You may have been like me a few years back. I have lived a life with a great passion for the last four decades. I had been touched by the lives of an incredible number of fascinating and inspiring people. I loved to read and was fascinated by the lives of others whose books inspired me. Month after month I would go into book stores and see thousands of books written by other authors and fantasize what it would be like to be among them. For the most part it was a matter of not knowing how to get started. On April 12, 2015 my book, Navigating the Nonprofit Rapids: Strategies and Tactics for Running a Nonprofit Company will hit the book stores. Here are seven tips of what it took.
First, I had to get real about my expectations. I dropped any expectation about being on the New York Times Best Sellers list. No dreams about this book making me rich. If I broke even it would be a win. I would simply write a book, the best book I could write and leave it at that.
Second, I had to decide on a market for my work. Who would be most likely to read my book? Two books had already been written on the organization that I headed up. Both were excellent books detailing the accomplishments of the organization at two periods of our history. However, the readership was limited to those who knew the organization and others in the community action network. Given that the non-profit industry had grown by unprecedented rates over the last forty years, I drew my potential market circle around those interested in the nonprofit arena: staff, board members, students, teachers, and interested citizens.
Third, I approached writing a book as I would prepare to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I assembled a team. The first members of the team were two experienced writers who would work as my initial editors making sure the text was clear and engaging. In addition, I created a list of friends and colleagues from all walks of life who were willing to read the manuscript and offer critical suggestions for improvement. Among them were leaders of top nonprofits, a newspaper reporter, two university professors of management, the creator of a best practices website for nonprofits, a leader of a national nonprofit network, and a local business leader who had chaired my board. After each rewrite I would resend it and get additional feedback. This was hugely helpful. Their most critical comments and suggestions often served as the most helpful in improving the work. Since the book is in the hands of a publisher, I have added a marketing specialist who is a wiz at social media.
Fourth, I hired a coach. The person I hired served as my accountability system. I am very good at helping an organization plan for its future. I am good at helping others plan for their lives. I am not very good at planning for my own future. Ken Reddick’s job was to hold me accountable. My goal was to create a presentable manuscript for the book in one year. His job each month was to serve as a tough boss to hold me to my goals. In addition, I created an expanded accountability system. My dear friend, Harold Greenwald, the author of Direct Decision Therapy, made a decision to lose weight. So he told everyone whom he met of his decision and showed everyone how much tighter his belt was becoming at every opportunity. I followed his example and began to announce to everyone that I was writing a book. I made sure that not to complete the task would become a public embarrassment.
Fifth, with my team’s help I completed the manuscript. I had a member of my family, my mother’s cousin, Jim Fair, who was a sports writer for the Chicago Tribune. He said the key to writing was get something on paper and then rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite again. I completed my manuscript with my team before my retirement. I am glad that I did not wait. I used the energy of my daily work life ritual and momentum to complete the work. I knew that it would not be a distraction from my job but really bring additional credit to my organization to have at its head a published author. Besides most of my examples came from the people and the history of that organization.
Sixth, once I had a presentable manuscript in hand I searched for a publisher. Today there are so many options for getting a book published. Beside the big name publishers the self-publishing venues are many. I was really fortunate. I was referred by a local writer to Terri Leidich, the owner of BQB Publishing. Terri, a writer, had been frustrated by the lack of options between self-publishing and the big name publishers. She had created an independent hybrid publishing company where both the author and the publisher share responsibility for the selection of a cover, the editing of the book, securing permission for material quoted from other works, and the marketing of the final book. Terri started with two authors and now was publishing the works of over 125 writers and, fortunate for me, had just bought a non-fiction imprint, WriteLife Publishing. I met with Terri and she encouraged me to submit my work to her acceptance editor. My work was accepted.
The arrangement was for me to pay approximately $5,000 up front and we would split proceeds from sales 50/50. I have since been provided with incredible editors, copy editors, cover and layout specialists, and folks who will create an index for the book. In addition, monthly webinars are held on market strategies to insure that the book has a chance to reach the greatest number of readers. Terri’s companies are now handling writers across the United States. I would encourage you to consider BQB Publishing Company as a potential publisher for your work.
Seventh, with a polished manuscript in hand I have sought out endorsements nine months ahead of publication to go on front page and the back cover of the published work. I have been ecstatic with the reviews. These can be seen on my website: www.nonprofitrapids.com under the section on reviews.
In closing let me say, that writing this book has been one of the great adventures of my life. Just like my earning a first degree black belt at the age of 73, hiking the Grand Canyon at the age of 75, and leading one of the nation’s best community action agencies for four decades, It has forced me to go beyond my comfort zone. It has brought me in contact with a host of wonderful new friends and enriched so many friendships that I have had. I look forward to the publication, book signings, speaking engagements, and that are ahead. I look forward to reading your book as well.
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12 Nonprofit Leadership Tips that Can Make a Difference