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Lessons from a Best Seller: The Power of Potential

The frustrations of writing a best seller as seen through the eyes of cartoonist Jorge Cham!

One year on…

A simple dream to share a powerful and useful new approach to learning more effectively launched the publication of The Power of Potential one year ago. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would make the Amazon best seller list, and then do so in less than six months! It has been a rewarding experience, although one that also requires hard work behind the scenes. Let me explain.

Launching a book may feel like the endpoint in a writing journey, and in that sense it is. Yet it is also just the beginning. The beginning of a new chapter, one that is focused on building a community to champion the book’s inside-out learning model. 

The book community itself has grown, with engagement from 100 or so countries, and tens of thousands of regular visitors. Perhaps human skill development remains a hot topic because of the pandemic, lockdowns, and the need for social connections?

So, what can we learn from writing a best seller? 

Writing with purpose

I quickly realized that good writing requires a talented editing team, and more importantly – the author’s open mind. The Power of Potential benefitted from an incredible editing team. I say team because editing is a multilayer approach that requires very different skillsets. It includes many experts; however, it broadly covers four main areas:

  • Big Picture edits: the developmental editor. A person that helps organize or structure the book in a logical and meaningful sequence with good transitions from idea to idea. 
  • Medium level view: the content editor. An editor that gets into the detail on the pages looking for missing sections, poor sentence structure or flow and evaluates the tone of the book for the intended audience. 
  • In the weeds view: the copyright editor. This individual gets into the nitty gritty detail looking at spelling, grammar, punctuation, and proper attribution references. 
  • Final set of eyes: when the book is in its final print form, before it goes to the printer, it undergoes one final complete review.

My own publishing experience was positive, not because my initial manuscript was perfect – far from it. The developmental editor provided constructive feedback, which was tough to hear for the first time. At that moment, an important skill for me was managing my state of mind. I moved into an open learning space which allowed me to accept the feedback as it was intended, to help me. The result: I rewrote the second half of the book. The original second half is, thankfully, not lost. It will serve as the basis for the follow-on book – building a profitable advisory business (expected in 2023).  

Building a social media community

Becoming a best seller helped raise awareness of the book’s purpose, from which a social media following built up, most interestingly through website sign-ups. So, a having a website is a critical success factor for building readership. Creating a website, that’s an entirely different challenge – especially if you want to do it without spending a fortune on design. WordPress is a helpful platform to evaluate, it uses plug and play add-ins which don’t require coding skills yet offer design quality outcomes. 

Building a community also requires committed effort to engage with followers. Jacob Morgan, a future of work thought leader and best selling author, uses a schedule of how and where he engages. He varies his media and frequency to keep content interesting and relevant – a real, yet important, commitment. My own engagement is the weekly people skill blog, and periodically writing magazine articles or doing a podcast. A social community platform is also under development which will allow individuals to engage with each other, obtain more content and ask a coach questions. Check it out and share your views to shape it!

Overall, for me, it is a function of time balanced against other important priorities. The book becoming a best seller, to some degree, put more pressure on me to invest time building a community to support readers. While time consuming to do, it has also proven to be rewarding given the incredible people I’ve met. The useful skills here are time-management and managing priorities – it is, to be fair, a constant battle for most people to get it right and I am no exception. It has also been incredibly helpful that my personal and professional network is very supportive and promotes the book themselves – more feet on the street, so to speak!

Final Thoughts

Getting through the publishing process moved me into the realm of sales and marketing. Something, admittedly, I have never particularly enjoyed – until now. It is now a game with myself, how much more can I push myself to exceed last month’s results?

Writing a best seller ironically needs human and people skills to create stamina to see it through and communication to connect with people to build a community. It sometimes takes trial and error, however the skills developed become useful more widely in our lives. The next book I write has big shoes to fill, not that I am feeling any pressure! Happy writing…

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your tips for building a community, engaging in social media and dealing with the pressure of success. 

Give it a try!

Cartoon credit: Jorge Cham

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