It’s only a mockup, but this is basically what the print book will look like (perfect-bound A4 paperback.) Getting closer…
With the main text largely done (what directors would call “principal photography”) I’m now at the stage of rewriting and revising – making sure each chapter’s teachings are clear and tasks flow smoothly from one day to the next. To be blunt, this is the boring part: that killer combo of difficult yet repetitive. In addition, testing the methods of 100 Days, 100 Grand has led to serious billings for my little copywriting biz, stealing time from the authoring. (Looking back over 2017, I see two stints of 45+ days straight on client projects. Not sure I saw the sun this summer.)
Of course the business wins are a great validation of the book’s methods. (And as a working writer, I still need to eat.) But it gave me a scary thought: with over £100,000 of my own money and time sunk into design, typography, and actual text development, but the methods already delivering for me, it’d be a little too easy to never publish, and just use the text myself. After all, I’m the one person who doesn’t need convincing they work.
What’s a door? It’s a point beyond which you can’t go back easily. To complete a stretch goal like writing a 1,200 page textbook, you need to make sure failure will cost you something. If you want to run a marathon next summer, book non-refundable flight and hotels now. If you want to move to another city, give your landlord notice today. If you want to stop smoking, pledge £50 to charity for every pack you buy.
Once you’ve imposed that cost on yourself, you’ve gone through the door: there’s no return without remorse. Setting a door to go through clears the debris from your mind, focusses you on milestones and deadlines.
And that’s why 100 Days, 100 Grand is popping up on Kickstarter Nov 1. It’s a no-going-back commitment that will cost me money and reputation to miss. (The video’s in late production; I’ve pasted in some screenshots here, and spent last Friday in a soundproof studio recording the voiceover.) Making commitments to other people always pushes me harder than I push myself. It’s how I’ve completed every major project in my life, and how I work with clients every day.
The goal’s to get a thousand people supporting the project at £120 or above. (That’s the planned retail price of the 1,200-page print version.) The reward for support at that level will be a copy of the book itself from the first print run … individually signed and numbered. So if you were thinking of buying it anyway, there’s no downside. (And a fair bit of up.)
So October’s all about Kickstarter. I’ve got about 1,000 people to contact, looking to build to 5,000 before the campaign goes live. Will it work? I’ve no idea. But with this door set, I’m ready for the sprint to the publishing date. So my thinking is 100 Days, 100 Grand wins either way. To be among those invited to pledge, take the first step by joining the mailing list. And if you have any questions, drop me an email.
Setting a publication date is like doing exams: there’s no backing out, but knowing you have to aim for an exact date concentrates the mind. Accordingly, and with over 200,000 words in the can, I’ve set a concrete date to get the book into stores.
100 Days, 100 Grand will be available for purchase on Nov 30, 2017.
The completion pathway between now and then includes a long summer lock-in in a property I own … bracketed by a couple of courses I’ve wanted to take for years.
The property you know: 100 Days HQ is a tricked-out garage in London, mostly used as a home gym although home’s now somewhere else. The courses are two fitness qualifications I’ve long wanted to try: the PCC and RKC instructor certifications in progressive calisthenics and kettlebells.
The first, in May, is followed by the lock-in; the second, in Nov, signals its close. (I’m not an instructor, but I do write a bit on fitness at Medium, and doing some professional development might help me know what I’m talking about.) That close means everything: text, typesetting, proofing, visuals, the lot, all ready to go to the distributor.
Of course, I’m taking my own medicine – everything planned for the next six months, with daily tasks and checklists just like 100 Days itself – and unless I’ve made serious miscalculations or get hit by a bus, it should go smoothly.
After all, writing a textbook is much like fitness. You can’t just jump on a bar and pump out 20 reps: you need to start small, progress smoothly, level up when you’re ready. And this summer stint should get me to the finish line.
Every field has its core textbook. Writing has the tiny Elements of Style; medicine has Gray’s Anatomy and Molecular Biology of the Cell. And I’m still partial to Eric Drexler’s Nanosystems from decades back.
So if you’re teasing a textbook into being, you feel an instant affinity with anyone who’s done the same. Someone who has is gymnastics instructor Steven Low, whose second edition of Overcoming Gravity has just hit the shelves.
I don’t know Low, but the first edition gained a reputation as the bible of bodyweight training. It’s also an indie effort: unlike the slickly typeset professionalism in the campus bookstore, it’s clearly the work of one man. The result is everything a textbook should be: expert knowledge, coherent structure, and practical advice plainly communicated, with actual numbers attached for your reps and sets. Enabling any able-bodied (or differently-abled) individual to train to a high level of ability without ever taking a gym class.
And that’s why I’m blogging about a gymnast’s training manual. Because it’s a textbook (!) case in taking your knowledge to the world in print.
The B&W US-Letter sized 600-page softcover (you always note these things when you’re an indie) hits the table with about the same thump as 100 Days, 100 Grand – I’m planning 1200, but Low’s opus uses thicker stock. Each page is high-wordcount; one critique would be the narrowness of margins (the print version of 100 Days will have more scribble space) but that’s just me. The cover art is beautifully simple, a limited font choice and silhouettes of master moves like the iron cross and planche.
Like 100 Days, 100 Grand, it’s split into Parts, each a sequence of different activities building towards an end goal. Part 1 covers the fundamentals: principles of leverage, progressive resistance, the relationship between muscle and nerve – it’s where you start. Part 2 is the main course: the process of constructing a routine that works for you, what basic exercises to select and how to combine them in a workout plan. Part 3 goes into side factors like cross-training and injury management for anyone interested, while 5 sequences the actual exercises, Levels 1 to 16 in groups of four that mirror the ABCD difficulty ratings of gymnastics.
Of course, master moves like the one-arm planche illustrated on the cover aren’t among most people’s goals, but it’s great to see where the progression pathway that starts with sitting on your hands leads.
But you know what really matters here? The human stuff.
Much of the text is plain-spoken declarative sentences. But a sense of warmth floods from its pages. You somehow know how much work went into this, how many hours Low spent at his desk or in his gym writing, testing, checking, and writing again. It’s a celebration of personal achievement: the idea that with the right knowledge and practices, anyone can master their body.
And that’s what it has in common with 100 Days, 100 Grand: the empowerment of the individual. My goal is to make freelancing less of a crapshoot; Low’s is to show how anyone can achieve full control over their body. Whether you want a six-figure income or a six-pack abdomen, the basic thinking behind both books is the same.
Xeno’s Paradox lives!
It’s the old Greek tale that demonstrates it’s logically impossible to overtake a tortoise if you give it a head start. Because to catch up, you’ve got to travel halfway to him first. And when you get there, he’s a bit further ahead. You’ve now got to cover half the remaining distance. As you do, the tortoise plods a bit further. And so on.
Of course, it’s a fallacy. But it has some parallels to the writing process of 100 Days, 100 Grand.
In the middle of 2016, I spent three months solid on a big surge of content, with enough now there to start testing it as an actual work plan. (In other words, becoming a six-figure freelancer myself.) Did it work? Yes – and how. A single sales letter to a small list (fewer than 40 prospects!) led to a fully-booked September, with initial projects turning into new retainer clients at the rate of one a month. A situation still in progress now, six months later. (One reason I’m blogging on a Saturday afternoon.)
But of course, each new client took up days on the calendar…days I couldn’t spend on the book. In fact, September to December I completed barely one chapter a month. This has happened several times in the long slog to publication, and I expect it to happen again. It’s great for my own freelancing business, but no good for yours.
The book’s now 80% done: 235,000 words of 250,000 or so and 1096 pages of a planned 1200. (I know that’s not 80%, but I expect a great deal of current content to disappear in editing.) But each time I test a process, it reduces the amount of time I can spend on that last 20%. Pure Xeno’s Tortoise stuff. It’s both frustrating and exhilarating. Because I can see the finishing post… but my own actions are preventing me from reaching it.