As you can read in the comment I left there: a great method for those who are verbally attuned, but that's not me I'm afraid. I've always (and still) preferred to write the "old-fashioned" way: keyboard (starting with a very old real typewriter, since 1988 in front of a pc or on the occasional laptop)
Writing made easy
Whenever you write about something you are really passionate about the words just seem to flow out of your fingers, through the keyboard onto the screen in any format the program you're writing in provides you with. Word, notepad, online editor or in many of my cases: ScreenSteps Desktop.
The benefit - and I've mentioned this often - of using ScreenSteps to write articles, blog-post, marketing messages, and complete books is the "library" of lessons/articles. Once written they are there, ready to be exported as stand-alone in multiple ways plus ready to be added to a "manual" where you can combine one article with others (already in the library or written a new) to be published in again multiple ways.
That's why writing our extended "Wooden Floor Installation Manual" took not that much time - most of the articles/chapters were already in the ScreenSteps library, so "all" I had to do was to create a new manual, add chapter titles and where needed write additional articles - with or without images using the image capture tool.
Using ScreenSteps Live for the editing process
Another great benefit of writing a book with ScreenSteps is when you combine it with ScreenSteps Live where the manual can be uploaded to for others, in this case our editor Trevor, to download into their own ScreenSteps Desktop program to do their job. In this case our editor's brief was to translate out double Dutch English into proper English without losing the essence of the article.
(We "found" Trevor using LinkedIn where we opened a "discussion" in one of the groups I'm a member of.)
In ScreenSteps Live we used a simple colour coding to tell each other what the progress on every article was: for instance: red meant Trevor to edit the content and green meant: article edited by Trevor and approved by me = a finished article.
The whole editing process is now finished and the E-version of the Installation Manual was launched end of last week, replacing the older Installation Guide we launched beginning 2009.
Which brings me nicely to why we decided to write a "new" Installation Manual and how we went about it.
The Guide was more a compilation of various questions from DIY-ers that had arrived in our inbox over the years and our answers. Some of these Q&A's had been already transformed into blogpost on our FAQ & News blog, and in order to make it easier for our prospects and clients we grouped the most Frequently Asked Questions (and answers of course) into a ScreenSteps Desktop manual which was then exported first as PDF file and later also as a ScreenSteps Live space (password protected). Our most successful "digital product" in 2009!
Once in a while we would add a new article to it and in the end it became a rather loose collection of articles, not so much a practical guide any longer. Spurred on by the success of the Guide we decided it was time to turn it into a new manual, this time not only as an E-book or online version but into a proper paperback using PoD (Printing on Demand). After a little bit of research and tips from Debbie Jenkins (The Publishing Academy) we opened an account with Lightning Source UK for printing and part distribution. The needed digitising of the content of our new manual and the cover is now in hands of Greenwood Graphics (a contact we knew from our BNI-Ashford time).
Getting our reader, prospects and clients involved
A lesson learned/copied from Ed Rivis - involve your prospects as soon as possible in a new project, especially when the content/features should solve their problems.
In one of our monthly newsletters we mentioned our intention to write a new manual and asked for participation in a survey: what would you expect in a Wooden Floor Installation Manual?
The participation IMHO was overwhelming, 62 prospects, clients and even suppliers (yes, our suppliers do read our newsletter) took part and prompted us to focus on the right chapters.
Using SurveyMonkey (even the free version) is also great to ask for "other subjects we should include or not overlook":
Valuable information to have and very simple to gather. We also included some marketing research in the same survey: what would the participant regard a fair price for the most comprehensive manual on this subject. Again, very valuable information. And, of course, we gave all participants the option to be added to our "pre-launch" list. A whopping 68% of participants wanted to be added to this list.
The result of this survey was two-fold: we now knew even better which subject to elaborate on and the retail price we would be able to demand for it, once the paperback was printed.
In search of a title
The first Guide had the title Comprehensive Installation Guide (floorboards). We needed a better one to front the manual. A few ideas where tossed around, but no final decision was made. So I decided to use a Google Adwords campaign for this sole purpose: which title would get the most clicks, i.e. would be most attractive for potential DIY-clients looking to install their own floor but in need of some guidance.
A special domain name was registered and a special landing page - including webform to subscribe to updates on the imminent launch of the manual - was created in no time at all and the campaign started.
The first 4 adds run for 3 weeks, then during a discussion with our digitiser Peter Greenwood to add something memorable to the title or subtitle, 2 others where added, both with the "series" name "Q&A's on wood flooring" (in the event we do manage to write more manuals).
Once again we turned to our existing clients and asked their opinion again with help from SurveyMonkey. And again with the option to submit their own 2p for the best title.
(Hope no one is offended that I left the second suggestion in - sure you have a sense of humour but rest assured, that suggestion will not be printed on our book!).
The third suggestion was a tiny little tweak on one of the original titles and with another tiny tweak (due to the number of characters Google Adwords allows you) it was added to the campaign. To become the best performing add in no time at all! Within 2 days it'd beaten all other titles and it continues to do so.
Although it received fewer clicks - because it's not running from the same moment as the others - the CTR is the most important value in the above statistics: Click Through Rate = number of impressions divide by the number of clicks.
That's where we're stand at the moment: title decided on (and we'll gift the client who tweaked our title to make it better with a signed copy the minute the first paperback comes from the printers), E-version launched (and already sold, plus those clients who'd bought the earlier "guide" were offered an upgrade to the new manual for a very low price, already 10% has taken us up on that offer) and ETA of the paperback: end of this month/beginning next month.
We started this project 3 months ago, it did take more than 7 days (although if I would count the hours I spent writing the content it would make less than that, thanks to the existing material already in ScreenSteps). All in all there are plenty of modern tools out and about to assist everyone becoming a published author. And most are very cost-effective too.
So,what's keeping you?