This is a really awkward blog post to write. Mostly because I now have to backtrack on a lot of the things I said recently. I’ll cut a long story short: I’m no longer writing Viral Marketing for Dummies. This was not a decision by Wiley, nor the person who approached me with the book offer. It was entirely mine, and an entirely difficult one at that.
And maybe not even the
write right one to make. I’ve had to tell this story countless times to family and friends over the last few weeks, usually leading to disappointed faces and people not really understanding my decision, so hopefully I can express myself better when I carefully craft the words.
If anything, this post is a lesson in saying no. It’s about realising when something or someone may not be worth your time anymore, and it’s better to cut your losses sooner or later, rather than just appealing to your ego.
I joked with my friend Gabe last night that this should have been the title of the post, because in a weird way bullet points are a big part of the reason that I’m no longer writing the book.
The day after I published the blog post on how I landed the book deal (after months of build-up to actually making it happen) was the day I also pretty much decided I wasn’t going to be writing it. It was a very new emotional experience, and although the decision was fairly quick, I promise that it wasn’t easy.
It was the day I received feedback on my first few chapters, and to be honest, I feel kind of stupid based on the suggestions that were made to me to improve the content. It wasn’t my writing ability that was the problem, but rather the format of my writing which would have to be drastically changed.
Almost every page of my draft had a section where the notes were “Add a ‘Warning Icon’ here” or “This would be better as bullet-points“. Not just randomly here and there, but practically on every page I had written. I was a little disheartened, and frankly quite surprised at how much had to be changed.
I flicked back through the Dummies books I had received after signing my contract and honestly felt silly to not have realised it before. Literally every other page of these three books I have are filled with warning icons, ‘remember this’ icons and bullet points. If you have one at home, take a look for yourself.
I don’t know if it’s something I totally overlooked in the excitement of having a book deal and my name on bookshelves, or something I thought I would by able to bypass in my own for Dummies publication. Needless to say, it’s a style that’s a world apart from how I’ve been writing online for the last seven years.
Half way through my re-writing I came to a pretty simple conclusion: The publisher will be happy with these changes, but I wont be happy to be the person with my name on them.
I have made a few rash decisions in my life, and since there was really so much to lose by not writing this book, I definitely didn’t rush the decision. I decided to do quite a bit of reading on the topic, and reached out to some friends for their advice (with permission to post here).
I discovered Amy Lynn Andrews, from Blogging with Amy, who has a 7-part series about why she too turned down a book deal. In part 4 she said something that I (or at least my ego) could really relate to:
“There are aspiring authors everywhere for whom a book offer would be a dream come true. I felt very humbled and very honored.
At the same time, I battled pride, foolishly (and wrongly) believing this somehow bumped me up to a new level. The truth is, a part of me longed to join the ranks of other bloggers who were making the leap to “published author” status.
A huge part of me said I would be a crazy to let the opportunity go. Would I ever have the opportunity again? Let me be clear. I LOVE that publishers are seeking out bloggers (very smart move) and that bloggers are going for it!
Yes, this was an exceptional opportunity. But was this the right opportunity for me? Right now?”
I reached out to Pat Flynn, one of my closest blogging friends, who had some great advice:
“I don’t know how much this book means to you, I’m sure it’s a dream come true for you to get a book published, just like it is for me, especially one that matches your exact branding efforts on ViperChill, but I can also tell it’s not really going the way you had planned. I’m not sure where you’re at, but I’d do one of two things:
1) Tough it out and just deal with it – knowing it’s going to not be the best it can be because of them wanting to have control over you, but all of that in exchange for YOUR NAME as the author of a dummies book, which will do massive things for you and your brand. That’s much more prestigious than self-publishing or even publishing a non-dummies traditionally published book.
or 2) Know that you don’t absolutely NEED this book deal. You don’t, you’re crushing it already and are going to crush it even more no matter what you do, and who knows a BETTER book deal may be around the corner you just don’t know it. I feel like your gut is telling you to forget about it and you have to ask yourself, how wrong or right has your gut been before. How well has it helped you get to where you’re at today.”
Steve Kamb of the famous Nerd Fitness also had some wise words for me…
“Yeah, this is tough. Honestly? Go with your gut. On top of that, ask yourself why you’re writing the book. You’re obviously not doing it for the money – you have no problem making enough of that. So ask yourself what’s important for you with this book:
Is it because you want to be a published author?
Is it because you want to present your angle on a topic that desperately needs help from somebody that actually knows what he’s talking about?”
It definitely felt like if I continued with the writing, I would be doing it more for the ability just to say I’m an author.
Since Andrea is a professional copywriter for a number of popular publications, I also reached out to her to see what she had to say. Her advice was spot-on…
“Well, do you remember when we were trying to get the Guardian into the idea of the column, and they turned around and said they felt I needed to use different experts, and not just yourself? We both knew it wouldn’t have worked that way, and I had to put that to them and was prepared to take the column idea elsewhere if they didn’t listen. This is a very similar situation, it sounds like to me.
I think it’s pretty much a case of being confident in what you know and how this will or won’t work, and putting it to them that you are the expert and they are commissioning you exactly for this reason. And I think (contract permitting?) you may have to be prepared to pull it and take it elsewhere.”
After reading all of this, I felt like I was making the right decision. Even through all three of them tried to steer me into the option of doing all I can to make the book work, the other side of their argument (doing it later / waiting for a better deal) was appealing to me much more.
It was after speaking to Jon Cooper from PointBlankSEO that I was really pushed over the edge.
A few weeks prior, Jon had written a blog post about his uncertainty with his college future. He’s a rising celebrity in internet marketing – and a young one at that – and asked for advice on what he should be doing. Later he sent me this email:
“You have no idea how much of an impact your simple, succinct comment (you left on my personal blog) has had on me. A week after I wrote that post I realized I was waking up each day not looking forward to too many things. The only joy I got in a day was hopping online and learning some bit of code, writing a post, or trying some new online marketing thing out.”
I had forgotten exactly what it is I wrote to him, so went to take a look…
Applying my own advice, it’s clear that the passion had quickly been drained from this project, and I could see it being more of a chore than something I’m really excited about doing. And I know I can be really passionate about writing.
Could I write it if I was determined to get my name on bookshelves? Absolutely. Would I be happy with the end result? Probably not. And I definitely wouldn’t be happy to push it on this blog, and try to convince you all it’s going to be an amazing, easy read.
Before I say anything else, I want to add that I’m very grateful to Wiley and specifically Claire for reaching out to me with the book offer. I was very flattered to be thought of and really excited to be writing it at as well. Nothing they as a company or anyone individually has done was the reason I didn’t go ahead with the book.
If I had to put it down to one thing then it would simply be me overlooking the format of for Dummies books, or at least overlooking that my writing style just can’t be squeezed into the for Dummies mold.
Just because I decided it wasn’t for me, I didn’t want to leave them in the lurch. I was asked if I recommended anyone else who would be a good fit for the title. I put forward two suggestions, and as far as I can see they’ve chosen one and it’s still going ahead.
My position has been demoted from author to ‘technical editor’. That simply means once the book is finished, I’ll be going through it before publication to ensure its accuracy (not style, or flow, just accuracy). I thought it is the least I could do after letting down the team with my withdrawal.
As far as my focus goes now, not much has changed. We’re still working away on OptinSkin (and I’m still battling with Clickbank to get that price increase), and I have over a dozen blog posts lined up (really) for next year to start things off with a bang. Oh and not to forget our new plugin which is finished, and just needs to be launched.
Thank you as always for following the journey, and sorry to anyone who is disappointed by this news. I literally printed out all of the supportive comments I received on the initial post after it went live for motivation, as it really meant a lot to me that so many of you were behind the idea.
I hope what I have in store for the very-near future makes up for it…
P.S. A few months ago I backed my first ever Kickstarter project. Since I’ve spent a lot of time in Thailand I was moved by the journey of the Thai National Cheerleading team who went from pretty much poverty and practicing outside on concrete to being joint winners with America in the 2011 World Cheerleading Championships. It was the first time a non-US team won Gold in the competitions’ history.
I helped to fund their DVD which documents their journey. Not only did it make me and everyone I’ve shown it to cry (no matter how manly they are) but it also won the OS Film Festival and was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. They sent me this video as a thank you…
I’ll let you all know when the DVD is available to buy if you’re interested 🙂