Tim Lewis: So, continuing my new show format, I’ve got another person we’re going to track in their self-publishing journey, and I’ll try as much as possible to help him along his way. Now, Ben is next quite considerably further along his self-publishing journey than Jen, in-as-much as he’s already run a crowdfunding campaign for the book. Now, Ben is quite an accomplished young, almost wonder kid marketer, and he runs the Marketing Buzzwords podcast where he talks about common buzzwords that people use in marketing, and what exactly they mean. Sometimes, he’s interviewing people, sometimes he’s doing solo shows.
Tim Lewis: He’s run a crowdfunding campaign, and he’s got some money together to actually produce a book about the content that he talks about on his show. So, let’s go over to the interview. Hello, Ben, welcome to the show.
Ben Roberts: Hi, Tim. Thanks for having me on, mate. It’s good to speak to you, again.
Tim Lewis: Yes. Because, I was obviously on your podcast, recently. So, you’re in a slightly different position from Jen who was on the last show, in that I know you’re a bit further ahead in your book project. Could you talk a bit about what your project’s going to be about, and also what your intentions are in terms of self-publishing?
Ben Roberts: Yeah, sure. And firstly, thanks for having me on. I think it was a really interesting podcast. So, I’ve listened back to your conversation with Jen, and I saw some … Because we’re both at very different stages, but there’s a lot of similarities. And, essentially, where this idea came from, for me, was I started a podcast back in, I think it was January, now, called the Marketing Buzzwords Podcast. I started interviewing people and learning more about marketing buzzwords and actually how they evolve and how they next are used and transcend marketing, and actually how they can impact both on individuals and on brands themselves.
Ben Roberts: So, when I started thinking about this more and more, and I started doing more research, and speaking to more people, I thought, “You know what? There’s a book in this somewhere.” And once I’d do it, I thought, “Okay.” I started mapping out what I want to do, and I’ve come up with three sections to this book. I’m naming it Marketing Buzzwords to Marketing Authority. Essentially, it look at, firstly, on the first section, what marketing buzzwords are, how they develop, why they’re used, some of the pros and cons around marketing buzzwords, and what happens to them over time.
Ben Roberts: How do new ones appear? Do they just appear out of the ether, or is it a never-ending cycle? Do they ever end? And answering some of these big, philosophical buzzword questions, almost. And then, it goes into the second section, which looks at taking what we learned in Section One into actually how it develops into a personal brand. So, looking at how people can build their own, personal brand around a marketing buzzword.
Ben Roberts: For example, Tim, we could almost argue it as look at yourself as an example, with your Begin Self-Publishing podcast. Again, you came on my podcast to talk about self-publishing. You could argue that you start building a personal brand around self-publishing as a buzzword, for example. And then, it’s how you build your authority, and how you become seen as an expert, an industry leader, a key opinion leader, whatever term you want to use around that.
Ben Roberts: Then, the third part looks at it from a slightly different angle again. If you want to take in all these different parts, looks at how a business can use a marketing buzzword as a common thread running through the business, so that everyone understands what the business is all about, through a common term.
Ben Roberts: So, people can have their own personal brand, and work on other, different projects, which may or may not be exactly involved with the original business, but they all got to link back to that common thread. So, it allows you to have increased reach, and again, build authority for your brand and your business, but ultimately it allows people to have their own creative freedom, as long as it comes back to that central pillar, or buzzword, within the brand.
Ben Roberts: So, I know it’s quite a long description about what the book is, but hopefully that gives an insight into where it’s come from and what I’m hoping it will be.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Well, there’s two things that have struck me, from what you were saying there. One is that you’ve clearly got a very defined plan as to how the book is going to go, and the other is your obvious enthusiasm for the subject. And both of those are, basically, very good things to have in terms of writing a book.
Tim Lewis: Now, you’re also quite a bit further ahead than Jen in that I know you have run a crowdfunding campaign for this book. So, maybe you could talk about how that has gone, and maybe not giving the punchline away, the fact you’re on the show talking about it, and that maybe you’re a little bit successful?
Ben Roberts: Yeah. So, funnily enough, I actually got the idea from listening to your podcast. I know I listened to a podcast years ago called Content Warfare, and it’s by a guy who self-published his own book, called Ryan Hanley, and basically I started listening to his podcast. And I found out, actually, this podcast’s based upon a book that he wrote, and that fascinated me. And then, I heard that he was actually on your podcast, talking about crowdfunding, and I know there were some different pros and cons around whether crowdfunding was a good thing or not, but I thought, “You know what? This sounds like a great idea for me. One, because it will help me validate the idea, and it really gives me an idea to actually what do people want?” And I think it allowed me to get a load of feedback in quite a constructive environment.
Ben Roberts: So, I ran it on a platform called Publishizer, which is based in the US, and essentially, it’s a crowdfunding campaign purely designed for authors, so, either existing authors, or upcoming authors. So, I know someone like … I think Neal Schaffer has crowdfunded a book through there, or this guy Ryan Hanley has done it, and I’ve done it as a first-time author, so, Neal Schaffer has published many books, and yet he’s still using the platform.
Ben Roberts: For me, I looked at so many different platforms, and this one was one that was designed for authors. So, everything about how you set it up was designed with authors in mind. At certain numbers of orders, they would pitch your book to actual set publishers as well. So, you weren’t necessarily committed to going with a publisher, because I know some people don’t like it, and that was one thing that was important to me. I didn’t know whether I wanted to go down the self-publishing route yet or down a traditional publishing route. And, what I liked about the crowdfunding platform is that, actually, it gave you the option. They pitched you, and then the publishers came to you and said, “We like this idea,” and then you decide, “Oh, actually, I want to work with you,” or not.
Ben Roberts: So, finishing up, then, it runs for a month, the crowdfunding campaign, I got 71 pre-orders over that 30-day period, and subsequently I’ve had more come in after which had not logged through the official crowdfunding campaign, so, I’m now up to 93 orders, as well. So, for me, it’s been an amazing way of validating the book idea, and also trying to help raise funds to make sure that I can produce the best possible quality book that I know I can at this time.
Tim Lewis: Okay. So, I don’t know … I know about crowdfunding platforms in general, but with that particular one, did you need to hit a certain number of revenue in terms of sales for it to be successful? Or was it just basically whatever the figure was at the end is what you’ll get?
Ben Roberts: Yeah. From what I’ve looked at, I didn’t think there was a base figure, but I’d set in my head that I wanted a minimum of 50 pre-orders, and my target was 100. So, for me, if I probably hadn’t got 50, I would have probably sacked in the idea, because for me, I think there wouldn’t have been the validation there for it. So, for me it would have been more of a personal thing to look at, if I hadn’t have got those numbers, then it probably isn’t worth me writing that book, just because there isn’t the market there for it.
Ben Roberts: I don’t think the platform had a minimum, but for me, I set one myself, just to make sure that I am next creating something that other people want. Because I don’t want this book to be just about me, I want it to really help people, and make sure that other people would buy into it, and would ultimately buy it as well.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. So, now, presumably, you have a certain amount of money from these pre-orders that you can spend on the book. Where are you in terms of writing the book? Have you just got this plan, or have you got a more detailed plan? Or have you written the book already? Where are you in terms of the book production process?
Ben Roberts: Yeah. So, I’ve got a big, big mind map. I’m using this platform called Coggle. Have you heard of it?
Tim Lewis: Vaguely, yes. It sounds familiar.
Ben Roberts: It’s basically a free mind mapping tool. It’s really good. Basically, I’ve just set up a massive mind map on there, and it sets out all my sections, and any ideas I get, I put into there. So, it gives me everything stored in one place, it allows my brain to visually visualise what I want from the book. So, I’ve currently done about 15,000 words of the initial manuscript now, so I’m looking at doing 35,000 to 40,000 words.
Ben Roberts: Again, I’m a little bit flexible on that. If I find that I start writing for the sake of it, I’ll cut it down, maybe. Or, if I find that I actually need to write a bigger book, I’m quite flexible around that. But that’s where I’m at at the moment in terms of trying to get this manuscript over the line.
Tim Lewis: Okay. So, where are you in terms of things like cover design, and getting a editor, or proofreader? Where are you in terms of the more nuts and bolts and non-writing part of the self-publishing, or are you going to leave that until you’ve completed writing the book?
Ben Roberts: Yeah, so, I’m doing a lot of thinking about this. Cover design, I know someone who’s really creative, who’s done some stuff before, and they can give me a really good rate on that, and I know they’d be really flexible around how many different draughts there’d be, and then the time with me to make sure that I can get it right, and the design that I like. And because it’s a friend, they’ll do a really good rate for me, which is amazing.
Ben Roberts: Now, the other bits that I am slightly more stuck on, the hardest one for me, at the moment, is looking at the editing. And this is really where I want to spend the bulk of the money, and I think I need to spend the bulk of the money, in terms of from the pre-orders. But I’m quite stuck in terms of what quality and what price of editor is right. Because there’s no set product, I find it quite hard to judge which editor is particularly good. Do you judge them by, purely, on their price? Do you find, let’s say, the right editor that matches your style of writing? Do editors even do that? That’s the bit where I’m stuck at the moment in terms of what editors. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Society of Copy Editors and Proofreaders. Is that the name of what I’m thinking of?
Tim Lewis: I think it’s Editors and Proofreaders, but … Yeah.
Ben Roberts: Yeah, so, I’ve spent a lot of time on that website looking through some of the different people, and I don’t know how you can tell the difference between some of them, really. It’s quite sad. So, I know that that’s the bit I’m really stuck on at the moment.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Well, I’ve interviewed a non-fiction editor, Denise Cowle, and a fiction editor, Louise Harnby, and yeah, I mean, the thing is that editing is quite complicated. The only thing is that given that my latest book, I made use of my mum to do the editing again. I was meant to hire an editor.
New Speaker: But you do work out how much editing experience actually helps, certainly with a non-fiction book. Because there’s lots of things like name checking and how the structure of the book should go that a decent editor can make a difference. It’s not just about proofreading.
Tim Lewis: I mean, a proofreading, you can … In some ways, editing, as in the copy editing and general advice thing can be more helpful than the actual proofreading side of things. But people tend to think that proofreading is all editing is. It’s all about fixing typos. And while that is part of it, it’s not necessarily the biggest thing. But you’re right, it’s quite intimidating, with editing, trying to work out exactly what you need.
Ben Roberts: Yeah. Is it worth, then, do you think, maybe, trying to look at one person who can do proofreading and copy editing? Or would you say it’s generally either better practise, or maybe from experience, that maybe you want to try and split up and have two different people? And if so, should that cost more or should it work out about the same, whether you had one person doing both, or two people doing each?
Tim Lewis: I think it’s generally going to be cheaper to have one person doing both.
Ben Roberts: Because then you can do it in one fell swoop, essentially?
Tim Lewis: Well, yeah. I mean, they will run passes through the document, and usually all done using Word, as far as I’m aware. So, Word has a Track Changes option, and certainly often they’ll come back with a certain number of edits. Yeah, I mean, it’s going to be … I kind of get the impression that your budget isn’t necessarily as big as maybe what they would be charging, so you may have to do a certain amount of the work yourself.
Tim Lewis: In terms of the actual proofreading side of it, just having software read out your book back to you can correct an awful lot of mistakes in terms of missed typos and the like. But the editors will give … In some ways, the other editing advice will give you advice on structure and those kind of things. But, you ideally put-
Ben Roberts: Would an editor not proofread as part of what they do then? For me, it almost sounds silly that if someone’s going to read through and edit it, they wouldn’t be proofreading it at the same time, if that makes sense.
Tim Lewis: Well, they have demarced roles. A copy editor is … I mean, they are doing a … I mean, typos are one thing, and then there’s how the sentences are structured. So, if I say, “Ben Roberts is a marketing buzzword expert and his marketing buzzwords are very good about marketing buzzwords and he knows a lot about marketing buzzwords,” then that is grammatically correct, but it just reads terribly, if you know what I mean. So, somebody on the more copy editing side would go back and say, “Well, maybe stop using that phrase, marketing buzzwords, every five seconds.”
Tim Lewis: And there are things like that where … And also structure of the document. If you keep repeating yourself and it doesn’t read well … This is where fiction is quite different in terms of editing for non-fiction, and it helps to have an editor who knows a bit about the subject area that you’re talking about. I mean, the struggle with using my mom for my book is that she doesn’t necessarily know very much about social media. So, I’ve had to go back and go through and re-read everything and make sure that I’m not … So, actually having professionals who …
Tim Lewis: That’s probably something to bear in mind. Whoever you find, try and find somebody who is used to editing books about marketing, or business in general, rather than they’re just somebody on Fiverr who can do a bit of proofreading for you. If that makes any sense. It’s the structure of the book. But then there’s called what, like developmental editors, I think they’re called, who are much more almost coaching you. And I’m not sure you’re necessarily going to be able to afford that to begin with
Ben Roberts: Yeah. Well, funnily enough, I actually went to this Amazon Author Academy this morning, because it was held five minutes from work. I didn’t actually stay too long in the end, because it was really focused upon the fiction writers. I mean, 90% of the people there were fiction writers, and they were talking a lot about developmental editing and stuff. It seems like that’s a lot more about the storyline and that, and making sure that there’s not holes in the plots and stuff. So, I’m not sure if that is … I think you’re right there, it’s not something that’s overly relevant, but it is still something to think about for future books, maybe, but definitely not now.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Well, I mean, the idea, I think, of developmental editing is that it’s getting the experience of somebody who’s been involved in a similar kind of book before. So, it’s like with me. I’m just going to be releasing my new first non-fiction book. It’s interesting, because I’ve written time travel stuff, I’ve written fantasy books, and now I’ve written a non-fiction book, and they’re all very different in the structures and the issues with the books. So, time travel is just tremendously complicated keeping track of everything. Where people are, and not suddenly reviving somebody who’s killed.
Tim Lewis: It takes a lot of effort to write time travel. But fantasy’s much more about the book. You have to make sure that you are consistent on your universe and your world building, and in terms of non-fiction, certainly an interview-based book like the one I did, I’ve got to make sure that every name that people have mentioned is spelt correctly, and I’ve understood exactly what they’ve said in the original audio, from what I recorded. The kind of book you’re writing makes a big difference, in terms of what editor you need and what kind of experience they have.
Tim Lewis: So, I think maybe, more than anything, go down that Society for Proofreaders and Editors list, look for somebody who’s more a business side. What they typically do is, if you give them a chapter, they will do a sample edit for that. And they may charge you 10 quid or something, but from that sample edit, you should be able to see if they’re doing the kind of thing that you expect them to do, so to speak. I mean, you probably need somebody to do the proofreading and the copy editing for you at the same time, but you’ll be able to look at what they suggest for the copy editing.
Tim Lewis: If it’s coming back and you’re thinking, “Well, this makes a lot of sense to me. Maybe I shouldn’t put this here.” Or, “I shouldn’t do that there.” Then that’s maybe the copy editor to go for. But if it’s, basically, they come back and they’re correcting all sorts of … Because you can have, and I’ve met people who’ve had … It’s probably more a case on the fiction side, but you can have people who have opinionated editors who really will over-correct the author because they’re trying to make it almost their book.
Tim Lewis: To be fair, I think most editors who are like this don’t last very long in the trade, but you can get people who over-edit stuff, who are basically, “It’s my way or the highway.” So, it’s important that you give a sample, and you see that basically you fit with them in terms of what suggestions you make. It should be that the suggestions they make are things that you think, “I hadn’t thought of that,” or, “That makes sense, I’m glad he’s spotted it,” or, “she’s spotted it.”
Ben Roberts: Yeah. No. I think that makes a lot of sense. I think you can learn quite a lot, then, from the sample copies, and maybe that’s something that I definitely need to take a look at. It’s not something I’d thought about before. Again, that’s why it’s great to have this conversation, where you can learn these little bits and these little tips and tricks to make sure that you get on the right editor. Because, I guess, the editing, as I said earlier, my research, in terms of who I have spoken to, is arguably, probably, one of the most important parts, because without a good edit, then actually, ultimately, your book can fall short, no matter how good your cover design is, your interior editing, maybe, is that content is the most important thing.
Tim Lewis: Well, I’m going to be a little bit cynical here. You accused me of being cynical on your podcast. In some ways the editing doesn’t matter as much as people think for initial sales of the book. But-
Ben Roberts: Well, not for initial sales, but I mean, for the longevity of it.
Tim Lewis: Yeah.
Ben Roberts: I mean, in terms of initial sales, it’s pretty much going to be, is quick word of mouth, and then over time, then, depending on how good the editing is, whether it stands up to the test of time.
Tim Lewis: Yeah.
Ben Roberts: I’m reading a book at the moment called The Perennial Seller.
Tim Lewis: You asked me the same question on your show. No, I haven’t
Ben Roberts: Oh, I did, didn’t I? Yeah.
Tim Lewis: Yeah.
Ben Roberts: And I was talking about that. Yeah, the idea of it actually being a piece of work that lasts a long time. Honestly, I’m talking about this book all the time because I’m really enjoying it.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. But, I mean, you’ve made the point that I was going to make, in that, actually, people generally buy books not knowing what the editing’s like. The editing, though, will affect, A, what people think in terms of reviews of the book, and reviews do matter for books. They don’t matter so much with podcasts, but they do matter for books. And also for people buying your next book. And also, the fundamental point is that people need to understand the point that you’re trying to make in your book.
Tim Lewis: If it’s the language you’ve used, people don’t understand or there’s errors, that people then stop reading your book, so, that’s where editing counts. It’s not so much for … You know, I think in terms of sales, the cover design matters a lot more than editing. But in terms of longevity and the reputation of the book, then I think editing does matter a lot.
Ben Roberts: Well, especially, I guess, if in the book I’m talking about building authority and credibility, and if the editing isn’t there, ultimately, that is … People are going to ask me to either speak at conferences, do workshops, have meetings with my business, because ultimately the content is correct and everything about it is there. They’re not going to hire you to a conference because you’ve got a really pretty cover design that actually someone else created.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I mean, I’ve always spent decent money on cover design. I’ve always slightly cheated, in that, even when my new book … For my fantasy books, I commissioned … I found somebody on 99designs, which is a design bidding competition thing where different designers bid, and then I used them for the fantasy books, but for the time travel books, and also for my new book, there’s a very prestigious designer called Damonza. But they’re too expensive, really, for what I would like to pay for a custom design. But they do what are call pre-made covers. So, basically, for months, I was scanning their list, and then I saw this one with this chess piece on it. And I thought, “I’m nabbing that.”
Tim Lewis: I bought it before, actually, I’d got round to actually finishing the … Committing to doing the book. So, that’s one option. You can find people to do … But from the sounds of it, you’ve already got somebody who is a designer who you know, and that is good, because even though, sometimes, getting a pre-made cover can be good, a lot of the time you just can’t find something that’s even remotely appropriate to your book. And certainly, something like your book, where it’s probably going to have bees on it and buzzing and marketing, that’s going to require a custom design, I suspect, anyway.
Ben Roberts: Yeah, definitely. I’ve spoken to her a few times. She came back with me with some ideas. I sent her, basically, what I used on the crowdfunding campaigns, where it explains and outlines the book. I sent her that, and she came back with some really interesting designs based upon that. And I was absolutely hooked on some of those that she did, without any real interference from me. For me, it was actually nice to see that actually the way I’d written it down in the crowdfunding campaign, someone was able to understand what I’d written, and create something that was close to my vision.
Ben Roberts: So, for me, hopefully that helped me to understand, “Oh, look, this does make sense, because someone has got the idea that I had in my head of what I want them to get from the book, and they’ve gone and done it without me asking.” So, now, when we go to actually create it fully, we’re already reasonably close, which is always an amazing place to be, and I’m not hunting around. Because I know you’re never 100% satisfied, but I feel really confident that I’m going to be really happy with how it looks.
Tim Lewis: Okay. So, if you listened to Jen’s interview, you’ll know that I asked her to commit to a date for finishing the book. I’m sure you’ve probably got some kind of idea in your head as to when you want to finish this book. So maybe we should talk about that.
Ben Roberts: Oh, dear. I knew you’d get to this point eventually. I was trying to delay the inevitable. Yeah, so, for me, February is where I had in my mind. Yeah, February was the time that I thought I want to get it done by. Do you want more specific than that?
Tim Lewis: I do. I want a specific date?
Ben Roberts: Oh, Tim. I’m going to have to bring up the calendar in front of me, now, and just make sure that I’m not going to be committing to it on a day that I hate.
Tim Lewis: There isn’t a 29th next year.
Ben Roberts: Oh, I was going to commit to that one. So, we’ll do February 29th, 2021. No. I reckon after a nice weekend. Let’s go for 18th of February.
Tim Lewis: Ooh, that’s a very exciting date. Do you know why it’s an exciting date?
Ben Roberts: Is it your birthday?
Tim Lewis: It is my birthday.
Ben Roberts: Is it actually?
Tim Lewis: Yeah.
Ben Roberts: Oh, flipping heck. There we are. That is a birthday present for you, then.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Now, I suppose, to do my due diligence, are you confident you can make that date? I mean, when do you reckon you will have finished the manuscript?
Ben Roberts: So, yeah, I want to finish the manuscript … What’s the date today? I want to finish it about just over a month’s time.
Tim Lewis: Okay. So, end of October time?
Ben Roberts: Middle of October. That was the dream.
Tim Lewis: Okay. And then you’ll need to get the editing done, but that gives you, middle of October, November, December, yeah, it’s probably reasonable. And then you’ve got January and February to think up … I mean, you could actually do something sensible, unlike me, and actually come up with a marketing plan for your book.
Ben Roberts: That was definitely on my list. Seeing as I work in marketing, I feel like it would be poor form of me not to do it.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Okay. So, you’re going to give me a birthday present next year. I can go and order your book on … I didn’t actually ask this question to Jen, because I’m not sure she necessarily knew what I was talking about, but is that just the eBook, or is that going to be the paperback as well?
Ben Roberts: Oh, I don’t know, Tim. You’ve pushed me into committing to an exact date. I think if I at least get the eBook out on that date, I think, again, I want to make sure that the quality is really where I want it to be in terms of the print one. So, I think if I commit to the eBook on that day, I think the paperback will follow not far after.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I mean, that’s what I’m going to be doing with my book. The reason why is that any mistakes in the eBook version, you can get … the KDP will send out … When you send a new version, it will send it out to people with the Kindle device who’s already, and they can accept the update. But with a paperback, it’s there. Any mistakes that are in it are going to be there. So, if you’ve got a week or two where the eBook’s out there and people could read it and then come back and say, “I didn’t know your name was Ban Rabbits,” or something like that, then that is one advantage of releasing the eBook first. And eBooks are where the money is in terms of sales, potentially. So, that’s the other important reason for doing an eBook first, I believe.
Ben Roberts: That’s definitely interesting. That’s not an angle I thought of before, because I know … Through KDP, this is what I actually learned this morning, you can do your print and your eBook pretty much at the same time. So, it doesn’t matter if one follows the other, but you can do them both at the same time, which is quite cool.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I mean, that’s a new innovation in CreateSpace, who Amazon own, and now being rolled into the KDP interface. I don’t think you could even do new CreateSpace books any more. I think they moved them all over to KDP. I need to check that it’s still available [crosstalk 00:29:10] available.
Ben Roberts: Yeah, so, the head of Amazon Kindle was speaking this morning, and essentially, he said, yeah, so, they’re not doing anything on CreateSpace now. They basically said they’re moving everything away, so, at the moment people have the option of moving all their stuff over to KDP. They haven’t set a final deadline yet for the closing of CreateSpace, but it is coming up, so, you do want to think about moving everything over, so they won’t be accepting any more on CreateSpace.
Tim Lewis: I mean, the one thing — and I think this is still the case, I’ll need to check — is that you can do pre-orders with an eBook, and you can’t do them with a paperback book. Which is actually quite useful for my social media networking book, because I’m not sure … The print version’s not going to be ready, but the eBook version will be ready for the 17th, when I’m releasing it.
Ben Roberts: Is that because of formatting and stuff?
Tim Lewis: Yeah.
Ben Roberts: Yeah.
Tim Lewis: I could risk it. I may be able to get it done. But for the pre-order, you have to have it done four days beforehand anyway. In three days time, I’ve got to have the … And I’m just getting back my last bios from people, a few sentences about them, so I can paste it in. And then I’m just hoping they’ve not made any mistakes.
Tim Lewis: Formatting a eBook is easier, in my opinion, than a paperback book. With the right software, it’s not hard to do a paperback book. But that’s why I’m just glad I’m doing the eBook version to begin with.
Ben Roberts: Yeah, definitely. I think definitely sounds like a sensible and a seasoned approach to self-publishing, which I haven’t quite yet got.
Tim Lewis: Anyway, in Jen’s interview, I asked her in the next thing to come up with any questions, but I kind of get the feeling that you’ve probably got a list of questions already, so, are there any that you haven’t covered? I know you’ve talked about the editing side of things, but have you got any questions that are currently troubling you in this great book-writing process?
Ben Roberts: Yeah. I brought a couple, during which you cut down my list significantly, however, there is one that probably is grating on me. Not grating on me, but it is getting me thinking, and it is how do I best manage writing time versus everything else that I do? So, obviously, I think I work better in the mornings. But I get into work at 7:00 in the morning. So, is it worth me trying to get up at 5:00 in the mornings and try and smash through writing a book? Or should I try and do things a bit differently?
Ben Roberts: I’m a bit stuck in terms of where I dedicate time. Should I do a set time every day? Or should I just try and stick it in however and wherever I can? And try and balance that, how much time and when do I commit the time to make sure that I can write, and actually write in a way that’s actually productive as well, and not just like, I’m either too knackered, or I’m thinking about other things?
Tim Lewis: I mean, there are all sorts of schools of thought as to how you do writing. I’m very much a proponent of trying to write as much of it as possible in a shortish period of time. But, clearly, you’re not going to really be able to take a month off work to write your book. So, that’s not necessarily … What I would say, from my own, personal experience of writing, is that what I would try is try particular time periods. So, try getting up at 5:00 and writing, and see just how much you produce then. How many words you get out of that time. And then, maybe try in the evening. Well, probably try in the evening first, so that if you find out you’re really productive in the evening, you don’t have to get up at 5:00.
Tim Lewis: It’s really a very personal thing, because people’s productivity … And a lot of it is to do with diet and habit and the rest of it, and just your mindset. You need to look at how much, and the quality of what you produce, in terms of what time of day to write. So, it may be the case that … I wouldn’t go through the just try and write at any time you can approach. I think you’re right to try and find a set time of day, or set time of week, to try and write the book. And then you just have that as a ritual, almost.
Tim Lewis: Because if you say, “Oh, well, I’ll try and do it whenever I’ve got time,” you’ll never have time. Something else will come up, because you won’t have booked out … You need to almost book out a time to write.
Ben Roberts: This is what I’m finding at the moment. So, I’ve got a load of other things going on, and then things come up, and I think I need to just block out a time where every other bit, the emails go off, the phone goes away and it’s trying to just focus.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I mean, there are all sorts of things like … Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique for time management? Which I-
Ben Roberts: No.
Tim Lewis: Well, the idea of this, it’s … It’s called Pomodoro because Pomodoro’s a type of tomato, and really, that has nothing to do with the technique, but the idea was that they had these little egg timer things that look like tomatoes, and they would turn it for 25 minutes. Before they do it, they turn off all their phones and mute the phone, turn it for 25 minutes, and then you just focus on writing for 25 minutes.
Tim Lewis: Then, at the end of it, the alarm will go off and you’ll take a break. Then you’ll do your notifications and stuff. And then you will do it again, for another 25 minutes. So, the idea is to have these bursts of … And it doesn’t really have to be 25 minutes. The idea is that you have enough energy to do a 25 minutes sprint for doing your writing. And I’ve found that useful in the past.
Tim Lewis: I’ve even done really weird stuff, that I know nobody else has done, where I’ve had … I’ve been writing, and then I’ll have an iPad with something like Game of Thrones or … Probably not that good. You want something a bit mediocre-y, where you can watch something between these breaks as something to take your mind off it. And then you go back onto your writing thing.
Tim Lewis: But, it’s very personal in terms of how you do it. But I would say do block out … Make sure that people aren’t going to arrange meetings, and people don’t expect you to be doing anything in the time when you’re writing. Because there’s really … I mean, most emails and telephone calls can wait at least 25 minutes.
Ben Roberts: Yeah. As long as you’re not a emergency responder, I think that’s pretty much the case, isn’t it?
Tim Lewis: Yeah. You’re not Cardiff’s ambulance man on the side or anything.
Ben Roberts: No. I do many things on the side, Tim, but no, ambulance driver is not one, yet. I’m sure I’ll probably end up getting roped into it at some stage. Sometimes I’m a bit of a sucker for not saying no, which I’m having to really do at the moment, to get this done. So, that’s the biggest thing for me, is making sure that, I think, right now is making sure that … If this manuscript overruns, in itself, I’ve got a feeling that a February 18th deadline is going to be a near-impossible to hit, and that’s why I need to get in the good habits now, with blocking out the time to get this manuscript done.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Well, you’re saying you’ve already done 15,000 words, is that right?
Ben Roberts: Yeah, yeah, about that.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. So, you’re halfway through the project, hopefully.
Ben Roberts: Yeah. It feels like less.
Tim Lewis: Yeah.
Ben Roberts: But yeah, when you put it that way, it’s … Yeah, it’s nearly halfway. But I feel like I’m 5%, 10% of the way there.
Tim Lewis: So, I mean, how have you … Where have you been most productive in writing those? How long has it taken you to write that amount of words, and where and when have you been writing?
Ben Roberts: On holiday.
Tim Lewis: Oh, okay.
Ben Roberts: Yeah. That’s the thing. I actually wrote it on the plane to and back from holiday. One of the things I did is I actually wrote up all the notes, and I recorded them all. So, I basically almost did … Essentially, if you listen back to one of my podcast episodes, essentially that was me doing all my notes for one of the sections of the book. And essentially I had all that written up, then, all that transcribed, and I basically went through and basically rewrote it from there.
Tim Lewis: I mean, a large chunk of my book is transcribed interviews. If you’re not that fast a typer, then just recording yourself and getting it transcribed may be a … Because you can produce a lot of text quite quickly. The only-
Ben Roberts: Yeah, I produced over 10,000 words. 14 minute of talking, and you’ve got 10,000 words. It’s ridiculous.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. The biggest issue, and I’ve found this, is that we do not talk the same way that we write.
Ben Roberts: Yes.
Tim Lewis: So, you tend to use contractions. And you have an awful lot of false starts. So, I may start talking about how I really like marketing buzzwords. Like, “Oh, yeah, did I mention about how I like marketing buzzwords?” And it doesn’t sound so bad when you hear it, but when you read false starts and other things … So, it makes the editing process a bit harder. I mean, it’s not impossible.
Ben Roberts: This is why I had to rewrite it, because I thought about the idea of having it all transcribed. I was like, “Oh, I can get so many words in.” I started reading through it, and I was like, “This is all right, but it doesn’t read right.” I’m sure it sounds right, but it just doesn’t quite read in the way that … It didn’t lend itself to reading half as well. So, I had to go back in and rewrite it.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I mean, that is the issue. I was trying to do my book as an audiobook first, and keep it all faithful to the original audio, but it just doesn’t read well. So, I’ve had to edit the interviews to keep the gist of what people were saying, but also get rid of a lot of what you call audioisms. False starts, and contractions, and other bits and pieces. So, yeah. But, I mean, in terms of producing material, it’s not necessarily a bad place to start, though. Because it does give you something to then edit into something a bit more palatable.
Ben Roberts: Yeah, definitely. That’s what I’m finding, as well. So, it’s always nice to have that validation, that even if it’s not something new, it’s something that, “Ooh, someone else has had that same problem themselves.”
Tim Lewis: Yeah. In terms of what you’ve actually written, rather than had transcribed, where have you been most successful? Was that all on holiday? I mean, in terms of anything you’ve written, where have you been successful so far?
Ben Roberts: At home, at the very desk that I’m sat at at the moment. It’s probably been the moments where I’ve just blocked out, and tried to have … Turned all of the … I called it Amish Hour, where I just tried to turn off as much technology as possible, and just focus upon … I got the idea of Amish Hour from basically where I tried to turn off all technology and just try and read a book.
Tim Lewis: Yeah.
Ben Roberts: So, I’m trying to employ that philosophy a little bit more with writing. Obviously, the problem that I get at the moment is in the hour I still get a little bit distracted, because it’s all a bit all over the place. So, it’s very bit part. That’s why I asked the question earlier, trying to say, maybe I should try and go for a more stable time, try and get more consistent.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, and the other thing, which suggestion’s helped me a lot, and it sounds like you’ve kind of got this plan, but if you, maybe with your mind map, try and pull out little chunks that you could maybe complete in an hour. I mean, I don’t know about the structure of your book, but let’s say there’s one specific example of a buzzword giving authority. That would always be one unit, and you could finish that in one day, one hour in one day. I think if you could do that, that would help, because it kind of makes sense. It makes things a lot easier if you’re not splitting work, and units, across multiple days.
Tim Lewis: This is why I suggest people to write as fast as possible based on the plan, because you’re always going to have the join where you’ve started something … If you have one chapter, and it’s kind of a huge chapter, and it’s going to take you 10 days to write that chapter, then there are going to be bits where you forget about things, and you have to spend the first 10 minutes going back to read the bit you read before, to see where you were, and you might have forgotten a bit. But if you can break it down into smallish enough chunks that you could do an hour at a time, I think that could work quite well.
Ben Roberts: Yeah. I think that’s a good idea, because, yeah, the way the mind map is set out, I can do that way really easily, actually. Again, it’s like breaking down a goal, isn’t it? Into bite-size goals, so, another thing you can just tick off that list, anything you can tick off that list, anything that’s small, it feels like a bit more of an achievement. So, yeah, I think that’s a route that I’ll go down. Because I was trying to be quite conscious of writing everything almost in order, but, actually, because it doesn’t necessarily have to be written in order, but it can still flow.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I mean, just having little bits you can write, it makes it … It also makes it feel like you’re achieving something, because if you feel like, “Oh, Chapter One’s half done, Chapter Two’s half done, Chapter Three’s half done,” that’s not as great as, “Oh, I’ve done Unit One of Chapter One, Unit Two of Chapter Three, and Unit,” whatever. That may make more sense.
Ben Roberts: Yeah, definitely. That’s definitely an interesting way of thinking about it. Thanks, Tim. See, this is providing so much use for me already.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. So, were there any non-writing related questions that you’ve had? Or is that something that you’re kind of going to wait for later?
Ben Roberts: Yeah. I’m saying I’m going to wait for later. I think this is the bit that’s pressing for me at the moment, to make sure that I actually have that date, make sure that I’m committed to writing it, and I give myself the best possible opportunity to be able to write it. And then I’ll try and cover everything else as and when we see it, I think. I think that’s the way I’ve been picturing in my head, anyway.
Tim Lewis: So, sounds like we’ve covered everything from the introductory point of view. What I will do is I’ll have you back on the show in a month or two, probably, probably in two months, and we’ll see how you’ve got on. And hopefully you would finish your first draught and be in the editing process by then.
Ben Roberts: That is absolutely the dream. See, this is great, as well, because this is keeping me in check as well, this whole podcast itself.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. And I’m actually learning how to give better advice.
Ben Roberts: No, it’s absolutely brilliant. I mean, for me as well, being able to learn off anyone who’s done something before is invaluable, really. There is stuff that you just can’t learn off reading someone’s blog post, sometimes. And I learn so much more for having conversations, and I’ve learned that through my podcast as well, which is why I absolutely love doing this sort of thing.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Well, it was great to have you on the show today, Ben, and I’ll speak to you in a month or so.
Ben Roberts: Oh, Tim, the pleasure is all mine, thank you very much, and I’ll speak to you soon.
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