There are plenty of books about the business of start-ups, fewer about the people who start businesses. I think the stories of the founders are very compelling. This book is for people intrigued by the human drama that often comes with starting a business. I want to explore themes of personal sacrifice, family sacrifice, work-life balance, human capital management, overcoming adversity, company culture, personal accountability, coping with failure and success, and more.
Those who end up being part of the book will go through a three-phase process: application, interviews, and editing. It may seem intimidating, but I’m asking for less than a working day of your time.
The application is an online survey to collect basic information about you and your business. It’s a relatively short survey, about 15 minutes, designed to help me find stories that show promise in terms of the book’s theme. I won’t know exactly what that theme is until I’ve reviewed several applications, so don’t be surprised if takes a few weeks to hear if I’ve selected your application. Completing the application does NOT mean you will be in the book. It simply means that you would like to be in the book.
If your application is selected, I will contact you to schedule interviews. You should expect to take part in at least three, but not more than six, one-hour interviews. Most follow-up questions can be handled via email. I ask that at least one of these interviews be an in-person interview – video chat (FaceTime, Hangouts, Skype) is okay, but I’d prefer to meet you in a setting other than your home or office. I record all of my interviews for reference and accuracy.
During the process, I may ask to interview others related to your story. Often, it’s a family member or business partner, but it could be an employee or customer. I will only speak to people with your permission.
Once the interviews are complete, I’ll lock myself in a dark room to do my writing thing. At some point, I’ll feel good about your story and send it off to an editor. After the usual back and forth with the editor, I’ll send it to you for a final review. Here is my promise to you:
- If there are any inaccuracies, I’ll correct them.
- Maybe I misinterpreted something? I’ll ask for an explanation and give you a new draft.
- Are you uncomfortable with tone or content? I’ll work with you to try to find a place where we are both comfortable.
Honestly, sometimes this last part is difficult. As the author, I reserve the right to tell your story the way I want to tell it. It is, after all, my book. As the subject, your story is obviously very personal and it’s natural to feel uncomfortable to see it in print. I encourage you to express these feelings because they are part of your story and I can use them to ease your discomfort. In the end, if we cannot find a place where we are both comfortable, we will simply agree that you are opting out of the book.
In terms of timing, I want to cap my working time at about 40 hours per story. The elapsed time could be as much as four weeks depending on the editor’s availability and how many other stories I’m working at the same time.
Keeping It Real
If I thought this book had some bestseller potential, I’d offer you a piece of the action. But bestsellers are usually written by celebrities or accomplished authors. I am neither.
I’m a pretty damn good writer who is working hard at getting better. For several years I wrote a column for a craft beer newspaper and it actually paid me more than I drank. I’ve had articles published in several niche magazines, a couple of white papers for trade journals. I’ve produced internal newsletters for some of my employers, marketing brochures for non-profits, and truckloads of copy for dozens of websites. My wife tells me I’m an excellent writer. 😉
The reality is that this my first real book and I intend to self-publish. I want to do it right, so I’m planning on paying to have the book properly designed, edited, and marketed. Research suggests that self-published books by first-time authors rarely sell more than 500 copies. Basically, I’m not doing this for money and neither should you.
So if it’s not money, you’re probably asking, “What’s in it for me?” Good question. Here are some answers, choose any that fit.
- A favor. You’re a friend of mine, or my wife’s, and you feel a friendly obligation to support my crazy idea. When people ask why you’re doing it, your response is, “he’s a friend and it didn’t cost me anything.” I’ll owe you a similar favor in return and that’s gotta be worth something!
- Free marketing. Any marketing done for the book will benefit the businesses featured in the book. I intend to put together a package of teaser copy, website ads, social media plugs, and so on. I’ll work with you on any co-promoting you’d like to do.
- Ego boost. You’re proud of yourself and your business, so why not tell your story and enjoy the spotlight. Hey, what do you and Steve Jobs have in common? You both have books written about you and your business!
- Giving back. Like me, you are part of a unique community of people who are both intensely driven and eager to help others. Maybe you got some terrific (or horrible) advice when you were starting and view the book as a way to pay it forward. Maybe you believe in entrepreneurship as an economic driver and want to do your part. Either way, you are giving back to the start-up community from which your business was born.
Are you enticed by the idea of sharing your story in my book? Apply now by filling out this 15-minute survey!