Writing a thesis is a huge accomplishment, and in today's guest post Tracy Stanley discusses how all the work you put into that project doesn't have to end once the thesis is submitted to your academic advisors. As always, your writing can be turned into more than one asset; it's possible to turn that thesis into something you can sell.
When submitted it was 103,850 words and I knew that no more than six people in the world would read it. As a result, it was unlikely to have an impact on anything. Yes, I’d written shorter academic articles, but these were also designed for a mainly academic audience.
I wanted to share what I’d learned to a different audience, to managers, and to share the main messages in my own voice, not my carefully restrained academic voice.
Starting was hard
The journey took me a couple of years. Like many, I suffered from the Jekyll and Hyde phenomena of thinking:
Who am I to write this book?
Of course, I can write a book.
This imposter syndrome plagues many writers and I highly recommend you read, The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn before starting the journey as it will help you to confront your demons.
Next, write a book proposal that you might send to an agent or publisher, (even if you don’t and choose to take the self-publishing route). Think of your proposal as a pitch – so use marketing language to communicate its value in terms of content and your value as the subject matter expert.
The proposal will help you to organize your thinking and to focus on your audience and their pain points.
The book proposal should include:
- Problems the book addresses for a specific market;
- Value that will be provided to the reader in terms of pain points addressed;
- A proposed title;
- Evidence that there is a need for the book based on market research. This should come from an analysis of similar books in the marketplace and from talking with people impacted by the problem you are solving; and a
- Contents page.
As you did with your Ph.D., write your contents page as soon as you can. This will help to organize your thinking. We know that it will probably change, but it’s a great starting point.
Having written a Ph.D., you are unlikely to suffer from a lack of content. Indeed you may be able to repurpose your research into several books. I could see that I could split my thesis fairly easily into two books around the themes of employee engagement and creativity.
I suggest that you look at your Abstract and Contributions of the Study chapters in your thesis to glean key areas you want to draw on in your book. But do not do a direct copy and paste as you will be copying your academic voice as well.
Lessons learned from the journey
It’s hard to shake off your academic voice. It took me three years to learn to write like an academic and then three years to unlearn this.
Academic writing is cautious and often uses passive voice. I needed an editor to coach me through the transition. They are also essential for the structuring and proofreading of your book.
I was thrilled when Engagement Whisperer: A Quieter and More Collaborative Approach to Inspiring Your Team was launched and immediately made the decision to write another. This time I decided to write a book about creativity in organizations, with a friend called Barbara Wilson who had complimentary experience, which was ultimately called Creativity Cycling: Help your team solve complex problems with creative tools..
There were many challenges going down the co-authoring path and I was forewarned of these in The Creative Penn Podcast. I went ahead anyway and while the process took a little longer I was delighted with the final result. We produced a book which was both beautiful and full of practical advice.
It was great having a buddy to thrown ideas around with – although we didn’t always share the same point of view. Lessons on collaborating with another author are many and will be the subject of another article.
Practical lessons on making the transition
Write down or record your ideas on who the person is that you are writing for.
Ask them – What are their pain points and learning needs?
If you don’t know how to start – get a book coach. They will help you reframe your thinking and writing.
Use a community. NANOWRIMO happens in November. Great way to get support from other authors.
Get a book coach/editor to help you to change your voice away from academic voice to whichever voice you feel is appropriate for your new audience.
Final word of advice
I know that if you have just finished your Ph.D. that you are possibly exhausted and not interested in writing anything else for the moment. That’s Ok.
Take a moment to breathe and to celebrate your achievement. And then in a little while think about how nice it would be to write in your own voice and to have full control over the publishing process. (And of course, you will receive the financial rewards from a book that accurately meets the needs of your target market.)
Have you written a thesis that you aim to turn into a book? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Tracy Stanley loved the adventures of ‘The Secret Seven' as a child: a small troupe solving mysteries together, often on their bicycles. Their exploits inspired her career in foreign lands and interest in understanding what makes a great team. She writes non-fiction books for managers and fiction (under a pen name).