Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Five feedback hacks authors can use to make their book stand out

My new book, The MECE Muse, is being distributed worldwide today and I could not wait for this moment. It’s been gratifying to hear and read early accolades about a project that was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences I have had professionally to date.

As I continued to reflect on this journey, I thought about decisions that paid dividends. Although each of the techniques below created turning points in my writing journey, a key theme stuck out - they all centered on feedback. Creating space to receive feedback throughout the writing process in whatever form is an area all authors should take seriously.

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard

Feedback beta reader group. Beta readers are a group of people curated from your targeted future book readers to preview your manuscript at various different points with the sole intent on giving you feedback. Based on the topic, beta readers give invaluable insights of what they need from the book. I had a diverse set of 7-12 individuals, all who were living versions of the avatar of my ideal readers. They collectively picked my book apart and helped me put it back together. If you are writing a book and do nothing else - make sure you assemble beta readers that are not afraid to provide constructive feedback.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates

Primary research. While an author may decide to conduct secondary research, taking the extra step to do your own research is a great differentiator. While primary research adds an additional layer of scope and time to your book project, it is well worth it. Not only is it a great way to laser focus on the angle of your book, what you may uncover can sometimes surprise you. In the MECE Muse, I conducted research by connecting with over 50 consulting partners and leaders across 27 different professional services firms on what makes a great consultant.

“There is no failure. Only feedback.” – Robert Allen

Bring your experiences to life. Attending events with fireside chats of consulting partners and leaders was the closest I got to finding mentorship earlier in my career. I wanted to capture the power of clarity that a leader fireside chat provides and conducted interviews as a subset of primary research for the book. I purposefully kept interviews largely intact to mimic a true fireside chat in the voice of the consulting partner that provided the story. What is interesting is that while I already had similar content to what they collectively shared, the coupling of their individual perspectives provided interesting texture while validating concepts and hypotheses I already had based on my 15 years of consulting experience.

Getting a popular vote on key visual design elements. With books, details really matter. The book cover and internal design layouts are key areas that I continue to receive praise on. It took a global village to decide on the book design elements. While I focused on obtaining feedback on content from targeted readers, 100s of people across the world - many whom were perfect strangers - in person and online gave me feedback on the book designs.
“Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let people see you value both feedback and ideas.” – Jim Trinka and Les Wallace

Feedback from an online course cohort. Enrolling in Seth Godin’s altMBA leadership development program was also one of the best decisions I made for my book journey. The altMBA is a 4 week virtual immersive sprint that you experience with 100 people all over the world at the same time The program’s sole intent is to arm you with tools, concepts, and candid “altMBA style” feedback to help you take whatever your goals to the next level. My cohort provided generous feedback on all aspects of the book from angle positioning, who the book is for, constraints, storyline techniques, and much more. While this hack is not for everyone or for every program, my altMBA experience provided the momentum I needed to complete the book.

This perfect storm of feedback hacks brought clarity to my message, helped me dig deep to provide value to my targeted reader, and gave me the confidence to push through the end of this years long project.

Here’s to your journey to greatness.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Letter to my 2015 aspiring author self :: reflections of a published author

Today is the day.  I finally launch my book, The MECE Muse.   A book that I thought into existence over 16 years ago under a conference room table picking up papers (long story – read more of the story in the MECE Muse preface).  A book that organically came to be after spending the last 8 years being the mentor that I wish I had earlier in my career. 

In celebration of this incredible life milestone, I decided to write a letter to my aspiring author self and share some reflections (while they are still fresh) of the writing and publishing process for those that may be in the valleys of their first book journey as well.   
Please enjoy.

Dear 2015 Christie,
I wanted to go back in time and write a letter to share some of the highlights of the journey that you are about to embark on with this book idea.   While I know that you are in the midst of wedding planning, there is whisper you have been hearing for quite some time.  It’s time to write that book.  I know you have been wrestling with the idea for years.  Well, it is time to answer the call.  And I want to be the first to tell you… you can do it.  And guess what?  You do not need another college degree, a specific title or promotion, or one more project under your belt before you can be considered a credible consultant and expertise.  You have got the goods, so stop second guessing yourself.    
You got this!  Before you get started, here are some other thoughts to keep in mind:  

  • Writing something every day will be one of the best decision you make.  That decision will pay off dividends in the future of your book because of the habits you end up creating. You will not only become a better writer & build more confidence, you will end up creating a blog to which 1000s of people will read your posts, and it will inspire you to create a podcast show.  One suggestion as you go down this journey is to consider creating an outline earlier on of the content in the book and while writing every day, have a compass as to what you need to write.
  • You are going to struggle with who the book is for because you are trying to help so many people.  I get it.  As you begin writing, consider creating an avatar of who you want the reader of this book to be.  Run your avatar suggestion to some of your close colleagues.
  • Every time you write a page, I recommend reading it out loud before moving on.  You will save yourself a lot of time during the editing process.
  • Start the outreach process for gathering interviews from consulting partners earlier in the journey of the book.  While that was another great decision, do not be so nervous about reaching out to others for help with the book.  You will be thrilled to know that people – sometimes perfect strangers – are going to be so excited to hear about your project.  Your passion will influence a lot of people to go out of their way to help. They will root you on, introduce to others that can help, and give you great resources.
  • Some nights and weekends are going to be tougher than others.  Embrace the suck.  I’m not going to sugar coat it, some days writing a book just suck.  Remember why you are writing the book and as needed, take breaks.  You will find that taking a couple of nights off to give you time to think through your next steps will actually help you write better and think with more clarity.  
  • After you finish writing the book, you are going to spend almost an entire year going through the publishing process.  Surprise!  Take the time to do research and plan it out, but let the process unveil itself.  Do not be in a rush because this is the crucial stage where you take a somewhat ok manuscript and polish into what will become a masterpiece.
  • Do not obsess over the aesthetics of the book or stress about it.  Your publishing team is going to do a great job and the book is going to be absolutely stunning to look at and feel to the touch.  Your book is going to be exactly as you had envisioned it. And you are going to be so proud of the day that you get to hold the final product in your hand.   
  • Do not stress over the fact that it is taking a long time to write and publish the book based on your original expected timeline.  You are going to meet John Kotter (yes, that John Kotter!) and he is going to share insights as to why your book was actually right on time.
  • You are going to inspire a lot of people just through your own journey.  Be proud that because of people watching your own walk, you will create a community of authors around you. Get ready because you will be attending a lot of book launches in the future!

Lastly, I am proud of the person you have become through this journey; your family, friends, and colleagues are too. Mom, dad, grandma, and all of your ancestors are beaming in heaven right now.  I look forward to seeing you on the other side.   

In the meantime, I will be right here rooting for you.

To greatness,
Christie Lindor