What I learned from writing Museums 101
Working on a new book Museum CX: Understanding and Connecting with Museum Customers, after two years of research I plan to sit down for July and August to write every day. Before I started on the new book wanted to review what I learned from the first book, Museums 101.
1. Your Audience: Find people who are your potential audience and write for them. Send early chapters to your targeted readers and make sure they understand your writing. Assume your audience is not from the museum field or new to the museum field.
2. Advisors: Find people that you respect and get their feedback on the manuscript.
3. Make it Personal: I wrote Museums 101 in the first person, I learned early on the people were interested in me. They wanted to know the reason why certain things happened. Readers reacted well to stories and writing with a narrative. I loved “Making the Mummies Dance” by Thomas Hoving and had his writing style in mind while I was writing. I tried to write from experience, this worked (or didn’t) because of …”.
4. Cookbook: People wanted to know the “steps”. The book was written in a “cookbook” style. Even if people don’t follow the steps, they can at least react to the process outlined. I wrote many entire chapters that became a few sentences. If you can say it in a few sentences say it clearly and repeat it throughout the book, better to say it clearly often than say it in a long winded way.
5. Social Media: When I first contacted the publisher Rowman & Littlefield, I was surprised that they were the most interested in my social media following. Social media is a good indicator for publishers to know how well a book will sell.
6. Not a Money Maker: The book cost me more to write than I will make on royalties (cost of the books that I bought as research and hiring editors). It has had an effect on my consulting business, people have read the book have hired me because of the book.
7. Clarifying: Writing the book has been one of the best adventures I have taken on. It clarified my thinking and helped to “broadcast” my thinking to people. I often send copies of the book to new clients, it helps them to understand me and how I think. Learned that if I don’t believe in something don’t write it. It forces you to have clarity on each topic. At times I go back and reread the book to remember how I think about a topic.
8. Great Editor: I will always be thankful to John Strand for his editing. A great development editor helps to organize the manuscript and structuring the content. I am not a writer and need editors to help structure and review my writing.
9. Cover, Back, Table of Contents and Flip: Most people read a book by first looking at the cover, reading the back of the book and if interesting they will read the table of contents and flip through the book reading a couple of sentences. If after the cover, back, table of contents and flip they are still interested they might invest the time to read the book. A book needs to be organized well enough to hold up to a possible readers cover, back, table of contents and flip process.
10. Long Time: It takes a long time to write a manuscript. The actually sitting down to write goes fairly quickly (took me about three months of writing almost every day), but it took two years to research, organize and think about the content before I sat down to write. It is tough to be in the “right” mindset to sit eight hours a day writing, you need a time in the life that supports the process.
11. Make it Readable: I bought lots of books (more than thirty) researching Museums 101. Many of the books I bought were unreadable, content rich with a lack of structure or narrative.
12. Share Everything: I tried to share all of my sources online, on the book’s website link. I find myself going back to the website to find articles or templates.
13. Be Curious: You have to always ask “why”, often more important than “what” or “how” is “why” you are suggesting a reader follows a process. Researching the topic I purchased forty-six books. I learned that you need to understand a topic holistically before you sit down to write.
Originally published at museums101.com on June 22, 2017.