Zero to book in three days

Think contributors and facilitators, not authors and editors

One of the burdens of book creation is the enormous time periods involved. Ask any publisher for a timeline for producing a book and you will be surprised if you get back an answer this side of 12 months. In this day however that timeline is looking increasingly glacial. How can we accelerate book production? How fast could it get?

How does three days sound? Enter Book Sprints.

These three books were created in a three-day Book Sprint and output to paper, MOBI and EPUB  on the third day.

These three books were created in a three-day Book Sprint and output to paper, MOBI and EPUB on the third day.

Book Sprints bring together 4-12 people to work in an intensely collaborative way to go from zero to book in 3-5 days. There is no pre-production and the group is guided by a facilitator from zero to published book in the time available. The books produced are made available immediately at the end of the sprint in print (using print-on-demand services) and ebook formats. Books Sprints produce great books and they are a great learning environment and team-building process.

This kind of spectacular efficiency can only occur because of intense collaboration, facilitation and synchronous shared production environments. Forget mailing Word files around and recording changes. This is a different process entirely. Think contributors and facilitators, not authors and editors.

There are five main parts of a Book Sprint (thanks to Dr D. Berry and M. Dieter for articulating the following so succinctly):

  1. Concept Mapping: development of themes, concepts, ideas, developing ownership, etc.
  2. Structuring: creating chapter headings, dividing the work, scoping the book (in Booktype, for example).
  3. Writing: distributing sections/chapters, writing and discussion, but mostly writing (into Booktype, for example).
  4. Composition: iterative process of re-structure, checking, discussing, copy editing, and proofing.
  5. Publication

The emphasis is on ‘here and now’ production and the facilitator’s role is to manage interpersonal dynamics and production requirements through these phases (illustration and creation of other content types can take place along this timeline and following similar phases).

Since founding the method four years ago I have refined the methodology greatly and facilitated more than 50 Book Sprints – each wildly different from the other. There have been sprints about software, activism, oil contract transparency, collaboration, work spaces, marketing, training materials, open spending data, notation systems, Internet security, making fonts, OER, art theory and many other topics.

People love participating in Book Sprints partly because at the end of a fixed time they have been part of something special – making a book – but they are also amazed at the quality of the books made and proud of their achievement. Finally, it releases them from the extended timelines (and burdens of guilt) required to produce single authored works.

Here are some interesting write ups that provide more detail on the process:

  1. 0 to Book in 3 Days? (Molly Sharp, Safari Books Online)
  2. Google Document Sprint 2012 – 3 more Books Written in 3 days (Stephanie Taylor, Google)
  3. Everything you wanted to know… (Dr David M. Berry and Michael Dieter)

If you would like to learn more about Book Sprints come to my workshop “Zero to Book in 5 Days” at TOC NYC.

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