EXACTLY How Many Hours it Takes to Write a Book

Hi, this is Mo Bunnell, your business development expert and author of “The Snowball System; How to Win More Business and Turn Clients into Raving Fans”. I am so excited about this video because I’ve thought about taping this for about a year and a half. And I didn’t quite have the data and it wasn’t the right time. And I hadn’t quite figured out how to do it in a way that would be meaningful to you, the viewer.

So here’s the deal. In our prior weeks video, we talked about the power and how important deep work is. This is the kind of time where you spend typically alone. You’re working for a minimum two hour blocks of time, and you’re taking something important to you and you are creating. You are building. You should be spent at the end of that at least two hour blocks. Sometimes longer.

And these are the kind of things that when you build them, when you create them, they make a massive impact on your business. Deep work. The biggest pieces of deep work in my life have been taking and passing all the actuarial exams. That was thousands of hours of time that give me three letters after my name, FSA, that I still value today. Even though I don’t practice as an actuary, I know I passed those exams and they were really hard.

Then going off on my momentum and developing all of our training curriculum, Grow BIG training, 17 modules, 600 pages, dozens of worksheets, tools, every last word thought through. And then after that, Grow BIG leader training and two days of great content on how do you become a great leader and lead people that are focused on growth. That was sort of the second big area.

And then the third one was “The Snowball System”, the book. And I was so curious about how long it would take me to write a book that I kept exact track of every 15 minute increment as I worked on the entire thing. Broke it down into pieces. Did the analysis. Added it up, and I’m gonna share with you today how much time it took to get a book to market.

This is super interesting because I’ve worked with my agent. I’ve worked with my personal editor, my editor at Heche. No, they don’t know if anybody else has ever done this. So I think this is really interesting data. Here’s what it is. And I’ll tell you the whole story of what it took to get a book to market as I share the numbers.

Step one. For nonfiction books, you don’t write the book. You typically write a book proposal. Think of it like a business plan for a book. What’s the point of the book? Why am I as the author an expert enough that I could write it? How am I gonna promote it later? Who are we gonna ask for blurbs? What’s the table of contents? And then you typically include one to three chapters to write as a sample as you shop that with agents. This was a failure . I tried to do this on my own and with my team. So step one was it took 94.75 hours to write our first draft, or our first sort of completed book proposal.

I had one particular agent in mind as after I got into the process and talked with several agents. There was one I really wanted; her name’s Lisa Dionna. I think Lisa is the best agent for business books in the business. She’s unbelievable. The kind of author she represents is the kind of people I wanted to be, you know, at the time, years ago. And now many of those are close friends. And I approached Lisa.

She was excited to get the book proposal. She had done research on us. I sent it over to her. Crickets. Didn’t hear anything back. And after a couple weeks, I got up the nerve to email Lisa. I said, “Hey, what’d you think?” And I got an email back about this big, that said, “Hey, you know, this book proposal just isn’t gonna get you an A deal. And I only have time for A deals.” It probably said something different than that, but that’s what I remember. And she sort of let me down nicely, but let me down. And I begged her for a phone call and like a great Ernest Hemingway novel, when she called me, I saw a New York number come in on my mobile phone. It was raining out. It was pouring. I had just rushed in from the garage. I was soaking, wet, and I had to pick up the phone. It was late at one evening and talked with her and begged her for feedback. And she basically said that it was time for us to write a book, but this wasn’t the best book proposal it needed.

It needed a lot more clarity than it had. She suggested that I went and talked to an expert about writing book proposals and gave us a couple names. One person I just loved to death. Uh, his name’s Dave Muldower. We engaged Dave to help us write a great book proposal. I didn’t even show him what we had before.

I wouldn’t let him see it, but he and I worked together to really create a great book proposal. That took 49 and a half hours of my time. So in half the time we created something great because I had an expert helping me. Then when I did a credit version myself, we went back to Lisa. And she said, “This is fantastic. Let’s get going. I’d love to work with you.”

So, man, I felt like I had the dream team then. We were rolling, had great book proposal. The next step was Lisa shopping the book proposal and getting several editors interested. She went to about 20 or 30. We got several that were really interested. That took 14 hours of my time.

Nothing. Because she was doing most of the work, and we drummed up a ton of interest. We ended up going with an editor named Colleen at Hashet, and she was amazing. Just can’t say enough good things about Colleen. At that point we’ve contracted. And that’s all the contracting, all that stuff’s involved in the 14 hours.

So now we’ve got a major book deal with a great agent, an awesome resource ,and incredible editor. And to plan out and write in detail the first draft… That took 255 hours. I had actually engaged Dave at this point to help us also write the book as sort of a personal editor. So I think that saved me a lot of time. I have a feeling if I wouldn’t have had Dave, it probably would’ve taken a lot more time to get the first draft, but we hammered out every single chapter; and typically we would go through six or eight or sometimes ten iterations before we even send it to Colleen. So that let her edit at much of a higher level as opposed to sort of the sentence level. Although she had ideas there too, she could really look at a higher level and make the book really great because our writing was already so sound.Because Dave and I were hammering out and being critical of every single word in every single sentence.

So once we got to first draft, Colleen sent back all kinds of ideas for edits and structural changes and all of that. So writing and editing those drafts to get to editorial approval took 62 and a half hours. That was a lot of heavy lifting, but it was mostly acting on Colleen’s ideas and a few Dave and I had had throughout it.

So it took 62 and a half hours more to get that thing to where they said, “This is a book. We’re ready.” At that point, you move to something called copy edit. That’s where has the folks at Hashet put the book in the exact format that we would see it today. It was in PDF at that point, but all the layout was done. The graphic design was done. We needed to fine tune all of our images, which we had drafts in, but we had to go through every footnote and all those kind of things. And copy it. It took 71 and a half hours. And man, that was hard work because it wasn’t coming up with new ideas as much as it was digging down into every last detail and making sure if we quoted some peer reviewed research that we hadn’t done it before, and that that was lined up, and l you’re getting into every sentence level. And every correlation in the book was accurate. And if we said we covered something in Chapter 4 we actually did. And that was really detailed work. It about killed me.

The next step was blurbs. This one blew me away. It took 48 hours. This was mostly lifting on my part to work with about two dozen people to select down to about a dozen or 15 blurbs. Not only that, there are the great folks on the back, like Dan Pink and Keith Ferrazzi and Bill Ruprick.

But all the people that I really respect, we put several blurbs on the inside of the book, too. People that I’ve just loved working with sometimes for a matter of years. And working with them to give them an advanced reader copy of the book, and get with them about the blurb and making sure it fit right with others and all that. That was 48 hours.

The next step was marketing. So this is 168.5 hours. A lot of time spent getting ready for the book launch, coming up with a special website just for me, mobunnell.com, coming up with all kinds of resources that we can give people if they buy the book early. I worked with my daughter, Gabby, who interned with us and she used Tim Girl’s launch method.

And man, she devoured dozens of hours of video training, compiled all that, created a customized plan for us. And we used Gabby’s advice using Tim Girl’s system and that got us to what I would say was a launch day. And at that point, I felt like work after that is just part of marketing at BIG as opposed to the book.

So that sort of got us all the way to a launch day and a launch party and things like that. The last piece I wanna mention was 49 and a half hours, and that was taping the audio book. It took six and a half days. You can only talk with your voice for four, six hours a day. So that’s why that 49 and a half hours goes over six days.

But man, that was hard work. We’re in a small little box, like closet size studio with an engineer and a director and working through every single sentence of “The Snowball System” and doing the audio book format. And I’m so glad I did that work myself because we get so much great feedback that it’s good to have the author tell the story and walk through the book.

And that was super cool. So if you add it all up the whole project, 813.25 hours. If you throw out the horrible first draft of the book proposal I did in the beginning, which was a complete waste of time, then you get down to 718.5 hours. And if you talk about just that writing of the book part, no marketing, no book proposal, none of the selling up front, just the planning and the writing and the revising, the manuscript. That was 389 hours.

So that’s the data. I think it’s super interesting. Several of those components were more than I thought, less than I thought. And what it took to get it across the goal line was hundreds of sort of deep work sessions that were two to four hours in length where I had enough time I could get in the flow. And I could be without distractions. And I could get a book across the goal line.

Here’s what I hope you take away. This is a long video, but I hope what you take away is that you’ve got things in your life. Is it a book maybe? Maybe not. Is it things in your business you want to build? Is it a new analytical tool you can use with your clients? Is it a new ‘give to get’ you can sort of box up so that you can do it with efficiency and scale across the organization?

Are there leadership things you can do like pull together all the give to gets in your organization and document them in a four quadrant thinking style kind of way, so that it covers the strategy of using the analytics, the process, and here’s how people should experience the give to get? There’s always deep work to do.

And what I’ve found is that when you can do the hard things like saying no to other things and saying yes to the deep work. Throw out other stuff that’s cutting up your time like confetti as Calvin Newport calls it and get really focused on deep stuff. That’s when you can really, really move your business forward.

And I hope hearing the numbers of what it took and the pain involved, honestly, in bringing a book to market that’s been so well worth it after all that, I hope that could inspire you to find what deep work you want to do.

So as with all of our videos, we hope you, we hope that this one helps you help your clients succeed. And I hope you found it a little bit interesting to dig into the numbers. Maybe it’s the former actuary in me, but I love this stuff.

Well, that’s it for today. Thank you so much for watching. For more content like this, check out my most recent video, and be sure to like them so other people can find out about us.

But make sure you subscribe. That’s how you’ll be automatically alerted to the great content that we put out. And if you want access to a comprehensive system for business development, then just buy my book. “The Snowball System” at Amazon, the link is in the description below. Thanks again.

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