What I learned from publishing an e-book

Last spring I published an e-book: Business Models for a Circular Economy: 7 Companies Paving the Way, which you can download for free here: http://jpovaska.com/business-models-for-a-circular-economy-e-book/

I learned a lot from publishing the book, and I wanted to share my thoughts. So let’s jump right in.

Start small…

To be honest, I didn’t plan on publishing an e-book. In fact, all I wanted to do was to write one blog post about a company I heard of while working as an intern at Demos Effect.

However, after publishing the first blog post, things soon started escalating in my head. This is how my internal dialogue throughout the project, condensed into one conversation, looked like:

Me: “hmm, brain, did you see that – that’s a really interesting company! Why don’t we write something about it in my blog?”

My brain: “I’m on it, but have you heard of that other company with a very similar business idea? Now that we’re soon done with the first blog, why not write a second or a third?”

Me: “Well, I don’t know about that, I have a lot of stuff on my plate already, maybe we should..?”

My brain: “… write a whole SERIES of blogs about companies with similar plans?! We’ll call it Innovative Companies with Sustainable Business Models! We’ll distribute it through LinkedIn and prospective employers will soon be knocking on your door!

Me: “NOW WAIT A MINUTE. I don’t have time to write all this – I already have a ton of other stuff going on, including a full-time job, you need to calm down…”

My brain: “you know what, while we’re at it, we might as well wrap the blog posts in a nice e-book, write an intro article about circular economy and publish it on your website! This is so exciting!!”

Me: “What! No, wait, you’re getting out of control…”

My brain: “And we’ll get guest writers, a graphical designer to do the layout, and get Sitra to fund the project”

Me: “why are you doing this to me…?”

My brain: “don’t worry, we’ll write the blogs in a way that you can repurpose them easily, it’ll be fun!”

So that conversation happened during the first 1-3 blog posts that I published on my site around 1,5 years ago. Each blog post and interview built up my appetite, and eventually I was ready for a larger vision than I started out with. However, I would have been overwhelmed had I known all the work I would end up doing to get the book published from the beginning . In smaller chunks, it was easier to trick myself to doing the work.

So start small, celebrate little wins, and build up confidence in your work first to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

…but think BIG

I like contradicting myself whenever possible, so the next piece of advice is to think BIG when you’re planning a new project, whether it’s book publishing or anything else. My publishing process was messy and many of the ideas I came up would have been much easier to implement had I planned them ahead of time. For example, had I planned on bringing in other authors, I could have contacted prospective collaborators much earlier to ensure that I have enough time for editorial work and for potentially finding even more collaborators.

Thinking big allows you to see what’s possible, search for opportunities in your environment, and look for potential allies and collaborators for your project. If you’re fixated on getting the next blog post out the pipeline, you can miss opportunities that might allow you to align different people’s motives and interest under one project. For example, I already knew that Sitra and Aalto University were involved with circular economy projects, but because I didn’t think of writing a book, I ended up contacting these valuable collaborators much later in the process. While I did get support from both, I would have gotten more done with less hassle if I had had the proper mindset from the start.

So, think big – it’ll be easier for you in the long run.

Hint: Repurpose your stuff!

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, working as a content marketing professional for a company, or blogging about your favourite cat vides on the web, I think you should have content repurposing as one of your essential tools in your content tool kit. No, I don’t mean plagiarising or just copy-pasting content to other platforms. Repurposing means that you literally find new and VALUABLE purposes for your old content, and it’s commonly used by content marketers and bloggers all over the interwebs. The new purpose needs to be somehow valuable to your audience: For example, readers can find value in reading your series of blogs in the form of one, well edited e-book or a white paper, instead of having to go through each blog individually. Remember that if you repurpose your blog in another format or publish the blog in someone else’s platform, you need to make sure that the platform owner also knows that you’re repurposing content. Some content providers might not agree to this, though. One of the more interesting businesses that is based on repurposing content is the blog: Wait but why. While you can read the blog for free, you can also buy the blog posts in a pdf format for a few dollars on Amazon.

Thinking by doing

Let’s get philosophical for a moment. Sometimes you can’t think big no matter how you try, and that’s because thinking and doing are two sides of the same coin. We humans tend to disassociate thinking from doing, and to assume that we first use rational thought to come up with designs, and then we project these design onto the world. Many business, economics, and strategy theories are built on the assumption that thinking and doing happen in neat sequences, where planning and rational decision making is followed by efficient execution. There are many scholars that disagree with this model of human action, and several approaches have been put forth as alternatives, including design thinking, agile development, the lean startup method, and many others.

With my e-book, I didn’t see the big picture until I started taking action – doing came first, not thinking. So, I wouldn’t give up planning altogether, as it definitely serves a purpose. However, in the future I will also know that action is a integral part of planning.

Resources

Creative Commons Learning is Hanging Out by Alan Levine is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Brown,Tim. (2009). Change by design: how design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. HarperCollins. USA. https://www.amazon.com/Change-Design-Transforms-Organizations-Innovation/dp/0061766089

Ingold, Tim. (2013). Thinking through making. [A lecture]. Retrievable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ygne72-4zyo

Pulizzi, Joe. (2016). Content Inc: how entrepreneurs use content to build massive audiences and create radically successful businesses. http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/content-inc/

Schon, Donald. (1983). The reflective practitioner. Basic Books Inc. USA.

Wait but why: new posts every sometimes. (2016). Retrievable:  http://waitbutwhy.com/