Lessons learned from writing and publishing a bestseller in 3 Months

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3 months and 1 day ago, I announced my first book Hibernate Tips – More than 70 solutions to common Hibernate problems. I published it last week, and it became an Amazon bestseller within the first day.

Here is what I learned in this amazing, stressful, extremely busy and rewarding project.

And if you haven’t already done so, you can still get the book at the discounted launch price of $2.99 (ebook) and $12.99 (paperback) or just have a look at a few sample chapters on hibernate-tips.com. But better be quick, I will remove the launch offer tonight.

Preparation is everything

Since the book launch, I was asked dozens of times, how I wrote and published the book in just 3 months. And there is no secret to it. It required a lot of preparation before the announcement and hard work on each and every day; 7 days a week.

You probably know that I have been writing a blog series called Hibernate Tips for several months. Each post is a short recipe that provides the solution to a well-defined problem. I used the same approach in the book and also reused several of the existing blog posts.

“Before anything else,
preparation is the key to success.”
— Alexander Graham Bell

So, I didn’t start at zero, when I announced the book. I already had a few chapters prepared, and I had a lot of practice writing these short tip posts. I also had a list of about 100 candidates for Hibernate Tips I could include in the book. In the end, I reduced that list to more than 70 by combining and removing several tips that didn’t fit into the overall structure.

Without this preparation, I would have never been able to write the book within this short timeframe. And if you followed my weekly book updates, you know that I struggled for several weeks to finish the book and get it to the editor in time.

I had to write about 40 new Hibernate Tips and to edit the existing ones heavily. That took longer than I expected.

Writing is hard

OK, that’s something I knew after several years of blogging. But I didn’t expect it to be that hard.

I had to write several Hibernate Tips each day, and I thought I would have more than enough time for that. I already knew how much time it took to write a Hibernate Tip post for the blog. So, I took that time, added a little bit of extra time for breaks and other interruptions and calculated how many of these time blocks fit into a normal day.

Well, that was a nice try.

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration,
the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
— Stephen King

But it didn’t work like that. Writing takes a lot of creativity, even if I’m just writing a well-structured recipe. And at least in my case, creativity requires a lot of energy, and there are some days in which I just don’t feel like it. Sure, I knew that, but it still messed up my schedule. But I pushed through it and put in the additional hours to get it done.

People want to help; you just have to ask

That is one of the most valuable and amazing things I learned while writing the book. There were lots of people who joined my launch team on Facebook or the mailing list and provided valuable feedback on the early drafts. Thank you for that. It kept me motivated, and your feedback made the book much better!

And there were also guys like Frits Walraven, Steve Ebersole and Dan Allen who invested a lot of time into the book.

Frits did an in-depth technical review. He tried all code samples and triple checked all my explanations with his experience, the JPA specification, and the Hibernate documentation. Frits, you did a great job. Thank you!

Steve is the lead developer for Hibernate ORM, and I asked him if he would write a foreword for my book. To be honest, I didn’t expect him to say yes, and I just hoped that it wouldn’t get too embarrassing. But it was the complete opposite. He immediately said yes and wrote a great foreword. Thank you, Steve!

And Dan is the project lead of the Asciidoctor open source project. I asked him a few question about Asciidoctor before I decided to write the book with it. That was the beginning of a great relationship. He spent hours to fix all the small layout issues. And to be honest, I caused lots of these issues myself. Asciidoctor worked pretty well especially if you consider that it’s still an alpha version. Thanks for your amazing help, Dan!

And if you want to write your own book, you should have a look at Asciidoctor. It worked pretty well, and I liked the overall process.

Amazon’s marketplace is scattered

When I thought of Amazon as an online market place, I always expected it to be one huge platform. But that’s not the case. Amazon consists of multiple subsidiaries which are similar and different at the same time.

I didn’t recognize that until I tried to sell my Kindle ebook worldwide.

As I found out, customers need to go to the correct Amazon website to be allowed to buy an ebook. I’m living in Germany, and I have to go to Amazon.de to buy an ebook. On all other platforms, I get one out of two message which is telling me that the book is not available or that I need to browse to a different Amazon online store.

And please, don’t ask me why there are 2 different messages for the same issue. I tried my best, talked with the Amazon support, and I still don’t know why some people get the first, very misleading message.

If you run into that issue, I’m really sorry. There are 2 things you can do. You can either try a few different Amazon stores and see which one likes to do business with you or go to hibernate-tips.com and get the book as a PDF.

Writing a book is expensive

Yes, writing a good book costs money. And I’m not talking about the money I could have earned while I worked full-time on the book for 3 months.

I’m talking about the money I had to pay for a professional editor, a cover designer, and my book coach.

Don’t get me wrong, all 3 of them did a great job, and I would definitely hire them again!

It nevertheless cost me a few thousand dollars which I still have to earn. Until now, I sold more than 600 books, and it was an Amazon bestseller for several days in a row. But all these sales covered only 1/3 of the costs. So, it will take a few months and lots of sold books to earn some money with it.

But money isn’t everything. I enjoyed the writing process, and I got lots of great feedback for the book. Right now, I think it was worth the costs and effort.

Writing a book is fun

Yes, it took a lot of time, and I enjoyed some days more than others…

But overall, it was a great experience. And yes, I want to do it again.

But not now.

I have a few ideas for other books, and at some point, I will probably write another one. But in the next several months, I will work on other projects and write a little bit less.

My wife is amazing

OK, I already knew that when I asked her to marry me. But without her support, the book wouldn’t be as good as it is now and it would have taken me a lot longer. She took care of everything else around me so that I was able to focus on the book.

And I think there is nobody who read the book as often as she did. She spotted lots of smaller and bigger errors and inconsistencies which made the book a lot better.

Thank you, Sandra!

And to everyone else: If you want to write a book, make sure you have the support from your significant other. You will need it!

That’s it for now

These were some of the most important things I learned while writing my first book: Hibernate Tips – More than 70 solutions to common Hibernate problems.

It was a great experience. But to be honest, I’m glad that it’s finished. And I already know that I will think about writing another book in a few months 😉

Until then, I hope that you enjoy my first book. I haven’t already done so, you should get it today before I remove the launch offer and increase the price.

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