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From Pitch to Print: The rollercoaster, personal journey of getting a book written.


I wrote a book. The weight of it in my hands fills me with pride, yet it's not the book I envisioned, nor the content I'm proud of. This is the journey of that book.

A cold out-reach email from Manning Publishers asked me if would I help with a book on Swagger. Given my familiarity with this technology in my day job and my interest, we scheduled a call.

Turns out they wanted me to write the whole book. Manning uses outreach to scout for potential authors to support a publishing pipeline that is voracious for new titles. Their buzzword research showed the potential for a Swagger book, and through connected GitHub projects, they found me.

They asked me to write a weighted table of contents (wTOC) and profile the minimum qualified reader (MQR). I soon found myself pitching them to write this book instead of being pitched to.

I was excited and knew this was the opportunity to learn more about the tech I work in. The best way to learn, after all, is to teach.

Through soul-searching I found I wanted to write to executives about APIs (related to Swagger), however, Manning steered me toward developers, as they wanted a bigger audience. It took eight tables of contents, filled with compromises until I was able to meet the editor and finalize the pitch. Manning was satisfied and now they wanted the book.

I signed the contract. I was going to be an author.

Of course, I was nervous and doubted whether I wanted or even could do it. In the end, I pulled the trigger, and that's what matters.

So how do you write a book? It's surprisingly simple, you find a block of time you can commit to writing and you write. You write whether you want to or not.

The first two chapters were okay, I had the framework of the book and each small chapter was a milestone. The material was well-known to me, and I didn't need much research. But it started to get real in chapter three or four (I forget). It wasn't so much the writing, it was the editing. When wanted to tweak an early paragraph, it would require a chain of edits for everything that followed, sometimes parts that came before. It became painful.

I started to dread the time I would need to spend in front of my computer to write. By chapter five, I couldn't even write a stream of consciousness, where you write whatever comes to mind. There was nothing inside me, like drawing blood from a stone.

Eight chapters I wrote, of a projected 25-30. I became an empty shell. At a chapter a month, a year had passed since the pitch. I hated writing now.

I asked for help, reaching out to friends and colleagues to co-author this with me. Flattered as they were, they all politely declined. With no more options, I returned to Manning, pleading for a co-author. They found him - Lukas, a German consultant and blogger, who was interested in furthering his career through a large writing project.

Together we devised a plan to complete this book dedicated to developers and divided the chapters accordingly.

The dread of sitting in front of my screen and writing never went away. Worse, I didn't like what my co-author wrote. He rightfully wrote in his own style with ideas that conflicted with mine. I hadn't made it easier to write my book, I had simply given up half of its real estate.

And then one day, It was printed. It never felt done, the reviews and the rewriting were endless but when the box arrived, sooner than I expected, and I held the book in my hand, it was done. The joy in me that day bordered ecstasy.

It took four years of my life. I wrote a book for developers when I wanted to write for executives. I gave up half my share of the modest sales and indeed half the book itself.

But I am proud and while I won't say I wrote the whole book, I will happily claim that I got it written.

When you, dear reader, get interested in writing your own book - which you will. I will leave you with these words, which are also... not my own.

"I don't like to write, but I love having written."

Quote sources:

Note: This blog post was written for the Shiny Dime challenge by Write Of Passage

The prompt for this post was: "Write about a time you overcame an obstacle and achieved something you’re proud of."