I’ve been editing and ghostwriting books for more than two decades, and while each project has varied wildly, most have several traits in common — most notably, the author’s surprise at how much work comes after writing the actual book.
One of my current clients, Conor Bezane, recently finished his manuscript for The Bipolar Addict: Drinks, Drugs, Delirium & Why Sober Is the New Cool, due out June 21. During one of our recent calls, we chatted about the entire process — from editing the book to getting it ready for publication.
Jenna: We’re in the home stretch! How does it feel?
Conor: It’s really a fantastic feeling to hold the book that you’ve been working on for seven years in your hands.
I’m really proud of how the writing turned out. I started out writing in the past tense then, after maybe seven drafts, decided to give it more of a magazine style, which meant changing to present tense. I think it really came alive when I did that. Polishing it as many times as I did, I’m really proud of it. (I probably did about ten drafts in total — three before we started working together, four during the main phase of the process, and three more once we had it laid out.) I can’t wait for people to see it and to get their reaction.
Jenna: You actually have two books that have come out of this project: The Bipolar Addict and Soberheroes: 12 Celebrities. 12 Stories. 12 Steps. Since the latter is an e-book and an anthology of the blog posts you’ve been writing as part of your author platform, the process was rather different. Was that a different feeling when you completed it?
Conor: It’s a good feeling because, more so than with The Bipolar Addict, I feel I can reach a wider audience, because Soberheroes focuses on addiction only, not bipolar disorder. It’s really inspirational, especially for alcoholics and addicts. People look up to celebrities, they see them as heroes — they’re heroes to me.
Writing Is Only 25% of the Process
Jenna: What is the importance of blogging in the process of writing your book?
Conor: My blog is called The Bipolar Addict. I post once a week, religiously. Then I post my blogs on Facebook to the 7000+ fans that I have. It’s really important to stay in touch with my audience, to keep them coming back and wanting to read more. Blogging helps me stir up interest in the book.
Jenna: What has surprised you most about the book-publishing process?
Conor: I have to say the hardest part of writing the book is not the writing — it’s the promotion and getting the word out about your book. You’re constantly on deadline with the blogging. I enjoy doing it, but it’s like working at a magazine in that I have to constantly come up with fresh, compelling ideas.
I’d say that only 25% of the process was writing the actual book. The rest was promotion and building my author platform and, more recently, setting up a release party and getting everything organized on Amazon. These tasks take a lot of research and planning.
Luckily, I have my editor — you. You keep me on my toes, and all of my writing is so much better because of your feedback. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without you.
Jenna: Aww, thank you! What other people have been instrumental in the process?
Conor: Sarah Stratton of Redwood Publishing is a gem. She’s done an amazing job of laying out the interior and cover elements, setting up Amazon and distribution — pretty much everything after you and I were done with the actual manuscript. She’s also an Amazon guru who’s been extremely helpful with choosing the right categories, setting up pre-sales, and developing the strategy to be an Amazon bestseller.
You also introduced me to Ana at Lusco y Fusco, my graphic designer and illustrator. Ana seems able to draw or design anything. Some of her pieces are incredibly serious, while others are rather whimsical. She’s done everything for me from realistic portraits to caricatures of politicians to both book covers. She never ceases to amaze me. She even designed the Carrie Fisher meme that went semi-viral.
Jenna: What do you wish you’d known when you started this process?
Conor: I wish I would have known how powerful a tool Facebook is, and how important it is. Having that community and being able to interact with people has been really helpful in the writing process, plus it’s allowed me to build a little corner of the world where we who are bipolar all speak the same language. Never underestimate the power of Facebook.
Jenna: You built up your Facebook following in part due to a social media company you hired for a few months about five years ago. How did they play a role?
Conor: I worked with SoMe when the book was in its very early stages. At that point, I was just starting a blog once a week. They were really good at coming up with ideas for me to blog about and running promotions and boosts on Facebook to grow my audience. They were the perfect starting point for growing my social media presence.
Jenna: If someone were to use a company like that, what point in the process do you think they should do it? Right before their book comes out? When they’re starting to write? A lot of authors would have different answers to that question, to be honest.
Conor: I’m happy that I started working with SoMe so early in the process. It gave me a sense of ambition and confidence that I can speak to a large audience and grow an audience that wants to read what I have to say. That’s humbling. I’m really glad that we started early in the process because it’s been a motivator for me. They helped me get the first 4,000 followers, and ever since I’ve been motivated to grow the audience even larger.
Jenna: In what areas do you feel I was the most helpful to you in the overall process?
Conor: You helped me see the big picture — in my case, the world of bipolar addicts — and helped me stay focused and hone it even further. You’re extremely good at helping to shape my copy, whether it’s for the blog or for the manuscript. I’ve learned a lot about writing from you, Jenna. I’ve learned how to pick better, more interesting, flashy, crazy-type words. I’ve always been a writer who believes in specifics and being as specific as he possibly can. You’ve taken that idea and made me run with it.
Writing a Book While Battling Bipolar Disorder
Jenna: How difficult was it to write a book about mood disorders when you have a mood disorder yourself?
Conor: I have bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression. There are two different moods that go with bipolar: mania, which is extreme happiness or euphoria, and depression.
Throughout the process of writing the book, being bipolar and having those symptoms sometimes proved to be a roadblock. There are days when I can’t do anything, let alone write. I haven’t had any manic moments while making this book, but the depressive ones have been debilitating.
Jenna: Some writers have writer’s block, you have writer’s block plus.
Conor: That’s an interesting way to put it. It’s a different kind of writer’s block. I just can’t get out of bed to do anything. Usually, it takes time for me to crawl out of the depression.
Jenna: What do you want readers to take away from either of your books?
Conor: I want readers to identify and empathize with the people in the book — myself and the five “eccentrics,” as I like to refer to them. I want people to understand what bipolar disorder is, how it affects people, and how ubiquitous it is in the world of mental health. There are 5.7 million people who suffer from bipolar disorder. That’s an astounding number — more than the population of Chicago.
I want people to know that we who are bipolar are your friends. We’re your neighbors, co-workers, and family members, and many of us are getting help with therapy and from psychiatrists, and there’s no shame in that. It’s okay to be not okay.