In this post, I share my top “lessons learned” after writing our first book – How to Grow Your Practice with Presbyopic Patients. If you’ve ever contemplated writing a book of your own, read our tips to help you get started, and most importantly, finish that book inside of you.
Why should you write a book?
I couldn’t be happier with the launch of our first book, How to Grow Your Practice with Presbyopic Patients that we presented to over 350 ZEISS customers in Amsterdam in the summer of 2018.
In 2017, ZEISS commissioned Laura Livesey and me to write a book aimed at summarising everything we know about what we do best – growing medical businesses – and apply it to their most recent innovation – PRESBYOND Blended Laser Vision – or LASIK for people who wear reading glasses.
We’ve wanted to write a book for a long time. We even had about 70,000 words written as a draft that we’d been slowly working on for years. However, it took a customer (ZEISS) to prompt us to finish it, and for that, we’re genuinely grateful.
But first, let’s answer the question in the header – why should you write a book at all?
- It’s hard, and it will humble you
- It will boost your credibility, instantly
- It’s the best way to share a message that matters
- It will help you clarify how to structure your message which will help others better understand it
How did it go?
At first, I couldn’t wait to get started. But as the weeks turned into months, I couldn’t wait to finish. It soon became all-consuming. After working all day long in our business serving customers, we’d then start our night-shift working on the book. It consumed many of our weekends over the next 12 months and even took some of our attention during our ‘holidays’ abroad.
The only way we managed to complete it was to write one chapter at a time on a strict schedule. We’d submit the chapters for review, and ZEISS would send them back, overflowing with comments, clarification requests, changes, and concerns about regulatory issues. The toughest of these were the regulatory issues. ZEISS might be one of the most particular companies in the world, and they were insistent on every detail, even getting legal counsel involved in the editorial process.
There were many times I worried. Were we spilling all our secrets? After reading the book, would our customers need us any more? However, whenever I had these doubts, I remembered the mantra: “value first.”
Later, I’d find a quote of the western novelist Louis L’Amour that perfectly summarised this perspective,
“Knowledge is like money: to be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value.”
It was tough. However, like any ordeal worth finishing, we benefitted enormously from the process. The process of getting one’s thoughts down ‘on paper’ is an excellent antidote to lazy thinking. We are now exceedingly more explicit about what we offer our customers and the real value we aim to bring. We became better writers than we were before. We even came to terms with ruthlessly cutting our work down from 300 to 150 pages. Oh, the agony!
15 pearls of wisdom I learned from writing our first book that might help you write yours
- Have a specific reader in mind. Plan what you want them to have, feel, and be able to do after they’ve read your book. Writing to a person is 100 times easier than writing to an “audience.”
- Just start. You’ll end up deleting most of what you first write, but it will get you to the part you keep.
- Create a weekly schedule and stick to it.
- Write one chapter at a time. A book feels interminable when you face it as a whole. Breaking down the task into steps will help. Each chapter is it’s own mini-book with a tighter focus that you can complete in a smaller stretch of time.
- Your motivation will wane as you go. Reward yourself for every draft and final chapter.
- Choose a style guide from the get-go – it will save you countless hours of revision.
- Don’t get married to the content. You may find you’ll need to axe half of it.
- Create a cut file and paste all the stuff you cut into that document. It feels more comfortable to imagine you might be able to use it later.
- Keep track of your word counts.
- Don’t edit as you go. Get the content out in several sessions. Let it breathe. Go back and edit it later after you are less connected with it. You will become less biased about assessing its value.
- Set a time to work on it every day.
- Get feedback early and often.
- Commit to finishing. Do everything it takes to meet the deadline – announce it to anyone who will hold you accountable.
- Embrace short over long. Commit to not wasting your reader’s time, and you’ll be winning before you even ship the book.
- Accept imperfection. No one will ever read the book you didn’t write (because you spent your whole life trying to make it perfect!) Do your best in the time you set (and be firm about that). Remember, you can always write another one when you finish the first.
Now we have it! Our first book…
It won’t be a bestseller by any stretch of the imagination – its subject is far, far too niche. If you think you could use it to help your practice, you can get it here.
This book won’t be our last, either. We’ve now caught the author’s bug and will soon be back with a more comprehensive volume to follow this one – this time with the added hindsight of experience and (hopefully!) constructive reader feedback on the first.
In closing, I’d like to thank Laura for being a brilliant co-author – her excellent ideas and her exacting standard would make any effort better, and I couldn’t be luckier than to have her inspiring intellect and creative talents at my side.
Together, we’d like to thank our editorial team (Wai Yin, Anne-Katrin, Matthias, Martina and Diego) for the countless hours they spent on refining and criticising our work. I’d also like to thank Caterina Abbresscia, our project manager, for her internal review. I’ll admit it, in the end, they all made it better.
Finally, we want to thank ZEISS for their trust in us with the most critical people in the world to them – their customers. Moreover, finally, we’d like to thank our future readers who are courageous enough to trust our guidance with the future of their prized investment – their private medical practice.