So You Want to Write a Book? Here’s My Tale…
11 minute read
I often call myself an “accidental entrepreneur.” I didn’t dream of launching and running my own company. It happened organically, over time, as I pursued a personal mission of making healthy choices easier for consumers.
This past October, I published my first book, Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters, the culmination of about four years’ work of journaling. Except that when I started journaling, I had no intention of turning my writing into a book. So I guess now you could call me an “accidental author” too.
On The Road Again
Building Hint over the years has often required that I travel around the country to places where I didn’t know people. I would arrive at a speaking event or a meeting, but didn’t always have a friend in town. Instead of choosing to sit in my room and watch TV on those lonely evenings in my Holiday Inn Express, I choose to start journaling in my Holiday Inn Express. Something different.
During my keynotes and talks at events, I’ve always enjoyed the Q&A at the end from the audience. You never know what kind of questions you might get asked. The audiences for each event are different, but over time, I’ve noticed a distinct trend – statements about me, or entrepreneurs in general. Misconceptions. They start with –
“I’m not a fearless risk-taker like you….”
“I’m sure you have never failed.”
“Would you say ‘luck’ or ‘skill’ was your secret weapon?”
“Your education definitely…”
“Your experience definitely helped….”
So each night I would write my thoughts out and record answers to those questions in my journal. I wrote down story after story from my past. And soon, I realized that these stories from my career and my life were often different than one might expect. I’d journal about my early career at Time Inc. Other times I’d recall a recent family trip when we hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim. Little vignettes, slices of life, lessons learned, fears tamed, failures and doubters overcome.
Looking back, I think what motivated me most was hearing from people who had been in the audience. They would often DM me on LinkedIn or send me an email right after. And they would say that my talk really helped them in some way. A breakthrough of some sort.
So it got me thinking. What if I could help a lot more people who didn’t get to hear these talks. Maybe I could bind my journal into a book and help others realize that not all entrepreneurs are fearless risk-takers or even unicorns!
Well, that ended up getting me introduced to my terrific agent, then my editor (well, my husband was one of them too) and then, of course, my publisher. But I am getting ahead of myself.
So many of the stories from my journal answered that one consistent question I would get at almost every event. “What’s the secret trait or inherent edge that entrepreneurs have – what sets you apart and makes you successful?”
The short answer? Curiosity. Willingness to try. Recognizing that fears are normal. Failures will happen. And so might success!
Is This… A Book?
Over 600 pages later, my journal brimmed with stories from my life and career – from my childhood all the way through the launch and growth of Hint. And they all added up to a bunch of great life lessons that I’d learned along the way. An incredible journey.
Then a woman I knew introduced me to my incredible agent, Carol. She, along with her husband Kent, helped me find the “spine” of my book and really fleshed out the proposal. So many of the stories I had written down were about confronting fears and defying skeptics – going back to my first job at a local toy store in Scottsdale, Arizona (at the ripe old age of 14!), to the founding of Hint, to the creation of Hint extensions like deodorant, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer. The theme and through line of my book was emerging – an unusual combination of memoir, business stories, personal observations, and my advice for living a more undaunted life.
Finding the Right Publisher
Once we got the proposal locked down, we started reaching out to publishers. It was a fascinating process, and eventually Harper Collins Leadership was the winner! But really, I was the winner, because I found the right people who really saw the potential in all the stories I’d written. The lessons too. And given that I was still the very full-time CEO of Hint, I needed an editor (or two!) who could work with me to craft, cut, and edit my stories down to a readable couple hundred pages. My agent introduced me to an outside editor who helped me get my notes into a logical format while maintaining the spirit of what made the book unique.
I was well on my way to publishing a book! And learning the ins and outs of yet another new industry. I was asking questions about how distribution works, how to create an audiobook, and how to market the book as well. The intricacies of publishing were my new fascination. I wanted to do everything in my power to get my book out there and try and make it a success.
Moving Toward Publication
As the book was taking its final shape, we arrived at the perfect title – Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters. The manuscript was turned in in late January of 2020. We were still on schedule to meet the publishing date that had been set for late October 2020.
March rolled in. And the start of the pandemic for everyone here in the United States.
I landed in New York City for meetings, a conference, and my book cover photo shoot on March 11th. It seemed like things were starting to get “hot” by March 12th when plans for lockdowns in New York City were being discussed with no final dates as of yet. Offices were closing and people started exiting the city. I was surprised when my photographer confirmed our photo shoot for the morning of March 13th – after which I jetted off to JFK, barely making it onto my plane back home.
When I landed in San Francisco, my son asked me to stop at our local Target on the way home. It was there that I realized firsthand how quickly the implications of this virus had spread. The shelves were almost empty throughout the store. I hadn’t ever seen anything like it in my lifetime. There wasn’t a bottle of Hint anywhere to be found.
My publisher assured me that we were still on track for putting the book out in October. But once again, I was navigating uncharted territory. While I had many friends who had published books, none of them could give me advice on what was next. Speaking engagements were getting cancelled left and right. I was sure that my book launch would be affected. But what I’ve learned navigating through challenging times is that you have to recognize when you can’t change the situation. And that was truly the situation I was in.
The good news was that I still had six months until the book was being released. But I had to hustle. Many of the brick-and-mortar bookstores started closing, so book talks would be limited. I had to find a local recording studio to record my audio book – one that would, of course, adhere to social distancing rules. Conferences I had planned to speak at either cancelled, postposed or went virtual. I started working with my press team to line up as many press interviews as I could. And suddenly virtual events at various companies were starting to book me too.
During trying times, I have always found myself reverting back to a question that has given me strength to move forward. And that question is, “What can I do?” Now, that is. When no one has the answers that I need.
Social media. I realized that I could activate my social media to know that my book was coming out. And alert them to not only pre-purchase the book – hopefully – but also educate them about why I wrote it. And how they would benefit from it. Similar to what I would say in a book talk.
I hired a small group who specialized in social for authors to help me: Ken and Ruth at Target Marketing, and they were awesome! Having a social audience prior to a book launch, in my opinion, is so key! You build a community that wants to know more about you or something that you wrote. And they will be your advocates. If you aren’t planning on launching a book for a bit, plan on figuring out how to build an audience on social. Regardless of whether you launch your book during a crazy year as I did, you can’t go wrong. By the time my book came out, so many people had seen my book on social and were asking me or recommending me for interviews. I had done well over a hundred interviews prior to my book launch, and had at least a two hundred more planned through the end of the year. And those intros and asks for interviews haven’t stopped.
When The Book Is Finally Here!
October 20th. My book was out! It was such a great day and there were so many reasons to celebrate. While it was such a challenging time for all, I couldn’t help but realize how many were rooting for a successful launch. And I couldn’t help but think about how so many were dealing with the challenges around them. While there was no book launch dinner or party, my family and close friends made sure to have a terrific celebration for me on Zoom. Undaunted was finally getting into the hands of readers. I did about six virtual events that day and almost immediately began hearing from people who read the book and were excited to share their thoughts.
While in hindsight, I did write my book to help people get over their fears, doubts, and overall just be undaunted, I didn’t know that they would write me so fast. From all over. I knew that my personal experience would benefit others trying to move forward in business and life, but I hadn’t really thought how similar the response would be to consumers finding a product that helped them get healthy. And let me just say that there is no better feeling than helping people get to their full potential, in either situation.
Writing a book is tough work that takes time and patience. My advice to would-be authors is the same advice I give to would-be entrepreneurs. If your message can help others to recognize their full potential, why wouldn’t you write a book? As with any big endeavor, there will be ups and downs. There will be times that you’ll hit blocks and unforeseen obstacles. But if you have an important and vital story to tell, do it.
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