We sit side by side at the desk, sharing amusing anecdotes and agreeing on every sentence that gets typed. We smile warmly at each other, amazed at how fast the story flows. It’s effortless, just like our love.
How we write books together is a lot like the way we run our business and manage our life: we each have our own jobs. When we mash it all together it works. We’ve learned the hard way that fighting for control over every single task is a sure route to failure. Plus, it is an incredibly uncomfortable way to live.
Interested in the nitty gritty of how a book gets made when you’re indie publishers like us?
This is how it works, step by step (though you have to insert buying a house in Spain, spending a month in Morocco, managing a home renovation, and entertaining visitors among the steps to get the full picture) :
- We come up with an idea and usually bat it around for a month or so, feeling out our ability and enthusiasm for the topic as well as how we could share it in a book. We argue a lot.
- When we commit to the topic, Warren does a first pass on how the structure should look. It takes the form of an informal outline.
- I look over this outline and change it up so it is unrecognizable. He gets angry at me for taking his logical work and turning it into a creative mess.
- Warren then gets it back and makes changes on top of my changes. We use a lot of red ink in this back and forth until we agree. What we end up with is always better than what we did by ourselves.
- We then decide on a date we want to publish, and Warren sets the deadlines we have to meet along the way to make that happen. This is where I start hating him.
- I start writing the book based on the outline. I always veer from the outline, trashing it entirely.
- I tell Warren the book is no good, he reads it and agrees, and we start all over with the process, but not changing the deadlines. I start hating him a little bit more. He’s aggravated that I’m not playing by the rules.
- The second or third time we outline and start writing, the book starts flowing and life is good. We like each other again.
- Warren keeps announcing deadlines to keep me on track. I think he enjoys this sadistic behavior.
- Warren starts testing the title of the book with surveys to our audience and a polling site of random strangers. We’re always surprised at the result and what words people love and hate.
- I read the book out loud to Warren, chapter by chapter, and he gives feedback. It’s usually blunt, and I hate him again. He’s confused as to why I can’t just write a masterpiece that goes along with the outline and call it done. He thinks I’m purposefully making his life difficult. I probably am.
- I go back and edit, and I curse the day we started doing this thing. Why in the hell did we ever decide to write a book? This stage is painful.
- Warren starts working with a designer to create a cover.
- We send the first very rough draft to our editor Angela, who tells us what should be cut, fleshed out, and moved around. She sends back pages and pages of notes that nicely tell us what’s wrong.
- Warren starts recruiting websites, podcasts and book review sites to write about our book when it comes out, called an online book tour. He makes spreadsheets and lists for both of us. He’s giddy with the organization of it all. I mostly ignore what he’s doing until it is too late to back out.
- We read the editor’s notes and cry at the amount of work we have ahead of us.
- I move, cut, and flesh out the chapters, drinking buckets of coffee by day and drowning my sorrows with wine at night. I imagine I am Hemingway, but I’m more like hemming-and-hawing-way.
- Warren sends three potential covers out for voting to our audience and a polling site of random strangers, and the one that wins is never the one we think will. We choose that one.
- I read the second draft out loud to Warren, who gives his final feedback.
- We send this draft out to five of our trusted friends who will give us honest feedback. They are worth their weight in gold.
- Warren starts planning the live book tour, which turns into something huge. Every day I am surprised to find out what other thing he’s added to the list. I wish I could tell you about it now, but he’d kill me if I ruined the surprise.
- We receive the feedback from the five friends, who tell us hundreds of ways we can make it better. I both love and hate them for this.
- I tweak the book, finally calling it done.
- Angela the editor gets the final draft and starts line editing, correcting all my grammar mistakes and making sure it is readable. She makes the book professional and is worth every penny.
- I get the book back and still keep messing with it because I never want to release it, working on it for years and years until it is perfect. Warren lets me think I can with a copy while he takes the original file away from me.
- Warren arranges the details of the contest we’ll run at book launch with an incredible company. I wish I could tell you about it now, and I wish I could win the prize. But they tell me that wouldn’t be right.
- I write the sales page copy for all the sites where it will be sold, telling everyone in about 100 words why they should read the other 60,000.
- Warren updates all the pages on our website for the book, including the book tour page and some of the fun add-ons we have (whoops, can’t tell you about that yet, either).
- Warren formats the ebook versions for Kindle, iTunes, Kobo, and Nook. He curses a lot.
- Warren formats the print version. He curses even more.
- Warren uploads all the versions.
- We get a test copy of the paperback version to make sure it is okay. Usually we send this to my mom in the US, and we Skype review it together.
- I write the guest posts, interviews, and we sit for interviews that Warren scheduled to promote the book.
- I write the post, the email, and the social media updates announcing it is for sale and we wait for the first person to buy it.
- Once the first sale goes through, we collapse.
At the end there is a big high-five over the product we produced together. It’s a lot more solo work than the image of us smiling and kissing as we easily type out a masterpiece, but then so is our relationship. It takes individual effort– a lot of it – to make a strong team, and we each have to do our part.
There was a time not too long ago when we wouldn’t have worked so well together or been able to critique each other’s work. But with our fourth book we’ve gotten into a good rhythm. The experience of working together gives useful insights into our relationship and vice versa. It’s all working together to make us a stronger partnership overall.
In the final days of this book preparation, before we share our love story and how we made it through from a very rocky start, I just wanted to share with you a tiny snippit of what this partnership looks like on a day-to-day basis.
And if you want to read more, you have just 10 days to wait. (If you’re a Kobo reader, you can even preorder your copy now.)
Be sure to sign up for the email list if you want first dibs on the incredible contest we’ll be running at the book launch. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this one.