A book on global warming solutions

Every book has a story, and I would like to share the story of why and how I wrote a book about global warming solutions.  My goal for this post is to explain my journey of writing Social Solutions for Climate Change, and the take home lessons for anyone wanting to self-publish a book.

Imag of Twitter post featuring Sherry Nouraini
UCSD Library features Sherry Nouraini on Indie Author Day.

The motivation: communicating global warming solutions

Just like anything else in life, writing a book needs to start with “Why”. In my case, I wrote the book, which I tried to find but couldn’t. “If you can’t find the book you want to read, write it”, my case literally fits this cliché: except I was looking for a book that I wanted my students to read.

A couple of years ago I was recruited by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to teach Social Media for Climate Science and Policy for their newly established Master of Advanced Studies on Climate Science and Policy. The goal of this course was to teach the students skills necessary to effectively communication global warming solutions about which they learn during the year long program.  In an effort to develop a teaching curriculum, I searched for a textbook that would include:

  1. Comprehensive information about effective science and climate change communication
  2. Specific information about using blogging and social media for the specific purpose mentioned above.

My search revealed that number 1 was available but highly fragmented, and number 2 was non-existent.  Therefore, the book I wanted to write served a particular purpose, and it had an audience ready to consume it.

Take home lesson 1: Be quite clear as to why you want to write a book, and who is going to read it.

The Planning: Teaching and writing

When you get ready to write, reflect on what kind of book you want to create. Personally, I decided to write in a textbook style, not only because I wanted to use the book to teach a higher education course, but because I wanted to write a “how to” book which was easy to comprehend and follow, together with examples so the reader could see how to apply the concepts in the book to a specific situation. I also wanted to write a credible book, complete with a bibliography, just like my years of training as a scientist taught me to do. This was not going to be an easy project, and it was clear to me that it would consume most of my time, but I was determined and ready to get it done. So, I spent close to two years reading books, original journal articles, research reports and statistics, and then creating the content.

Take home lesson 2 : Be clear as to the type of book you want to write, and be prepared to do the work to get it done.

The discipline: To the finish line

Here’s another rule for getting challenging projects done:

  1. Have a deadline
  2. Break the project down into steps
  3. Make it a habit

When I began writing the manuscript, I started with a lesson plan, since I was going to use the book to teach a classroom. This automatically helped me create an outline for the book, and milestones to target for completion. I also had a deadline, the book needed to be complete when the course started. I should clarify that I was not able to complete the book for the first year I taught the course, but this actually provided an advantage, since I was able to test-drive my lesson plan in the classroom.   I could have put something together quickly to get some sort of a book published, but I decided to exercise discipline and test my concept first. This decision not only helped me refine my material, it also provided me the opportunity to include work by students as examples in the book. This student-generated content formed the basis of specific personas that I use throughout the book to help the reader understand how to apply the concepts in the book to specific situations.

As mentioned, I had planned an ambitious writing project, and had to somehow incorporate it into my life as an instructor, business owner, and mom of two athletes (my other job is a swim taxi). The only way I could accomplish this was to make writing a habit. I planned writing into my day, and had a designated place where I could write uninterrupted. Also, starting with a plan for my content helped me get to writing soon after I sat down (or stood up in front of my Varidesk), as I knew about what topic I was supposed to be writing that day. Don’t get me wrong, this planning did not work 100% of the time, as I occasionally interrupted my writing by hanging out on social media, or taking long lunches or getting some retail therapy. But know that this is part of the process because robots can’t do writing for us, yet.

Take home lesson 3: Have the discipline to work with a deadline, create milestones, make writing a habit and resist the temptation to just publish anything, test drive your content first if you can.

The resources: Ask for help

Right on the outset, I decided to work with a publishing project manager who knew the insides and out of self-publishing. I was mainly interested in writing my book and did not want to spend time learning the intricacies of publishing. So, I enlisted the help of Linda Scott, an author and owner of eFrog Press to manage the publishing of my book.

Now, if you are going to follow my lead and hire an expert, be sure that you have the necessary funds not only to compensate them for their services, but also to pay for costs associated with publication and marketing your book. So if you want to self publish, make sure you have the funds to support it. To give you an idea of the different types of expertise it takes to self publish I will list some of the different types of services eFrog Press coordinated for my project:

  1. Developmental editing
  2. Copy editing
  3. Proof reading
  4. Cover design
  5. Interior book design
  6. Permissions editing (to make sure you are not violating anyone’s copyright)
  7. E-book publishing
  8. Library of Congress listing

All of these experts charge a fee and the more words in your book, the costlier it will be.

Take home lesson 4: Don’t just write a book because everyone’s doing it. Only start on a publishing journey if you know there will be a need and if you have the funds to support it.

I must confess that the journey to completing this book required a lot of grit and the genuine belief that I was adding real value to the discussion around effectively communicating global warming solutions.  If you believe your writing can do the same, then don’t hesitate to start writing.