A terminal plague on the soul: Six words to accurately describe the process of writing a book. I've often read articles by authors (particularly non-fiction authors) about how writing a book was one of the most difficult, frustrating, mind-numbingly hell-ridden surefire path to insanity that they'd ever experienced. Many noted that they'd never do it again. I didn't listen, obviously. It can't be that hard, I thought, there are plenty of books out there and each one of them had an author who managed to pull it off. And if they can do it, so can I.
That was just over two years ago.
The Back Story
A little more than two years ago, I wrote a blog post that was the beginning of Designing Emotion and @Adii and I decided to write it up into a short eBook. It was going to be pretty straightforward, to begin with. We'd come across this new concept that explored the psychology behind design and marketing, and we were going to put together maybe 10,000 words on why we thought it was a big deal. As we started writing, I submitted an article to Web Designer Depot (who I was writing for a lot at the time) on this subject - to gauge interest, and to promote a little bit of what we were doing.
I didn't know, at the time, that Wiley & Sons (the publishing house) scour places like Web Designer Depot looking for potential suckers, victims, new authors. Within a couple of weeks of the article being published - we'd been approached and offered a contract to write and publish a real book on the subject.
I've held off for a long time on telling the next part of this story because, frankly, it's embarrassing and depressing.
Designing Emotion back then was, at best, a half-baked seed that had the potential to one day be an idea, that had the potential to one day be a real concept, that had the potential to one day be a book. Suddenly we were taken from "Let's write this thing for fun in our free time and put it out ourselves" to "Write a 345 part outline for a 200 page book to be written in the next 2 months and published worldwide. Oh, and we'll need to review this 1,245 page contract about royalty terms, advances, and [other shit that sounds important]."
To cut a long story short: We tried, and it didn't work. There were two main reasons for this:
First - Adii and I already worked the equivalent of 4 full time jobs. Writing a book for a publisher is the equivalent of about 3 more full time jobs that neither of us had time for. We would have struggled to keep up with the writing schedule if the idea was fully formed. The reality was, we were researching, documenting, and writing at the same time as we were learning what the hell we were even talking about. In short: we weren't ready to write a book.
Second - Wiley & Sons are best known for publishing the "For Dummies" series and, unfortunately, they take a "For Dummies" approach to publishing. Our book was going to be about grand ideas, about concepts and new ways of thinking, about exploring subjects that hadn't been explored before. Our commissioning editor (the guy who signed us) seemed to get this, but every other editor we had (and there were several) couldn't wrap their head around it. They wanted us to write a book with numbered bullet points, quick tips, pictures, chapter summaries about what the reader has learned, and a whole host of other things that would make us fit perfectly into the "For Dummies" cookie cutter template. We didn't like it, and we fought for over a year to work with the publisher and the editors to try and let us write the book we'd wanted to all along.
About a year ago, we drew a line in the sand and Wiley released us from our contract.
We were frustrated, angry, and thoroughly worn out. Adii bowed out completely at this point, he'd had enough. I don't blame him whatsoever - with a company as large and as profitable as WooThemes - it wasn't really surprising that he wanted to focus his efforts on things that were working instead of those that weren't. I had a slightly different perspective, however. Once the manuscript had gotten to about 70% complete, I'd put together a presentation and started giving it at large design, development and marketing conferences all over the world. I still give this presentation now, talking about the building blocks of Designing Emotion - the foundations of the book... and you know what? The feedback, every time, was (and is) unreal. People get it - and they're interested by it. I've had more positive feedback from giving keynotes on this subject than any other - I know that this is something worth talking about.
For that reason - this semi-complete manuscript has haunted my dreams. It started out as a simple idea, progressed into a big idea, transformed into a big book, was utterly destroyed by incompetant editors and reduced to rubble. At one point, our lead editor added the bolded words to the following passage because she believed our readers wold be unclear on what we were talking about: YouTube is the second most popular digital site in the virtual world. - you know, just in case you thought that "YouTube" was a physical location somewhere on planet Earth.
Our Amazon pre-order page went from "delayed" to "delayed further" to "delayed until further notice" to "removed". People asked, and still do ask, "What's going on with the book? When can I get it?"
I haven't even wanted to look at the damn thing for the best part of a year now. It really did kill me. While I was busy failing to complete Designing Emotion, my friend @RobHawkes got his own book deal, wrote the book, published the book, sold out of the book and had it go for a second print run. Epic levels of depressing on my part.
So that's the back-story. Sorry, I rambled a bit. Anyway, here's what's happening next:
Releasing Designing Emotion
I'm publishing book myself, one blog-post-length section at a time, on emotion.onolan.org. I'm doing it like this for a couple of reasons. First, I've written a proverbial fuck-ton of this thing already, and it seems like a shame not to share it. There's lots of content that I think people who enjoyed my keynote on the subject would find interesting and benefit from in some way. Second, I'm trying to remove all the dreadfully heavy feelings of responsibility that come with the sentence "I'm writing a book" so that I can actually finish writing it. Where it is the original idea that Adii and I had years ago to just write something, slightly longer than a blog post, and share it with people.
So, there it is. That's how it's going to go. Once it's finished, I'll look at how to make the entire thing available as one complete piece. For now, I invite you to think of it as a large, interesting, and regularly published blog series. Follow along, and tell me what you think.
Oh, and here's the cover - My friend @RickNunn photographed it - I designed it. It's been under wraps for too long - I hope you like it.