I have a client, David Richman, who came to me because he wanted to write a book about the importance of nutrition and hydration in endurance athletics, how to quite smoking, how to succeed in business, how to make good life choices, how to be a good parent and what to do in the face of death. It will probably not surprise you that the early pages I saw of David’s work were a hot mess. They were a mish-mash of, well, everything David was passionate about. There was no point, no structure, no clear sense of who the book was for or why anyone should care.
We started in to sort everything out – who is this book for? what is the point,? what are you willing to let go? --  and I pushed David pretty hard. I thought he might throw up his hands in defeat at how much work it takes to write a good book or crumble under my ruthless edits or fold when agents didn’t leap to offer him representation – but little did I know that not quitting is one of David’s mantras. I mean, this is a guy who has completed 12 Ironmans.
Not only did David not quit, but he imposed an extremely tight deadline on his work. In March, he vowed to self publish his book in June. I thought, “No way is he going to make it.”  It’s not like David is sitting around with nothing to do all day. He is a single dad. He has a day job as an executive in a finance company. And the same deadline he picked for his book was a deadline he picked to ride his bike 350 miles from Manhattan Beach, California to Las Vegas Nevada to raise money for the Jonsson Cancer Center at UCLA – which meant he had a lot of training to do.
On top of all that, David made a public declaration that he was going to try to sell 10,000 copies of his book during his 48-hour bike ride, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Johnsson Center.  David’s sister June died of brain cancer, and she received much of her treatment at the Johnsson Center. David is grateful for the care she received, and so every year in June he has launched a major fundraising campaign centered around a major athletic event. So far, he has raised more than $30,000.
While this is an amazing philanthropic achievement, David also saw it as a chance to do some really smart out-of-the-box bookselling. David has designed a way to get his book into the hands of his target audience that has nothing to do with agents, publishing houses or bookstores. His campaign starts with the bike ride fundraising event, and will continue with other initiatives at endurance athletic events, and speaking engagements at corporations whose managers seek to inspire their middle managers.
Yesterday, David delivered to me the complete revised manuscript of "Winning in the Middle of the Pack: Realizing True Success in Life and Business." We have gone over it line by line once, twice, and this will be the third time. The book has gotten sharp and purposeful and David is going to make his deadline.
My bet is that he will sell 10,000 copies.
The takeaway? Becoming a writer takes more than just a good idea and a vague commitment. It takes resolve and a fierce desire to make it work.