Interview 1: How to become a #PMOT Author?

If you are still celebrating the first week of this year, doing more in 2012 will matter or how to have a great year without setting a goal!

The next few posts will be about #PMOT authors and how they have managed it. We start with Elizabeth Harrin.

It’s a big milestone to be an author- why did you decide to be one? 
I have always written; when I was younger I wrote stories and poems. For me, there was never an option of not writing, and getting a publisher seemed like a logical next step. My motivation for Project Management in the Real World was partly because I wanted to write a book before I was 30. We had the book launch event a month after my 30th birthday, so I nearly made it!

What are your published works and where can we find them? 
Project Management in the Real World came out in 2006. Social Media for Project Managers was published in 2010. They are available on Amazon and the other online stores or you can get them through bookshops. You can pre-order Customer-Centric Project Management from the Gower website now, I think. That isn't due out until the summer, provided my co-author, Phil Peplow, and I finish the manuscript in time.

I have also self-published two books: Get Started Using Social Media on Your Projects is a practical ebook that walks you through the steps to - you guessed it - start using social media on your projects. You can get that from my blog. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Ten Strategies to Stop Feeling Like a Fraud at Work came out just before Christmas. I wrote that because I gave a presentation on the subject and it seemed to impact so many people that I felt there was more to say on the topic. You can get that at or from the Amazon Kindle store.

How long did it take you to write your last published book? 
Social Media for Project Managers took about 6 months to write, if I remember rightly.

What was your schedule like while working full time and writing it? 
I do remember the last few weeks being horrendous. The deadline was fixed because it was due to be launched at the PMI Global Congress in Washington and I was working full time and then writing every evening and all weekend. The hardest part isn't the writing, although that is tough. It's the co-ordination of everything else: quote approvals and permissions, footnotes and references, preparing images and tables, checking formatting, proofing over and over, responding to the copy editor's queries (I had to take out the word senior because she felt US audiences would interpret that as meaning 'old' when over here it means 'executive'), reading the galleys, doing launch interviews ahead of time. There is a lot more that goes into producing a book than just the words.

How different is authoring a book from blogging? 
In blog posts you make a point in 700 words. In a book, the whole argument has to hang together over 70,000 words! Some of the worst books I've read are when a blogger takes a collection of blog posts and puts them in one document and calls it a book. The structure needs to be completely different.

Three things every #PMOT author should know? 
  • If you want to write, write.
  • Don't write a non-fiction book without selling it first. Just do a book proposal, as you will get feedback from the commissioning editor about how they want to make it fit into their list.
  • Don't underestimate the amount of work, and always add a month or two extra into your contract with the publisher so you give yourself some slack.
 Is it tough finding a publisher? 
No. Well, I didn't find it difficult the second or third time round. First time round I pitched to a big publisher who took a year to say no. I should have done better research because I realise now they would never have published a book by a nobody like me. I matched my next attempt at selling Project Management in the Real World to a smaller publisher, the British Computer Society, and they rang me the next day. I have had a great experience working with them and my other publishers.

Name a book/incident/person that inspired you to become an author. 
That's tough. My mother would let me sit on her lap while she read romance novels, but it was my grandparents who gave me a journal for Christmas one year and that started me out writing.

Elizabeth Harrin is Head if IT Programme Delivery at Spire Healthcare, and Director of The Otobos Group, a business writing consultancy. She was recently named IT Professional Blogger of the Year by the readers of Computer Weekly. Find her online at or on Twitter @pm4girls. 


John said...

There is some truth to the answer to the question, “How different is authoring a book from blogging?” However, if you plan your blog posts properly so that you can use the same contents in your book, you can use the materials verbatim. For example, if you are writing a book called “50 Places to Visit Before You Die”, you can basically blog about a “place” every week. Within a year, you’ll have a complete book. Even for a traditional project management book, you can prepare the book outline first and then divide your contents accordingly so that they will fit for both blog posts and book sections.

Elizabeth said...

John, that's a fair point. I think some degree of editing for consistency and linking together of the themes is necessary, but you could do the type of book you suggest with a lower amount of additional work.