When my business started booming, I thought it would be cool to write a book about my journey as the technical founder of a successful startup. I didn't expect that I would already have the time to do so at the age of fifty.
SARS-CoV-2 wasn't the only factor speeding up the writing process. In September 2018, I received a letter from a law firm, informing me that I was no longer welcome at the offices of the company I founded. Almost simultaneously, I received an offer to sell the remainder of my shares at a price that was much lower than the value as I perceived it. My response was extremely predictable: I went to court.
Privately, I felt the exact opposite of how my lawyer described me to the other shareholders. Despite winning the first legal battles, my energy drained away fast, even more so when the other parties went into appeal. I had to find a way to reverse this process. Writing proved being an excellent way to recharge my batteries.
In May and June of 2019, I wrote a first draft of my memoirs as an entrepreneur. Initially, I planned to write my story in English because of its international character and because the target audience for a book in English is much bigger.
I reconsidered and chose write my story in Dutch first. This would allow me to test the content on a smaller audience before sharing it with the world. In hindsight, I think I have made the right decision. The first version, finished in June 2019, was rather dark.
I revised the text in August, removing much of the gloom that had permeated my writing. I had one hardcover copy printed in September. I used it for a second revision round. On January 12, I made an almost final version of which I printed a handful softcover copies for reviewers. I received feedback on that version in February and I processed this feedback in March.
In April 2020, I released "Gebeten" to the public.
I decided to self-publish after three publishers (Lannoo, Atlas Contact, Polis) declined my offer to work with them. As I didn't have a decent version of "Gebeten" yet in the Summer of 2019, I sent them some samples for review, including a short story that won the literary price of the city of Gorinchem in May 2019, but apparently those samples didn't impress them.
I didn't push to get the Dutch version published, because I had a specific business plan in mind for the book. I have been a guest lecturer at different universities and university colleges; I was also a speaker at many events. Whenever I was offered a new speaking opportunity, I would offer a customized version of my book, printed on demand.
I wrote a tool that allowed me to create a cover with a "guest logo" on the back. I also reserved a couple of blank pages for "sponsored content". Whoever invited me as a speaker, could purchase a batch of "branded books" to distribute among the attendees of the event.
Unfortunately, all the events I was supposed to speak at in 2020 were cancelled due to the Corona-virus. As I had a finished manuscript, I decided to offer the book as a collectible in a hardcover version only. Without much marketing efforts, I sold about 150 copies, making a net profit of about a thousand euros.
The main goal of the Dutch version of my book was to get feedback. As I had gone through the complete publishing process on my own, without professional editors and proofreaders, I received many errata and several suggestions for improving the content. I used these comments when I started writing a new version of my book. I didn't merely translate the Dutch book into English; I rewrote it from scratch.
I gave my story a new title: "The Accidental Entrepreneur". It wasn't my intention to self-publish this version. I had already published two books with Manning Publications in the past, and I really loved working with a team including a developmental editor, a review manager, a copy editor, a proofreader, and so on. I wanted to repeat that experience.
I wrote down my options:
- Option 0: publish with one of the big five. It would be great if I could persuade Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, or MacMillan to work with me.
- Option 1: work with a literary agent. Option 0 is almost impossible if you don't have a literary agent. See for instance the Manuscript Submissions page on the Simon & Schuster website: "Simon & Schuster does not review, retain or return unsolicited materials or artwork. We suggest that prospective authors and illustrators submit their manuscripts through a professional literary agent."
- Option 2a: find a publisher of business books. I found a web page listing 18 "Top Business Book Publishing Companies" with some interesting pointers.
- Option 2b: find a publisher of technical books. A substantial subset of the target audience of my book consists of people with a technical background interested in creating their own business. It would make sense for a publisher such as Manning, Apress, or Pragmatic Publishers to publish my story.
- Option 3: self-publish. This is the fallback option of every author who doesn't find a publisher.
As always, I defined a deadline for every option.
I would abandon:
- Option 0 on October 15,
- Option 1 on November 1,
- Option 2a on November 15,
- Option 2b on December 1.
If none of the options are open anymore in December, I will go for Option 3, but not before doing one ultimate attempt. I'm now writing a series of blog posts of which this is the first part. If these posts don't result in an alternative plan, I will start the self-publishing process of "The Accidental Entrepreneur" in the first quarter of 2021.
Tomorrow, I'll publish part 2 of this series: The Mysterious Mr. Jones.