What a journey. Yesterday, August 24, 2020, saw the publication of my second book Amplify Your Job Search: Strategies for Finding Your Dream Job. While it took a bit longer than my “summer vacation” it was my focus for about 5 ½ months. If you will indulge me, I’d like to take you back and tell you the story of its creation.
Amplify Your Job Search was not the book I set out to write in 2020, in fact, in 2019 I started writing Amplify Your Leadership, a book about leadership from “everyday leaders”. The book was to be comprised of stories of leadership from people most have never heard of. Stories like that of Al Hiser, the retired building and grounds superintendent of First Baptist Church in Indianapolis, and his work to build leaders out of a group of kids who worked for him taking care of the church. Or, Melvin Velazquez Feliciano, whose leadership in the face of natural disasters in Puerto Rico has been a lifeline to many who have lost everything. Or, the plant manager of a steel mill in Indiana, whose servant leadership inspired hundreds of his co-workers over his career. Or the woman who is a leading voice in the movement of eliminating racism in our technology. Or the women who are at the forefront of artificial intelligence in healthcare.
In January, after my father’s death in December, I started to write a book about my journey alongside my father as he battled dementia over the last seven years of his life. It was to be the story of role reversal as the parent became the child and the child became the parent. The battles of taking away the car keys. The tear-filled conversations of moving him, first from the home he had shared with mom until her death, and ultimately to the health center. The good times we had cheering on the local baseball team from our seats on the third baseline. The family memories of the holidays and birthdays.
I soon realized…it was too soon…too raw.
In March, the pandemic began to spread across the U.S. Companies began to talk of reductions in force, layoffs, and furloughs, my own company included. I saw friends being impacted. I read stories from across the nation. I knew what book I had to write!
I put those books on the virtual shelf and began to write Amplify Your Job Search. March 16th I began to work on the outline. From March 16th to August 24th, from 0 words to over 39,000 words, from an idea to book. Let me share a bit of the sausage-making. I have chosen to use the independent publishing route for both my books. This means, unlike traditional publishing where you would write the manuscript and submit it to publishing houses or agents in the hopes it catches their attention, or self-publishing where you pay a fee to a publishing house to take your manuscript and guide you through the process, in independent publishing the author assembles a team: copywriter, graphics artist, editor, proofreader, interior design, and formatter.
In the case of Amplify Your Job Search I assembled a superstar team. No way does this book get published in five and a half months without this incredible team. My creative process is to write an outline for the book. I then start to write and I write from introduction to conclusion. As each chapter is completed I send it to my wife, Carmen, and my son, Brad. They are my “guard rails”. They tell me if what I am writing makes sense, they tell me if I am off base, they tell me if my jokes are funny (or not), they tell me if I get on a rant and need to be talked down a bit. Once I have the first draft done, I go back and incorporate their suggestions as well as some of my own. That completes draft two.
As I began to work on draft three, I engaged with a graphics artist extraordinaire, Jennifer Vogel. Jennifer and I worked together at InterVision. We started working together on my side hustle of being a speaker a year or so ago. She has an amazing talent at making my words come alive in the slides she designs. Who better to help on this project! Jennifer designed all the graphics inside the book as well as the cover.
I also reached out to Lori Paximadis of Pax Studios. Lori’s editing service was recommended to me by author Julie Kratz. Much to my delight, I learned Pax Studios could also handle the proofreading, interior design, and formatting of the book. When I told her my target date for publishing on August 24th, she barely batted an eye, instead of saying, “well, that’s aggressive, it’s doable but aggressive. Here’s the timeline we need to hit to make that date.” And be “we” she meant ME as well!
Next on the team were the copywriters. It may seem strange that a writer needs to hire a writer, but a copywriter has very specialized skills. They are the ones who write the ad copy or the sales copy we all read. I don’t begin to know how they work their magic, it is a skill I do not possess. I reached out to another co-worker, Daniel Lassell. Daniel is an extraordinary writer. He and I collaborated on most of the writing I produce for InterVision. He very quickly learned my voice. He learned it so well, there are times I have a hard time knowing where my writing ends and his begins. He introduced me to his sister-in-law, Ruth Finley. Together they wrote the back copy, the interior author bio, and the copy for the two “ads” at the back of the book (one for my first book, and one for my mailing list).
Draft three complete. My baby was now in Lori’s hands to edit. This round of editing is called content editing. Yes, she identifies misspellings and grammar issues, but she is reading the content. As she reads the manuscript she challenges my points, corrects the “storyline”, and makes sure the entire book conveys the message it is supposed to convey. Lori does tremendous work and she made the manuscript stronger.
After two rounds of copy edits, time to send the book to the proofreader. Lori designed the interior layout and moved the manuscript into that layout to send it to the proofreader. Because the editor and proofreader should be different people, she arranged to work with a proofreader she trusted for the final edits.
While the book was in the hands of the proofreader it was time to rest! NOT! For Amplify Your Value’s audiobook edition, I worked with a professional narrator, Ron Fox. I wanted to give it a try myself. I reached out to a local recording studio. The same owner/engineer that recorded all of Brad Real’s hip-hop hits ten years ago, back when I was a hip-hop record company mogul, you know, the P-Diddy of Indianapolis! I booked some time at 416 Wabash Recording Studio and Carmen and I headed downtown to channel my inner rockstar. I LOVED it! I promptly booked six more sessions with the engineer, Mitch Lohman. The audiobook will be coming out any time now!
At the end of July, I received the finished manuscript from Pax Studios, the graphics were complete, the sales copy was written and I had begun to promote the book on social media. I enlisted the help of another friend, Alicia Gaba, to help me write the press release (yet another writing style that requires skills I don’t have!) And, I launched my ART.
An ART is an advance review team. This is a group of volunteers that get a PDF copy of a book before it is published. They help promote the book in their networks. When they have finished reading the book (hopefully before the publication date) they write a review. On the day the book launches, they buy a copy at a very discounted price and then post their review. This identifies them with Amazon as a verified purchaser which helps raise the book in the Amazon algorithm. I called my ART, Amplifiers! During the weeks leading up to the launch I read some contests and awarded the winning Amplifier with an Amazon gift card…and no, they didn’t have to buy my books with their winnings!
Also during this time, I worked with Jennifer and Lori to create a journal as a companion to the book. Amplify Your Job Search Transition Journal is a lined journal designed to track your journey through your transition. Oh…and I am also working on a workbook they will guide the reader through the exercises in the main text.
As they say, “it takes a village”. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of independent publishing! Thank you to all the professionals, friends, and colleagues that have helped support me in this process!!