Creating the Book. Part 1: The Challenge

Published September 16, 2013 by Jane Portman

I’d love to say that I decided to write a book in order to spread design wisdom and share my experience. That is, of course, true. But there’s no venture in the world that has only a single reason behind it.

I have more than nine years of UI design experience, three of which I worked as a creative director at a large digital agency. But my international career as a solo UI designer and consultant only started one year ago. This year has been fantastic in terms of new clients and exciting projects. I already had enough experience and courage to step up to the next level of authority. But something major was escaping my attention.

At the end of July I decided to withdraw from my current client activity and put all my effort into building a solid consulting brand. By that time UI Breakfast had already been running for about half a year — its style and professional tone was already defined. So I didn’t pore much energy into the naming or key visuals. Instead, there was a need for some solid action that would help me build an audience from scratch.

I read tons of business blogs on startups and consulting, as well as several books on the topic. It wasn’t really possible for me to make public speaking (or even attending events) a key activity because I run my business from overseas. Instead I chose to focus on content marketing. One question remained: what’s the perfect format?

Book vs. Blog

Blogging is a great activity. Before that, I never in my life had enough time to run a blog. A more honest way to say that: I had other things that had higher priority. Like delivering perfect client work and spending time with my family.

And blogging on its own didn’t seem like something spectacular enough to draw serious attention.

On the other hand, a book seemed like a perfectly scaled endeavor. To me it’s easier to put a large amount of focused effort into a tangible result rather than engage in more intangible and long-lasting activity like writing a blog.

Writing Challenge

My relationship with writing is also quite special. As I’m from Russia, English isn’t my native language, though I’ve never had problems expressing myself in business. I enjoy long-form writing activities in my consulting practice like writing up 10-page expert evaluations, or accompanying each round of UI design with extensive comments.

Nathan Barry, designer and writer, says that writing 1,000 words a day has been the most beneficial and life-changing decision he ever made. That makes great sense. Indeed, I’m so happy to have the knowledge, time and resources to tackle a book.

Still this was the first time in my life that I considered writing as a significant part of my design career. It’s very challenging and exciting, I should admit. That’s why the first thing I did was finding a perfect editor whom I can trust (please meet Emily Freeman). I did that even before I started writing — to have someone professional and reliable ready to give advice and cover my back.


Another thing was perfect timing as far as family events.

I started writing the book in July, and I expected my second baby in November. That provided a perfect timeframe to write and publish a book just before that life-changing event. Traditionally, the last few months of pregnancy aren’t best for any kind of work, but with my first son I kept working almost until he was born.

And this time I felt ready for some great work, too! Organizing myself into delivering a single product seemed much more attractive than dealing with a flow of client work.

Solid Plan

Thanks again to Nathan Barry. His book Authority gave a perfect plan how to write, market and publish a book in 90 days. I have to admit, I didn’t follow the plan word by word. But the book and the plan made the process very transparent and set realistic expectations.

As always, it was important to have the dedication to actually follow the plan and execute each step and recommendation. There is a ton of fantastic advice available online for all of us. But we hardly ever have the time, concentration and resources to ship work. Be it a weekly blog entry, or a more serious product.

So I settled in for an exciting three-month journey to write, promote and publish my own book on UI design.

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