The 24-Hour Book Challenge — A Six Month Update
UPDATE! JFS is over 6 months old now! Read my most epic update post which includes links to all the other, older update posts as well!
Cuz who doesn’t love a challenge? I’m taking part in Nathan Barry’s 24-Hour Product Challenge.
I’m committing to shipping a small product by 12 noon tomorrow. (Aka 12 noon, Tuesday Dec 2)
What product? Easy. As I wrote to Nathan for his updates:
I’m committing to JFS my long-planned Just F***ing Ship, a short ebook that focuses on the joy of finishing and how to just f***ing do it. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for 2 years at least, but other, bigger projects have always eaten up the energy for it. Ironically. This challenge is going to be a lot of fun.
I bleeped out ”Fuck” because his audience is not my audience ;) But y’all know what’s what.
24 hours, 15 minutes later… Day 2, 1 pm — DONE! √ √ √
As the clock struck 1, I had to run to a meeting. I exported the 57 written pages to PDF, slapped on a cover graphic, and as I rushed out the door practically flung it at Alex, who put it on Gumroad… while I was in a meeting with a building contractor. Killer!
I’m going to keep banging away on this today to wrap up the final few chapters, and after the writing’s done I’ll actually do the layout by hand.
Get your copy for just $19. You’ll get the updates, the edits, the new graphs, the additions to the ”how we did it” story as they happen!
As of 1pm, what’s left for us to do, that we didn’t manage in 24 hours:
- four new chapters, and 1 appendix (set: 2000 words)
- page layout by hand
- a slightly better cover design
- epub & Amazon Kindle version
- a finalized landing page
- and, once we’re ready to raise the price, a freebie email course to promote the book over the long term
- better CTAs sprinkled around this blog
- add some illustrations…thinking hand-drawn, by me — suits, don’t you think?
How are we getting on with this to-do list? Check my latest update.
So, we didn’t strictly finish the entire product & its ecosystem in 24 hours. But I am damned proud of what I managed to accomplish!
Read on for the detailed history.
And take a peek at my detailed time tracking log thanks to the magical productivity superpowers of my app, Noko Time Tracking.
12:45 PM - Setup
Plan to succeed, I always say. So I take the time to set up a good work environment: I bring down my iMac from upstairs, get a good drink, keyboard and mouse, and finally bust out the new noise-canceling headphones my husband bought me last month.
1:00 PM - Surveying what I’ve got
JFS isn’t totally from scratch, because I’ve written on the topic before. But it’s never been compiled into a real outline or book form.
I’m going to start by looking at what I’ve already got: Essays, notes, half-written outlines, thoughts.
That’s always the best step: Start with what you’ve got. Story of my life.
2:00 PM - Just wrapped up the broad sketch outline
Since Thanksgiving was last week (and I hosted, like I love to do), I decided the overarching framework of the book will be a dinner party.
Running a good dinner party is as exactly complex as shipping your first small product, and yet you won’t find the excuses people have against, e.g., shipping an ebook, among the dinner party host set. There’s a very good reason for this.
Now to outline the specific sections…
2:45 PM - Detailed outline…done!
I’ve got a nice, specific list of all the little subchapters I’m going to include in each section, and took notes on what should go inside.
And I’m smiling to myself a little because I’m using the techniques I’m writing about in the book to write the book. One section is called ”Choose your difficulty setting” — another is called ”Cut your ballast.” A little preview:
Choose your difficulty setting means that you should decide what type of product you’ll make, informed by what your customers need & want & already believe & buy, what you’ve got on hand, what you can do well & fast, and your hard constraints (like a deadline).
I’m choosing an ebook because when I can write, writing is easy, and I don’t have to prep lighting or audio or put on pants to record video, and also because I’ve got tons of experience & some source material for this already.
Cut your ballast means that when the tacks are down, you need to know what part of your product you can ship without. And be willing to do it.
The format of the book itself is decided by both of these principles:
It’s a dip-in, dip-out book of techniques…not a narrative book that has to flow directly from chapter to chapter. Even if I can’t finish in time, everything I did finish will be actionable & valuable as-is.
The outline itself is a backwards plan — I know what it’ll look like when I’m done, so it’s easy to hit my target. It’s also a matter of mise en place — preparing the things I need to use to write, so I don’t have to hunt for them (or worse, come up with them) when I sit down to actually write. It’s all the benefits of division of labor, but with myself.
Not that I really care so much about hard deadlines. What will happen if I don’t meet it? Absolutely nothing bad; I can roll with it no matter what. Another one of my principles.
3:30 - Intro written!
In 3 parts — normally I would never suggest writing the intro first, but because I have a very specific outline and am using content I wrote before (and never used), I just read thru it, spiffed it up, added to it, et voila.
4:00 - Break!
I’ve had a standing date with my friend Vanessa to come by this afternoon for coffee & a chat before the movers arrived to take away a couple pieces of furniture that I gave to her. Because my friends > a soft deadline that I agreed to just for fun, we kept our coffee date. And the movers came & went. (They’re moving stuff from my house to the office, too, so awesome to get that extra furniture out of my house!)
Now I’m back into the swing!
5:30 — The extended metaphor written!
I’ve just wrapped up the most pivotal part of the book, the metaphor that all the little components will flow from & hang on.
Everything else I’m including I’ve written or spoken about before, this is the newest thing (the idea I had today when I sat down to plan) so it’s what I think will be the most challenging.
It’s also the chapter that’ll get my partner-in-crime Alex on board with my plan, cuz he was busy while I decided to do this ;)
As for as writing environment, I’m trying Ulysses for the first time — cuz my friend Josh Kaufman just loves it, and is always showing off how good it is at automating exports to PDF and Kindle. That’s one way to delegate and drop excess work-weight.
7:30 — First 3 techniques down!
Just ran a little analysis on my project so far: 9 chapters, 3,094 words, 3.5 hours writing and 1 hour outlining.
It’s super nice to write short chapters and move them from the Outline list to the “To Edit” list.
Getting kinda tired, though!
8:00 — Antiques Roadshow with my husband…
…and a stiff cup of coffee. By the time the coffee kicked in, the BBC Antiques Roadshow episode was over. Time to chat with Alex!
08:45 – Alex and I put our heads together
I decided to take on this challenge while Alex was otherwise occupied. We’re at the tail end of a soft launch right now for The Forge, a community catering to 30×500 alumni only. Alex was busy today. But I thought, what the hell?
But just before 9, we got together using join.me and I walked him through my outline and my plan of attack. We discussed how to divvy up responsibilities.
- to release it as a PDF direct-buy ebook first, Kindle second
- to work up a vastly superior CTA on this page (and across the blog in general) — boy are conversions weak sauce, because the CTA is vague how to use the experience to market it (basically a 24-hour challenge is ideal for the book topic, awesome)
Alex is going to work on the marketing & platform stuff tomorrow and I’m going to keep banging out the chapters.
12:00 am – Kaput for the day!
Everybody is surprised I made it this long — Thomas, Alex, and me. I’m sleepy as fuck. Going to try for an early morning.
So far: 13 chapters, 4,667 words, 5.75 hours writing. Pretty steadily 800-1000 words per hour. Good words, too — very little editing will be required.
Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!
I spent another 15 minutes leaving notes for Alex so he can pick up where I left off. Mise en place, bitches. (Another chapter in the book, naturally.)
10:00 – Back in the saddle
Got a good night’s sleep and I’m back at my desk to get some more writing done.
Chances of making the 24-hour deadline are basically nil, and I knew that last night. But doesn’t mean I’m not gonna try to get as much done under the wire as possible. This is fun!
11:00 – Gettin’ shit done
Two more chapters done: Shop the shelf, and Every version better.
Based on our current outline, there are 13 more chapters to write. The last one took just 15 minutes. So that’s, let’s say 4 hours more based on my current progress…which would take just past the 24-hour deadline.
Using our own rules, we’ll embrace Niceties vs necessaries and strive for Every version better. Which means we’ll ship our beta book on time!
11:30 – 6,230 words
3 more chapters done. YES. Great speed. Go me.
12:30 – 8,129 words
We will just barely miss the 24-hour deadline.
But we will ship this book this afternoon.
Don’t have much time to spin up a real nice launch process, but the book will speak for itself. Doesn’t matter to me if we only sell a couple copies. I know from personal experience that I can “redo” a launch to great result.
Because I’m running out of time, I wrote the conclusion to the book before the final 5 (short) chapters.
1:00 – OMG PDF + Flee!
I’ve got an appointment at 1:30 with a contractor to talk about building out our new office. Can’t do a thing about it. But I’ll be back.
BUT before I leave, I’m gonna export to PDF and put on the cover logo and send it to Alex so he can set up Gumroad! 24 hours and 15 minutes exactly here…
3:15 – Back again!
I was late for my appointment. Who cares? Back now!
Just made a tweak to the order of content for Alex & gave him a new PDF copy, designed a buy button, and put it online for sale. Announced it on twitter.
We made our first sale almost immediately:
@amyhoy purchase complete smooth talker;)— ade (@panopticon76) December 2, 2014
Yesssss. As Alex said as we made our 3rd sale, “never been so happy about $36, ha!”
3:30 — 34 sales so far, $408.
And after a bit of chat room cheering with Alex, back to the grind stone. I’m gonna finish this bad boy.
There are several minor issues with the existing PDF: The automatic export from Ulysses has a few weird places where the typography is not so hot, like far too many hyphenated words at the end of lines, and, well, this:
Guess I’m going to have to lay this thing out by hand, when all is said & done.
Good thing I know how to do that.
5:30 — 67 sales…$804…9,579 words
Just sat down and wrote what is probably the longest chapter, Temper your feelings — just under 1,500 words. Might need to be broken out into 2, we shall see. I need fresh eyes to edit it later.
Tried a different export theme for Ulysses; much improved. I tweak the fonts, the layout, and the spacing of text & headings. There’s really nothing wrong with ragged left, right? Right.
Update with the new chapter + improved layout already sent out to buyers! Thanks, Alex!
9:30 — 98 sales…$1,176…10,196 words
We crossed $1,000! And we’re about to cross 100 sales.
Took a dinner break, watched an episode of Antiques Roadshow with my husband (again), then felt pretty sick so I just lay down for a while. Drank another Powerade and had some salt pills and chilled for a couple hours, & felt much better. Yay dysautonomia.
The Niceties vs Necessaries chapter needed to be reworked to flow into the next so I did that, and then wrote the next one — Cut without remorse.
Ironically while writing about ruthlessly cutting out unnecessary features, I’m thinking about how sexy this book will be when I get into laying it out by hand and add in some of my favorite quotes in the margins all literary-like…
Of course, that’s how it works. I love that shit, but it didn’t stop me from launching this book almost exactly on time, in an unfinished state.
Fuck yeah, man. Shipping!
11:30 – 109 sales…$1,308…11,579 words
Reworked the Temper your feelings chapter, and wrote Fact to feeling and Mistakes happen.
I suspect JFS will clock in around 15,000 words in the end. Maybe a little more if we add a couple case studies. And that will be just right, no more no less than what’s needed to help you get off your butt and kick into gear.
2:30 – 143 sales…$1,716…12,285 words
Reworked a couple chapters that just got too big in the rush, and needed to be segmented. Wrote 2 new chapters: Worst case backup plan, and Embrace the Pauli Principle.
Slower going today:
On the 2nd to last chapter now! Whoop whoop!
10:15 – CHAPTER COMPLETE! 154 sales…$1,836…13,540 words
Oy, it’s been a slog today. It’s not that I worked much, but I’ve been tired & interrupted. But! The book is now chapter complete! Just 57 calendar hours after the challenge began — and with only 18 hours and 45 minutes of writing, for an average of 700 words per hour the entire time.
Still needs editing, layout, a little bit of expansion, a little work on flow & gussying up.
Sent out the update to our early bird customers. Thanks, guys!
The price will go up Monday at this rate…might want to grab your copy before it does!
Now begins the Great Finishing Up. Already had some great feedback from early buyers & early readers. Now it’s time to…
- market systematically
- launch (again and again)
What does that mean? I wrote a post about all my next steps. Check it out.
Get Just Fucking Ship & get ready to…well…yeah!
Get your copy for just $19. You’ll get the updates, the edits, the new graphs, the additions to the “how we did it” story as they happen!