Cowriting A Book Remotely

For 4 months, Peter and I collaborated remotely to write a book together, The Digital Nomad Survival Guide.

Previous steps

Organization

I created a book outline Google Doc with each chapter formatted as Heading 1, chapter subtopics as Heading 2, and bulleted lists for content ideas (tips, resources, links, FAQ to answer) in each section.

Screenshots from our Outline docs

On our November 10 call, we reviewed the Outline together, assigning ourselves chapters to write first drafts of and agreeing on general scope and content.

I was assigned to write Packing, Lifestyle, Local Culture, and Social & Relationships. Peter was responsible for drafting Finances, Location Scouting, Jobs & Working, Travel, and Technology.

We each set to work on our chapters in their respective Google docs, copying the link into its section of the outline for easy reference as we reviewed each other’s work.

First Drafts

For my chapters, I started by fleshing out the bulleted outline more — breaking it down into my chapter’s subsections and then listing out primary points, references / blogs / tools to mention, and questions that I wanted to answer or ask.

For example, for Lifestyle, I decided to cover Food & Drinks, Fitness, Entertainment, Balance, and Adjustment.

For me writing the first draft, it usually took 2+ hours and resulted in 2000–3000 words.

Throughout the process, we kept in touch over a direct Slack chat, messaging each other links with notes, asking for status updates, scheduling our next check-in.

We discussed how we wanted to approach editing and decided that I would continue to do a first pass and in-depth edit + revision of every chapter to ensure that we had a consistent voice throughout.

Then we’d prepare the book for final review by an outside editor.

Finding an Editor

One of my close college friends (and former teammate and fellow Katherine) has been a copywriter for the past 6 years and usually gives me writing feedback on anything important that I’m working on.

I’d sent her our Introduction for review in late November and requested her to help us edit the book then, but she had been too busy at work to sign on to the whole project.

She gave feedback and revision suggestions on the Introduction, which I reviewed with Peter and found really helpful and encouraging to have an outside party and non-digital nomad opinion.

When we pushed the launch date, I followed up with her in early January to ask her for her availability and anticipated scope to help edit (and attached our two most complete chapters for reference). This time, she agreed and sent us back her estimate.

Editing

On January 15, I had compiled almost all the chapters into a single Microsoft Word file and emailed it through to Katherine #2 and Peter.

In my personal Evernote for the book, I listed out each chapter and the remaining items to do: copy updates, links to find, formatting to fix, and bonus content to create.

Katherine #2 turned around her first round of edits and feedback to us on the Introduction within a matter of hours, and I worked to get Book Draft v02 together.

By February 2, we had Book Draft v03 complete with all chapters and bonus content for Katherine #2 to do a deep-dive edit. She sent back her changes, and I made v04 on February 8 for her final review.

I reread the book for the nth time and copied out every resource we mentioned into a separate Google doc, organized by chapter. Then I did a Google search for each item and copied in their tagline / summary text + link. This became the “Recommendations + Resources” section in the Digital Nomad Tool Kit in the Bonus Content.

On February 9, I took her last edits and created the Final Draft, which I then sent through to Peter for a first pass at formatting into a Kindle file.


Phase Summary

  • Calls + meetings = 5 x 1–3 hours = 10+ hours
  • Estimated hours initial drafts: 40,000 words @ 15 wpm = 45+ hours
  • Estimated hours for my initial editing: 40,000 words @ 25 wpm = 26+ hours
  • Book draft versions + reviews + editing: 4 rounds x 3–8 hours = 20+ hours
  • Editor scope: 5–10 hours

Next Step


Katherine and Peter are digital nomads, working remotely while they travel the world. They were members of Remote Year 2 Battuta, living around the world with 75 other digital nomads from February 2016 to January 2017.


The Digital Nomad Survival Guide is available on Amazon Kindle.

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