Early in 2012, I received word from Penguin (now Penguin Random House) that a book proposal I had submitted had been accepted. I would have until March 1st, 2013 to submitted a 65,000 word manuscript on a book I had been planning to call The Business value of Joy.
While I had blogged considerably until October of 2011, the idea of creating a book, while thrilling, felt a bit like a climb up Mount Everest for someone who had never climb anything higher than the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Penguin took a chance on Joy … now it was up to me to deliver. My life changed for the next 18 months. I spent a fair amount of time away from Menlo writing. It’s fair to say that I wrote three books worth of material that eventually was honed through dedicated editors, notable Natalie O. at Penguin, and Linda Irvin here in Ann Arbor. There were a few Menlonians along the way that provided early feedback.
I always knew I wanted to write a book. I had no idea how to do it. One day in early March of 2012, I flipped open my Macbook Air and fired up Microsoft Word and clicked on New Document. A blank page stared back at me. Now what?
I began writing. Storytelling really. Where did joy begin for me? What happened to joy? How did fear play a role? How did I respond to that fear? How did we get back to joy? What does joy look like at Menlo? There were scary moments along the way. January of 2013 being one of the scariest, when less than 40 days from deadline, I decided to start over.
I met the deadline. It was finished. Little did I know that the hardest part, the editing, was just about to begin. That process took most of the next six months. In late August, I sent in the final version. If meeting the March 1st deadline was the equivalent of dropping off a child for their first day of kindergarten, sending in the final version feels like sending them off to college. There was relief and melancholy. I felt sadness that day, as something that had become a big part of my life over 18 months was now gone. My wife Carol was glad to start scheduling some projects for me around the house!
It is during this time that Penguin asked me for people I’d like to send an early manuscript to for reviews and dust jacket endorsements. There were some obvious choices like Ari Weinzweig at Zingermans (thanks Ari!), and then there were some bold choices, including Tom Peters who wrote In Search of Excellence, a book that greatly affected my thinking about organizational design in my early career. I got a thoughtful reply from Mr. Peters’ staff that he doesn’t do book endorsements any more. However, she thoughtfully offered that I could take a chance and send him one. I did. A few weeks later a Tom Peters staffer called me and told me she was about to make my day. Tom Peters had endorsed my book. Woohoo! Here’s what he said:
“Joy, Inc. is a marvelous title, sure. But this masterpiece delivers and delivers and delivers. I beg you to keep taking deep breaths and imagining the world that Rich Sheridan reveals. Then …give it the best shot you can. I do truly beg you.”—Tom Peters, co-author, In Search of Excellence
Whoa. He liked it! It’s a strange time for an author when so few people had read the book up to that point. You wonder … did I write something that others would value? It is a very vulnerable time. You want people to find value in your work, but you just can’t be sure. I felt good about it, but what I thought no longer mattered.
Right now is a period of waiting. The book hits shelves on December 26th. However, Wednesday (November 6th) was a magical day and one that most authors don’t get to experience. Penguin chose Edwards Brothers Malloy as the printer to manufacture the book. They are a customer of ours and their plant is less than 2.1 miles away. I was able to join John Edwards and Bill Upton at the plant and watch Joy, Inc. come to life as an actual book. I got to hold the book for the first time. 18 months from blank screen to an actual book.
In a word, I felt JOY!
I hope many of you benefit from the words I have written.