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5 things I learned writing my first book

5 things I learned writing my first book

All I needed to do was explain how the techniques that worked for me would work for others. Simple eh? What could be easier? I already had all the content in my head. Now I just needed to put it into a book. It shouldn’t take too long. I was wrong – and it would not be the only thing I would learn on my journey to publish my first book.

1. Writing a book is like a marathon

When I was ran my first marathon back in 2000 I remember being surprised at just how far 26.2 miles is to run. Writing my first book felt the same in that the road in front seems to go on forever. The longer it took, the more willpower I needed to keep going. On the start line of a marathon runners need the courage to leap into the race – without knowing how everything will play out. With the book – I needed the same runner’s self-belief to throw myself into something without having all the twists and turns mapped out.


If writing a book is like a marathon – it stands to reason that THINKING LIKE A RUNNER would be the way to approach the project. And that is exactly what I did. By deploying the very same techniques that I write about in the book I was able to COMPLETE the book. Thinking like a runner kept me motivated, energised, focused and determined. Being prepared to keep going and not give in was perhaps the most important factor. Sounds familiar, marathon runners?

2. I started ‘writing’ at the end

It may be because of the way I approached my book – but rather surprisingly I only felt to be actually ‘writing’ at the very end. Before that point I felt more like a spare parts dealer – gathering a rambling collection of ideas, techniques, concepts, stories and quotes. Putting everything together to make sense of it all was like trying to solve the world’s biggest puzzle. I had created this complicated intellectual challenge of my own making. At times I wondered if I was living in my own world – a bit like John Nash in the film A Beautiful Mind – occasionally concerned that my life’s work would not make sense to anyone but me.


I then realised that I could only fit about 30% into the first book. This may have been a good approach for laying the foundations for a trilogy – but it was not the most efficient route to getting a first book published. So finally – once I had organised and distilled my content into a basic structure – it was time to become a ‘writer’ and put everything into flowing sentences.

3. Writing a book is different to publishing a book

With the writing process nearly finished you may think that the project would now be on the last golden mile. But no.


As I discovered, WRITING a book and PUBLISHING a book are 2 very different things. Once the manuscript is finished it needs proof reading, possibly with the help of a professional copy editor. It is easy to start going round and round in circles with too many opinions extending the writing process in the pursuit of perfection. For my first book, I did not have an editor – only time will tell if that was a wise decision.

With the manuscript finished – rather than it feeling like a finish line – it felt like a new start line for the publication process. A book needs a cover, an ISBN code, illustrations and the raw words need to be laid out in a book format – a significant creative effort. Important decisions need to be made around the publishing method but whichever route a new author takes there are likely to be many steps and stages to getting the book on sale.

4. Publishing a book is different to selling a book

With the writing complete and the steps to publishing mapped out – it would surely be all downhill from here. Not quite.


If you choose the self-publishing route (as I did) then there is a big difference between PUBLISHING a book and SELLING books. The problem with self-publishing is that our friends and family may know where to find our book – but unless we make an effort to market it and plan it’s launch – nobody else will.


To reach an audience, self-publishing writers need to not only write – but pay attention to a whole range of other things such as social media, website design, brand building, launch strategy etc. The options are endless. Many people are happy to lend advice with a lot available for free on the internet (like this useful site: – but with so many possibilities it can be difficult to work out what is the best approach.

5. There is no such thing as SELF-publishing

Self-publishing sounds straight forward. Companies like Amazon make everything sound so simple – you load up your book, select your price and then sit back while all the production, distribution and invoicing is managed for you. Sounds great. But in reality I found there is no such thing as SELF-publishing. A novice writer has to build a website, find proof readers, manage social media, find an illustrator, find a copy editor, find a book cover designer, find a publishing partner and plan the book launch.


It is most unlikely anybody can do ALL of these things themselves to the required standard, especially a new author. The term SELF-publishing is misleading. ‘Self-publishing’ authors need to not only be able to write books but also be strong team-builders and project managers.

Yes, effective SELF-publishing is actually a TEAM effort!