Looking back on our book process

Recently Thursday and I met up for a retrospective on The Responsible Communication Style Guide. The book was over a year in the making, and longer if we count from the first time Thursday dreamed of the project. We started planning in July 2016 and shipped the first print books at the start September (2017). Our Kickstarter raised over $21,000, which we used to hire specialist editors and writers, and print and ship those copies.

While many things worked out as intended, one big one did not. The result of the November 2016 elections had an enormous impact on our contributors. In addition, we had a much harder time than anticipated finding an editor who could commit to doing our Religion section. I’m very pleased with our editor and the result, but it ended being the very last piece we finalized.

Here’s a few things we learned for next time.

What went well

We found a very receptive and kind audience for the book. Thank you! Thursday and I had been concerned about pushback (of the sort that any tech diversity project faces) but the response was overwhelmingly positive. We also appreciated the feedback readers gave us throughout the process, and the wide network that helped fund the project. Of course we also have to mention our amazing contributors: you put so much hard work and love into this.

We sold out our original 300 copy print run between the Kickstarter, shop pre-orders, and a very short period of post-release sales. With that success, we’re thinking about a second print run in early 2018.

Things that could have been better

Well, we missed a few deadlines. Originally we thought the book would take about six months to produce, but that became less and less likely after January and the inauguration. Then we intended to finish by May for Write the Docs, which also didn’t work out. In the end we nearly were able to wrap up in late June, but an unfortunate combination of personal and family needs kept us from sending the book to the printer until August. The delay in completing the book caused us to use up a little more than the reserve money in our budget (which was there for unexpected contingencies like this) so we finished just a little short on our shipping costs, which additional sales were able to cover.

How we want to improve

Next time, we’re going to build more room into the schedule for less-than-ideal external circumstances. We also think we can improve the process by signing contracts with more of the contributors before the Kickstarter is over, and possibly hiring a project manager to take over coordinating those pieces. We’ll allow more time for the complexity of assembling topics and definitions, especially since we’re right on the leading edge of this discourse. We could also make some parts of our process more uniform, especially around sensitivity readers.

Last, we’ll remember that running a Kickstarter is hard work, and so is book publishing, so we need some time to recover after we complete each stage.

We did it!

Finishing The Responsible Communication Style Guide and seeing it in readers’ hands really is a delight. I’m so happy that Recompiler Media was able to publish this work, and that I personally could contribute. We’re also working on a collection of supplements for topics we couldn’t fit into the book, so stay tuned for an announcement. Thanks again for all your support!