Updated: Sep 13
In the last years, many people have asked me about my book: People Skills for Analytical Thinkers. I finally took the time to sit down and write down answers to the most frequent questions.
Writing a book was hard. It never seemed to end. However, when I had the first copy of the book in my hand, I realized: “This is the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my professional life.”
I hope this article will inspire you to write a book yourself, help you move closer to publishing, or reach more readers with your book.
I’ll share my experiences in 4 steps:
How did you decide to write a book, what was the inspiration and what tipped you “over the edge” into action?
It's December 2019. I'm doing a hike in New Zealand.
One person I meet is Katharina. A German psychologist.
We have a pleasant talk. No surprises yet. But then, everything changes.
We speak about writing.
I tell her I've been writing online.
She asks me if she can read my latest piece.
I hand her my laptop, but I'm nervous for her response.
I wonder what the nod means.
Too many long sentences? Too cliche?
Then she says: "This is really good."
I feel a fire inside. Confidence.
Katharina ignited a flame.
One week later, I'm writing the first chapter of my book:
People Skills for Analytical Thinkers.
Moral of the story: don't underestimate the power of your words.
A little encouragement —
Can make a huge impact.
Did you always want to write a book?
Yes, it was on my bucket list. But I thought I would save that for my retirement J
I was on a 6-month trip around the world. I planned to start my own company upon my return. And after a few months of hiking, sightseeing, and reading books, I wanted to do something productive. I wanted to create.
But my plan wasn’t to write a book. I just wanted to write a 10-page PDF document. My idea was to share all the lessons I learned since I started working. But that escalated quickly. That Word document grew to hundreds of pages. My editor helped me cut down and organize my writing.
Why was your book topic the thing you wanted to tell the world about?
Working as a Data Analyst, I struggled in communicating my ideas. I had the data (the truth – at least that’s what I thought). But often, people did not listen to my insights. This was frustrating. I saw other Data Analysts and Scientists have similar challenges.
I’ve always been interested in psychology (my academic background is in Behavioral Science). That’s why I decided to take the intersection of Data + Psychology.
How did you get started? Who did you talk to and what resources helped you get things going?
I searched for new books and reached out to those authors on LinkedIn. Some responded. We had a digital coffee and I could ask many questions. I learned a lot — and it was fun!
Also, I talked to hundreds of people to understand the main challenges:
Analytical Thinkers working in the field of data
Leaders in the Data & Analytics industry
What struggle do writers need to overcome?
Writing is vulnerable. By definition. You put your thoughts into words without knowing how other people will view your work. Writing is a piece of art.
Also, the best writing makes a direct connection with the reader. And this connection requires vulnerability. If you are only writing about the content (whether your topic is Data Analytics, Career advice, or cooking), you’re distancing yourself. You’re far away from your reader. However, when you include personal examples of your own challenges, you make a direct connection with your reader. This is what every human appreciates.
So, writing is vulnerable. Twice.
I’ve been perfectionistic. I remember one day; my goal was to write 2,000 words. But I wanted those 2,000 words to be great. So before writing down a sentence, I asked myself: is this great? Is this worth publishing? I barely made any progress. Until I adopted a new mindset.
The new mindset was: “I’m going to write 1 bad page.”
This focus on speed and incremental improvement helped me to move forward.
Recommended reading: Seth Godin: The Practice.
It’s simple. But it’s not easy.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is quoted as saying: “Writing is 90 percent applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair”.
To do your best writing, you need to get into the flow.
Recommended reading: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Flow
How did you improve your writing?
1. Writing online
In the years before writing my book, I wrote on Quora and I published several articles on LinkedIn. My work got little attention and my writing was mediocre. But I got into the habit of writing, getting the ideas out of my head, into the hands of people. This immediate feedback loop made my writing much better.
I’ve done lots of journaling, trying to write something every day. Free writing. What I’m thinking, how I feel, what I’m excited about, what I’m worried about.
Tip: download the free app: DayOne.
In the last years, I’ve read >100 non-fiction books. This helped me to understand what a good book looks like.
I’ve learned from every author, but James Altucher taught me how to write in a vulnerable way that directly connects to your reader.
4. Writing courses
I also took this free writing course. I recommend it to everyone who wants to become a better writer. After the course, I binged all her articles. Henneke is a master at bringing your words to life.
How long did the writing take? What was the experience like?
11 months. But I was on sabbatical during 3 of those months. So, in that period, I had a lot of time and headspace. That last one is important. I can’t imagine writing a book with many other things on my mind.
(In Vietnam, getting some inspiration.)
(In Mexico, being a workaholic.)
“I’m a great speaker, but a poor writer.” How to “write” a book without sitting still hours behind a computer typing? 😅
Write like you speak!
I’ve written my book in conversational language and many people have told me they liked the writing style. Even for more serious topics, you can make it playful. Of course, every now and then you’ll have a long sentence. But mix it up. Just like I’m doing now.
To answer your question directly: if you want to write a book, you’ll need to sit for hours by your computer. Don’t like that idea? Hire a ghostwriter and send your ideas via voice message ;)
What’s a writing tip you can share?
Don’t write words. Write music.
What do you think is the biggest mistake non-fiction writers make?
1. Writing a book that doesn’t solve a problem
Before you start, you need to understand the key challenges of your ideal readers. I’ve had 1-on-1 conversations with many Analytical Thinkers to understand what their struggles are.
Ask what questions they have about your topic. Those questions can even be the outline of your book, every question you hear often is a chapter in your book.
2. Writing a book for a broad audience
If I would have written a general book about people skills, nobody would care. That’s why I’ve written a book about People Skills for Analytical Thinkers. It’s a new category. So, find your category.
Why did you self-publish? What were the pros and cons of this route vs hiring a publisher?
I was inspired by James Altucher who wrote a lot about self-publishing. And many authors told me they were unhappy with the marketing efforts of their publisher. And if they also take 90% of the profits, what’s left?
Well, there are probably good publishers. But I’m incredibly happy I chose to self-publish. Top reasons:
1. Connection with readers
I’m closer to my readers. Connection = feedback = improvement. Also, it’s fun to hear about the impact that you’re making.
I have full control over what will be in the book. Publishers might insist on changes in the content that you might not be comfortable with.
Self-publishing means you get to keep all of your royalties (apart from fees you pay to platforms where you sell your book).
Books are a wonderful way to generate passive income. But remember — many self-published authors sell 200 copies or less. It’s really hard. If your primary reason to write a book is to make money, think again. Online courses and other business models might be more profitable.
What are royalty rates when you self-publish?
When you sell at Amazon, you keep 70% for an e-book, and 60% for a paperback.
Do you send all those Amazon books yourself?
No. Luckily not.
Amazon has 12 printing locations around the world. When anyone orders a book, it is printed on demand. Amazon handles everything, from order to delivery. The only thing I see is the number of books sold.
I do send a few of the books myself, but only for Bol.com (an e-commerce store in the Netherlands, my home country). This allows me to add a hand-written card. It’s a great way to stay close to my readers.
How many iterations did you go through before publishing?
Too many to count. I’ve postponed the launch of my book several times. After the 5th time I think my friends thought I would never publish ;)
But I’m happy I postponed several times; this gave me the time to keep on improving the quality of my book.
My biggest fear is that all the pages I wrote are not readable for an audience, while the content could be entertaining and enlightening to other people. So am I too late now to involve an editor, or is it very costly? Overall I’m afraid of even trying to find out what it costs to write a book. How did it work for you?
What makes you afraid that your pages are not readable? Did you get feedback or is this your assumption?
I’d recommend getting an editor, no matter the stage that you are in. It’s not cheap. But spending a lot of time writing, and then finding that people don’t find it readable? That’s sounds expensive to me.
I was too late to the party too. I only involved an editor when my first full draft was done. Luckily I found Ameesha Green. It was hard to read her feedback — I had to change big parts in the structure. This took so much time, but I’m happy I followed her guidance. She is a professional and will make your book 10x better. I’d highly recommend her and her organization The Bookshelf.
What is the editing process like when not working with a publisher?
My editor Ameesha Green helped me with:
1. Editorial assessment
This was a review of the whole book: the structure, the flow.
Making sure the book is without mistakes
What would you do differently if you had the chance to go again?
Involve an editor from the very start. See above.
How much money (roughly) does it cost out of pocket before your first sale?
You can go wild. But I kept costs quite low:
1. Editor: $1,500
Ameesha Green - TheBookshelf
2. Book designer: $300
3. Cover designer: $10
Incredible, right? Highly recommend working with Olivia
Next to that, I’ve worked with Lisa Kroes. She created awesome illustrations! People often tell me they like the illustrations and it’s all thanks to Lisa.
How long did it take you to get meaningful sales? It’s probably worth including a section on handling the disappointment when your hard work doesn’t immediately fly off the shelves too.
A big surge in sales happened 6 months after publishing. I expect this happened because of word of mouth. The first people who read my book, told the next group of people, who started buying too.
See the below bar graph for Amazon sales. This is where I sell 95% of my books. I also sell my book via Ingramspark — they distribute through all other channels.
How did you promote your work and what factors do you credit for your success, in reaching “best seller” status?
I did several things:
Giving away a free version of Part 1, as a sneak preview. That’s how I collected email addresses. Then I set up three automated emails as a follow-up, making the reader more curious and stimulating them to read the free preview and eventually buy the book.
When people reviewed my book on LinkedIn, I always left a comment it. This helped to make the post visible to my own audience.
Contact influencers on LinkedIn, asking them if they wanted a free copy in PDF. Many of them shared a post about my book.
Post consistently on social media (LinkedIn works well for me). Write about the topic of your book. So not about your book itself, but about the topic you discuss in your book.
I created a free email course: The Art & Science of Conversation. It consists of 16 short emails with practical tips. Every 3-4 email has a call to action at the bottom, with a link to my book. By now, 3,300 people have taken the course. I’m not sure how many of these bought my book, but I’m sure this has contributed.
I created a self-test for Data Analysts and Data Scientists. Within 5 minutes, they have a personalized PDF report with their current skill level and tips on how to improve their communication. In return, people share their email address. This helps me stay close to my readers and understand how I can best help them.
The above helped in reaching the #1 bestseller position in different categories. It happened two times:
6 months after publishing
2 years after publishing
So, if your sales don’t take off straight away, be patient and keep on going.
How did you get so many followers on LinkedIn?
Here are 12 tips for writing on #LinkedIn — They've helped me reach 8.5 Million views in the last 12 months:
1) Write like you speak. 2) Write short sentences. 3) Write every sentence with the reader in mind. 4) Write conversational. How? I just showed you. 5) Use storytelling (look up the ABT framework). 6) Be specific. Avoid words like "thing" and "stuff".
7) Afraid to post? Remember: imperfect is perfect. 8) Be personal. Everything has been written already. What makes it unique is YOU.
9) First sentence of your post: signal who the post is for and what the reader can expect. Evoke curiosity. 10) Last sentence: should be powerful. Make the reader think. 11) Finished writing? Now cut 30%. Yes, there are only 11 tips. Again, imperfect is perfect.
After posting consistently on LinkedIn for a year, I got new leads for my business. Now, after 2 years, I have more clients than I can serve.
Every week I get 3-4 new messages from people, asking if I can do a presentation or training for their employees. It’s the same every time: “I’ve been following you for X months. Your posts resonate with me and they are relevant to my company. Can we have a meeting to discuss how you can help my team?
LinkedIn made all the difference in building my company: MindSpeaking — Communication Skills for Data Scientists & Analysts.
I write articles on Data Science related topics, however, I find it hard to market or reach it out to the audience. I am not sure if this comes under self-publishing and I am trying to educate myself on this topic. Hope you could share some of your knowledge on that!
People read articles or books because they expect it will solve a problem or fulfill a desire. As a writer, your job is to understand what their problems and desires are. Based on this understanding, you can write your articles.
Of course, your articles need to be well-written. But that’s only the second step. Too many authors don’t have the reader as their starting point.
Talk to people: what are their challenges?
Think for yourself: what are you passionate about? What can I read about for hours, without getting bored?
Write your book for a narrow audience.
Solve a problem. Understand the biggest challenges of your audience.
Speak directly to your reader
Involve an editor. Early.
Consider self-publishing. There are many benefits.
Post on social media. Consistently. Sometimes about your book. But mostly about the challenge that your book solves, without promoting your book at all. Become the expert on that topic.
Automate your marketing. Setup email sequences, that are triggered automatically when people sign up. Make your ideas scale.
Your next step
I believe all good ideas need to be heard. You have great ideas too. The world is waiting for you to share them.
My hope is that this article makes the rough (but rewarding!) path to writing and publishing a book a little bit easier. And I also hope... That you start writing today. It's okay for the first page to be bad. Because the first page will be bad. Your writing will never be good unless you start.
So set yourself on the chair. Your hands on the keyboard.
And turn that: "One day..." Into: "Day one."
About Gilbert Eijkelenboom
As a former professional poker player, you’ll find Gilbert Eijkelenboom wherever data and psychology meet. Gilbert spent his career in Data & Analytics and he’s passionate about it. But too often, people did not listen to his data insights. He saw other Data professionals have the same struggle. Therefore, he founded MindSpeaking and has trained 1,000+ Data Scientists & Analysts to communicate with business impact. In 2020, Gilbert published the bestselling book: People Skills for Analytical Thinkers.
Connect & free resources:
💻 Gilbert’s Linkedin: Connect or follow me
🗣 Free email course: No more awkward conversations
📙 People Skills for Analytical Thinkers: Order the book here.
📈 Discover your maturity level in Data & Analytics
🎬 Get data communication tips: subscribe to my YouTube channel. Many new videos coming!