can you have a grown up and genuinely interested conversation about why or why not?
  • You are willing to concede to me in arguments when I say the magic words (final decision!), and put your head down and in full faith make it happen. This isn’t a great gig for somebody who has difficulty doing things that doesn’t match their immediate passion or vision for the project.
  • Although well meaning, I’m not really interested in the “sales potential,” “launch strategies,” or “positioning and branding” and all that jazz. My primary goal is to complete a book worth reading– worthy of the attention of TMBA readers. We have enough marketing around here, what we are looking for is great product.
  • You have some kind of demonstrated writing and editing track record.

How to apply:

  • It only needs to take 15 minutes to fill out the form below. (I’d love to hear your pitch about how you’d like to work with us).
  • We’ll discuss the opportunity with the top 3 candidates to see if there is fit. At that point you’ll get a chance to see our manuscript and project spec so you’ll know exactly what you are getting yourself into and how you can help.
  • Let us know what you’d like to be compensated for 3 months of work. In USD only please. I won’t pay with my word, endorsement, etc. We are flexible based on your level of experience. Some napkin math that might be a some use: I’d love to sell the book for $7.00. My guess is that in the first 3-6 months of the book being live we’d be able to move 2,000 units. This is a pure spitball. There’s no way to know, of course. Of course there are other potential benefits our brand would see from getting this work out into the world.
  • Deadline: July 8th, 2014,  11:59PM EST.
  • We’ll get back to candidates by July 13th, 2014.

Click here to review the application form.

Thank you so much for your interest. If you know anyone who’d be interested, I’d appreciate it if you’d forward this post along to them.

For all of you out there struggling to finish a book, I feel ya! And for those of you who’ve managed to ship one, RESPECT!



Published on 07.01.14
  • Go work dude!

  • I really dug Strauss’s take:

    1st Draft – for you

    2nd Draft – for your audience

    3rd Draft – for the haters

    That’s a great model methinks.

    Go work dude!

  • Awesome opportunity. Unfortunately, I’ll be writing my own book and won’t have time! Good luck team TMBA

  • Tung Tran

    Good to hear as I’ve been waiting for the book for so long :P

    Go work dude!

  • Adrijus Guscia

    Good to hear update on the book, good stuff! Looking forward to the results of this thing. Man even rewrites suck, I did a short guide of like 12-15 pages and I wanted to run into a wall instead rewriting it.. so I can only image what’s it to rewrite 6-figs of words… Aaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

    Good luck! ;)

  • richardpatey

    I worked full time on my book for 3 months last summer, got to 16k words, respect for getting to 75k!

  • absolutely everything that guy says/does is gold. “everyone loves you when you are dead” if you haven’t read it yet. put it on the top of the toilet!

    i’m gonna go work now!

  • hey Richard good on ya for taking the noble journey! :D

  • thanks Adrijus ! I get so lost on long re-writes, I love/hate short ones like this particular article probably took me hours of re-writing. I think i’m just slow at it and not particularly practiced yet.

  • thanks Tung appreciate the encouragement !

  • that’s quite gansta of you!

  • hey it’s worth saying twice!

  • Well – we’ll see if I don’t end up stuck myself! Thanks Dan!

  • Hey, I’m just glad to hear you haven’t given up on finishing the book!

    E-mailed you. :-)

  • Thanks Shayna! I’ll check out your email today!

  • Adrijus Guscia

    If it was easy everyone would do it. :)

    If the concepts are still fresh/forming I guess it would make it even harder. Anyway, you’ll pull it off, man! And I’m gonna get my signed copy… (or else!!!..)

    Soldier on! :)

  • Looking forward to the book. Rip, pivot, jam was one of my favorite TMBA episodes.

  • John Neil

    You know you’re a DCer when: you put an offer at the bottom of your “I failed” post. :D

  • If I may paraphrase – you haven’t failed, you’ve just found 1,000 ways not to write a book :)

    I often tell people about the Rip, Pivot, Jam concept, so the sooner there is a book I can point someone to the better. Now, get to it!

  • You get me Dan Andrews, you get me. #swoon

  • Joshua Ebner

    Complete or not, 350,000+ words is awesome.

    Good luck!

  • Marc Gray

    Of the rip, pivot, and jam sequence, jamming is often the hardest. Hopefully this will work out well and you’ll have an applicant who lives in Ijamsville. (But careful – there’s a detour at the distillery! Don’t believe me? Check it out yourself – http://bit.ly/1pYpw4e )

  • :D trying to turn this frown upside down :)

  • thanks Chris!

  • haha… i should have mentioned above that it inspired a mancation to writerly destinations! now that’s some first class procrastination !

  • thanks Josh

  • no shit!

  • btw this weeks podcast is about Jam essentially! just recorded it

  • Good luck with getting someone to stitch up your book Dan, I can’t help you but I’m happy to share it around on SM for you…cheers

  • Classic I love it. Great idea Damien.. The Tropical MBA Book will rock.. Can’t wait to read it..

  • You’re gona ship more than 2000 copies man. I’ll buy one, I’ll make my mum buy one, everyone in the DC will buy one, half the TMBA listeners will buy one, and I’ll buy another one and send it to the bossman in case he doesn’t buy one himself. Go work dude, I can’t wait! :)

  • hackventure

    Look forward to the book going live, I’m buying it for sure!

    I’m “working” on my own as well, I might just RIP your model and get someone to complete it for me lol!

  • TJ Nelson

    Can’t wait for the book. It probably is pretty great right now as it is. The fact that you are this focused on making it excellent is just more proof that this book is going to rock.

  • hmm – Ian’s had a call with me on it Dan. He can give you some insight into what my take would be on this ;) I work with NYT & USA Today bestseller clients. I can tell you this right now – the statement, “Although well meaning, I’m not really interested in the “sales
    potential,” “launch strategies,” or “positioning and branding” and all
    that jazz…would make me put on my sneakers and run in the opposite direction.

    You said “My primary goal is to complete a book worth reading– worthy
    of the attention of TMBA readers. We have enough marketing around here,
    what we are looking for is great product.”. I’m very surprised at this limited thinking. The sale of your book is the only way you can reach people – who would actually put into action whatever they read. Unless you plan to give it away for free just because it’s a form of creative self expression. Cool. And if it’s a nonfiction book I can tell you right now – free will mean fewer people take it seriously. There’s not enough marketing in the DC. Too many people haven’t latched onto the fact that selling or marketing effectively is a form of service – when your deepest desire is to be a bridge between where your customers/clients are and where they want to go. It takes about 7-8k units moved in 7 days to hit the NYT bestsellers list. Why write a book if you are not gonna do it right. Liberate yourself from the limited thinking – it won’t serve the folks whose lives would be changed by the wonderful insights you have to share.

    love you like a play cousin, even though we’ve yet to meet you seem hella cool (urbandictionary play cousin, haha)

  • Thanks TJ!

  • heyooo!!! :D

  • yeah buddy thanks for the support Glen

  • appreciate that Andy!

  • haha that play cousin thing kills me.

    I’d be very interested to hear your perspective with your clients, I will defo remember this when we pull together the packaging/marketing in a few months time. Appreciate the comment and agree I should know more about this stuff before I discard it.

  • I have no value to add here but just wanted to say all the best with it. I remember seeing a very early version of a book you were working on. I think it was great and you shouldn’t beat yourself up too much. Looking forward to spreading the word once it’s out.

  • very much appreciate that Dan!

  • mike

    Looking to create a informational product. Where do I start in regard to creating the product. I have the knowledge and resources but no clue on how to structure it or get started?

  • Improver


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