Today marks a big day in my life.
I completed my first book. I just sent off the final manuscript for publishing. (That’s fancy-words for “I emailed a formatted PDF to the publisher.”)
This book is all about cyber-security for small businesses. While some of the content applies to individuals, I geared it toward the needs of business owners. Stuff like how to stay safe while traveling, what makes a strong password (hint: it’s not a word), and why you should NEVER leave your laptop unattended.
I started writing this book back in July 2019. It started during a plane trip from Ontario to Alberta. I had lots of time to spare, so I started a series of blog posts about computer security for business owners. I’m often asked about this topic, so I figured I would write some stuff down.
After a few more nights of marathon writing (that’s my style – I just write like hell for a few hours, barf out a few thousand words, and then edit later), I looked at what I had. It was then I realized, “huh. Maybe I could put this in book form.”
So I did.
My company has a publishing division, and I’ve published e-books for my clients in the past. I also have a background in printing – no, really. Our high school raised money by running small print jobs for the rest of the schools in our district. As a result I got to learn about the printing process. What fonts to use when, why bleeds are important, margins versus gutters, all the fun technical details.
I’m a big believer in Scott Adams’ talent stack, which he describes in his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Technology is, has, and always will be my core skill. I supplement it with plenty of others. His hypothesis is that each skill you acquire roughly doubles your odds of success.
I’ve learned how to podcast.
I’ve produced my own music.
I’ve got a background in cinematography and have produced my own YouTube show.
As I mentioned above, I’ve published books for my clients.
I’ve got graphic design experience.
I know how to make websites.
I’ve written a lot of content over the years. My archive file has over 200,000 words.
Why do I mention all this? It’s because while I have a lot of average skills (aside from the tech side, which is strong), I have a unique combination of these skills. They all help me to overcome limits.
I would have never thought to publish a book. Besides, don’t you need big publishing houses to agree to give you an advance and maybe a couple pennies worth of royalties?
When I published Penny Knapp’s Survivors of Suicide Loss handbook, I learned that all I needed to do to publish the book was issue some ISBN numbers and convert it into a format acceptable to Amazon’s Kindle service. Overnight my company started a publishing division.
I mentioned I’ve produced and published my own music. Publishing a book is exactly the same – you’re taking some form of content and putting it into a medium of some sort. With computers, you’re just working with files. For BandCamp, I uploaded some FLAC and MP3 files. For Amazon, I uploaded some well-formatted PDFs.
My experience has helped me to see these sorts of processes in the abstract. Instead of looking at publishing a book, I look at, “how can I get this content into people’s hands?”
I never set out to write a book. But my combination of skills made it happen almost by accident. Some random boredom on the plane, combined with a few extra nights of work led to a book.
I designed the cover.
I formatted the text so it would fit perfectly on the page.
I created the website and sought out media attention.
I learned about pre-print copies and the importance of testimonials.
I studied up on persuasion and editing skills.
One part that troubled me was how much to edit the book. I will freely admit that I did this on my own time and haven’t received a penny from the pre-production process. I’m sure my accountant is going to have a stern talk with me later this year about me having such irresponsible activities like publishing a book. While assembling the final drafts, I sweated over how much I should edit.
Don’t worry. It has been reviewed and edited. I didn’t just foist my first brain dump on the masses.
However, you do have to draw the line somewhere. This is content that changes quickly. During the edit phase I even included details about a deepfake case that had come out only the day before.
My girlfriend gave me some great insight too. This was my first book. I can always put out a second edition (and I will inevitably have to). The first go at something is always the test flight.
I am damn proud of this book. Is it perfect? No. But it’s done. Which means the world can enjoy it and get value from it.
I’ve had way too many projects languish on my hard drive, where nobody except some magnetic charges get value from them.
What’s the moral of the story? Publishing a book probably isn’t as hard as you think it is. You write, then you edit, then you turn it into a format that can be consumed by other people.
Plus, writing isn’t the hard part. Promotion. Pre-sales. Events. Publicity. Sales. All that stuff takes way more time than writing.
That’s the next phase for the book.
For now, I hope you enjoy it. And if you made it this far, consider purchasing a copy on Amazon. The holidays are coming. Why not give the gift of security to someone in your life?