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Breaking Down the 252 Tasks Involved in Writing a Business Book

Let's geek out with some data from a recent Racket project.
Dec | 4 | 2023
  Dec | 4 | 2023
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BY Phil Simon
  Phil Simon

Breaking Down the 252 Tasks Involved in Writing a Business Book

Let's geek out with some data from a recent Racket project.
Phil Simon
Dec | 4 | 2023

Breaking Down the 252 Tasks Involved in Writing a Business Book

TL;DR: Let's geek out with some data from a recent Racket project.
Phil Simon
Dec | 4 | 2023

Many things separate first-time or would-be writers with experienced scribes. Perspective is a biggie. The former typically think of writing a book as one massive project and, as such, don’t know where to begin. The single task seems overwhelming, causing more than a few to give up. Those of us who have done it a bunch of times know that the opposite is true: Penning a proper business text is actually oodles of individual tasks.

Authors need to complete some items in a sequential manner. Starting with personas is always wise. For example, one can’t proofread a book before actually writing the damn thing. It’s best to sign off on a template for the interior before laying the entire book out.

Other tasks they can do in parallel. Authors should think about marketing before they even start thinking about writing, not as the months-long project ends. (More on this later.) If you like, kick the tires on prospective audiobook narrators while you’re noodling with titles and subtitles.

Looking at the Data

Tech is embedded in Racket’s DNA, and proper project management tools like Notion allow for interesting analysis. This weekend, author Michelle Gitliz, the Racket team, and I neared completion of Reimagining Payments: The Business Case for Digital Currencies. Including the index, the book’s length will be roughly 260 pages.

I was curious about how many tasks it took from idea to final product. The answer: 252. Here’s a graph breaking them down into different buckets:

 

Click image to embiggen.

Note that all tasks count the same. That is, I didn’t attempt to put hours behind any of them, and writing the book took far more than thrice the time needed to complete Amazon-related tasks. If you’re interested in percentages, see the donut chart below:

Click image to embiggen.

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Observations

As one would expect, writing takes home the gold. Newbies might be surprised to learn, however, the number of marketing tasks involved in writing a book if they want their new creations to make an impact. Posting on LinkedIn, building or tweaking your website, reaching out for blurbs, routinely blogging, and the like are essential. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Ever.

I’ve worked on enough books in my career to know that these numbers are guidelines, not absolutes. For instance, when I wrote Zoom For Dummies and Slack For Dummies, designing the cover took about three minutes. I just had to pick my preferred stock photo. The highly templated approach allows no room for interior design tweaks, either. If you don’t like the font or icons, tough noogies.

Creating a professional book from scratch involves myriad different tasks and skills.

At the other end of the spectrum, here’s an interesting yarn: I know publishing consultant who told me that one of her clients changed the font of his book cover’s subtitle—ready for this?—34 times.

You might consider some of these buckets optional. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to pursue deals for translations with Dropcap, but to each his own.

Brass tacks: Every project is different.

Food for Thought

Of course, your mileage will vary, but bank on this reality: Creating a professional book from scratch involves myriad different tasks and skills. If you’re the rare factotum or unicorn that can do them well all yourself, have at it. Otherwise, you’ll need some experienced hands to guide you through the process and help you make expensive mistakes.

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2 Comments

  1. Josh Bernoff

    While my own list of book tasks is different from these, this does make one excellent point: writing tasks are NOT the majority of the effort involved in creating a book. My own version of this chart would have many more planning tasks (maybe they are what you call “admin,” but that doesn’t accurately reflect how important they are).

  2. Phil Simon

    Thanks for the comment, Josh. I’m sure that those lists and project plans overlap quite a bit.

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