Ben Putano loves building in public. In 2016, he wanted to design a journal for cocktail recipes, so he took to Kickstarter.
He shared his idea, sent out polls and surveys to the cocktail community, and organised a cover design contest. In only two weeks, 565 backers pledged $24,745 to his project. It’s safe to say that his first building in public experience was a success.
Now, four and a half years later, Ben is building in public again. That’s how I learned about him. But this time, he’s working on something very different …
A non-fiction book? Yes. He’s writing a book in public. How did you guess?
Ben started working on his book around the end of 2020. First, he worked on his positioning. There are hundreds of writing advice books out there. Why should people read his? What will set it apart?
Once he figured that out, he worked on the outline. The main struggle was to connect the stories to the research and carefully mould it into chapters.
He read many books on writing, talked to experts in the field and interviewed entrepreneurs and employees about their struggles.
We’re now approaching the end of May and he’s written eight of the eleven chapters. He plans on finishing the writing stage by the end of May. The goal is to publish the book on 19 November 2021, about eleven months after he started.
As you can see on his meticulous calendar, Ben’s also getting married this year. He hopes to have edited three chapters by then. During the American Summer, he’ll grind on the rest of the chapters and in the last months of the year, he’ll get the book print-ready just before Thanksgiving. He expects the publishing phase to take less than a week. Will Ben make it?
For now, he only writes during the weekends. On weekdays, he does client work and continues with the interviews and the research. His goal is to have a clear outline and finished research for each chapter two weeks before his chapter deadline.
On each deadline, the first draft has to be finished. “There’s no quality standard,” he says. The writing just needs to be done and he’s not sharing it with anyone. I didn’t even get a peek.
Writing shouldn’t suck
Ben Putano’s book is called Great Founders Write. Ben is a founder and entrepreneur at heart himself. He has over five years of experience running his agency and writing for other founders.
While reading what they write, he came to a sad conclusion: Many founders don’t know how to write. Most of them are not confident writers. Their texts are poorly formatted, they make blatant errors, and the copy is full of redundancies. They simply don’t review.
Ninety-nine per cent of language classes around the world teach people to hate writing. The classes are boring. There is too much focus on English literature. It’s always academic.
Great founders — like great writers — begin with the end in mind. Whether your goal is to inform, educate, entertain, or persuade, you must know why you’re writing and why the reader should pay attention.Ben Putano — Great Founders Write
Ben’s mission is to make writing fun again. His book will explore eleven writing principles. It’s a writing book that isn’t about grammar. “It’s focused more on principles rather than, you know, punctuation and sentence structure. I don’t talk about propositions or prepositions. I don’t know what that is. If you master these eleven things, you’re going to be 95% the writer you need to be,” Ben says.
However, I remember one tweet from Ben where he said not to start sentences with the word “however”. Oops.
Coaches and writing secrets
Even though this is Ben’s first book, his organisation and commitment are extraordinary. He’s got everything planned to the minute in Asana. Every chapter milestone is right there, staring at him. “Write chapter 8 this week. Hurry up, B!”.
So far, he’s still on schedule.
How? These are his tricks.
- Ben uses a website blocker before noon. If he needs to jot something down, he uses a good old notepad.
- He writes as soon as he gets up. He finds his mind is still “foggy” enough to stay focused in the early morning.
- He takes a 20-minute power nap before afternoon writing sessions.
- He pushes himself to get through the first 20 minutes of writing. Once he crosses that threshold, writing flow kicks in. It’s easier to keep going. No Pomodoro timers for Ben.
Ben has also worked with an accountability coach for three months. She helped him with monthly targets and weekly priorities. Now, he’s working with an executive coach instead.
Why the change?
His accountability coach helped him set up a convenient structure he can now stick to. As Ben «Busy Bee» Putano is also working on another top-secret project, he needed someone to help him with bigger picture thinking. Hence, the executive coach.
And there’s one more dirty little secret. He only set his final deadline two weeks ago — the early days of April 2021. I wonder how much readjusting it took. Or was he fair and did he stick to his existing schedule?
Next time, he would set the final deadline from the start, though. He believes it would allow him to be even more laser-focused. Additionally, he’d try to be better organised to work more consistently. Because we all know that interrupting your writing flow to do more research kind of sucks.
Writing in Public
“Best. Decision. Ever”. That’s how Ben feels about this experience. Writing in public has many benefits:
- Early validation of ideas
- Many new ideas to write about
- An active community of beta-readers
- Inside information about readers’ companies
- The possibility to implement feedback from the start
- Public accountability
He’s already published the first chapter of his book. Beta-readers were happy to dive in and give feedback because they like to feel part of something. They like to be first and get early insights.
Writing in public also allowed him to call in help from elsewhere. He launched a public design contest for the book cover. And he’s gathering emails in the process to launch a pre-sales campaign somewhere along the way.
Of course, not everything can be dealt with by the public. He will hire a professional line editor, but this person’s job should be a lot easier thanks to (maybe your) early feedback.
Meanwhile, stay tuned. Great Founders Write will be on the shelves by 19 November 2021, just in time to buy a handful of books for Thanksgiving with a sweet Black Friday deal.
And if you want to write your own book, you can partner up with Ben to take you through the writing and publishing process.