Tags: authoritymarketingwrite book
Episode 180

How to Write a Book Based on Your Expertise with Francisca Alonso

Enoch SearsJan 1, 2017

Writing a book is one of the best ways to spread the word about your expertise as an architect and the services you provide. In today's episode author Francisca Alonso reveals tips and tricks for getting your book published, even if you hate writing!

Francisca Alonso is the co-founder of AV Architects and Builders, an architect-led design / build firm that serves Northern Virginia.

On this episode of the Business of Architecture show, you'll discover:

  • How to get your book published quickly even if you hate writing
  • 3 strategies for getting your content done quickly
  • The hardest part is getting started, here's the #1 thing to do to get started on your book now

Resources for today’s show:

AV Architects & Builders

Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:

[DAP errMsgTemplate=”SHORT”]
Francisca: Once you get started, it will all develop. You just need a tight schedule, someone to hold you accountable, and just map out a six month very diligent process of work schedule.

Enoch: Business of Architecture, episode 180. Hello, I'm Enoch Sears and this is the podcast for architects where you'll discover tips, strategies, and secrets for running a profitable and impactful architecture practice. I'd like to invite you to discover how to double your architecture firm income and create your dream practice of freedom and impact by downloading my free four part architecture firm profit map. As a podcast listener you can get instant access by going to freearchitectgift.com. Today's guest is Francisca Alonso, the CEO and co-founder of AB Architects and Builders. Today we're going to talk about the new book that Francisca has written, Nesting for Empty Nesters. If you've ever thought about writing a book, you're going to discover a fantastic framework for being able to get your book done in the shortest amount of time as possible and also some of the things and lessons that Francisca learned along the way. Now let's get down to business. Francisca Alonso, welcome to Business of Architecture.

Francisca: Thank you for having me.

Enoch: Now you were one of our very first guests way back at the beginning of the show, so it is fantastic to have you back on again. Thank you for being here.

Francisca: I'm really excited to be here, Enoch.

Enoch: Now you've done a lot since we last spoke and one of the latest things that you have going on is the new book that you've published, Nesting for Empty Nesters.

Francisca: Right, yes, it's been a very exciting year to get that book out on the shelves and now on Amazon. It's pretty exciting.

Enoch: Well tell us about the book. Tell us about the content of it, what is the book, who is it for, and what is it about?

Francisca: The book is geared towards the baby boomer generation and it talks about the things that you could do to your house, or the things that you should consider from an architects point of view in your home if you're entering that phase in your life. The audience is for the 55+, which it's a vastly growing demographic. Really, the homes that are out there are not geared towards what they want and what they need and how they really want to live. Which is very different than the way our parents were thinking about their golden years, so to speak. I think that as architect builders here in northern Virginia, how we have a responsibility to put homes out there that serve this demographic. That was the whole mission behind the book and I'm really excited that now it's finally out there.

Enoch: Well there's, obviously there's a lot of architect builder firms in the US and I don't think very many of them have books, so what was the impetus behind writing a book about this topic?

Francisca: Well I think that when we were first … When I started talking about doing research on the topic and writing blogs about the topic, I really wasn't thinking that we were going to have a book. I was more thinking on the lines of writing blogs about it and really educating our prospects, this demographic on really there's [inaudible 00:03:41] opportunity there to really achieve the home of your dreams. It shouldn't just be for those two weeks out of the year that we take off from our busy lives, but it should be a way of life. We trademarked the phrase, “Vacation style living,” and I say to everyone you should live like you're on vacation all year round. How do you achieve that? Well, it starts with your home. How does your home serve you?

Doing all the blogs and doing all the education and interviews and all that about it, it just kind of naturally evolved into chapters. Then with help, with the publishing company we started figuring out how to make this into a real book. It didn't start that way, but it very quickly looked like it could be a good content and we could make it look like a book. Why not, right? Nowadays there's so many ways that you can self publish that didn't exist at all ten years ago, or even before that, that more and more people are attracted to the possibility of doing it. This is our first book, so it was for sure learning curve, but a great experience.

Enoch: What were some of the lessons that you learned along the way getting the book published?

Francisca: I think that what really helped me is to get my thoughts clear as to what I wanted the book to be about. I think that's … Like everything, it's hard to get started. Once you get the ball in motion, things kind of start developing, right? Trying to figure out how to even start, right? The way we approached it with the publisher that I was working with, she was saying, “Don't even think about the book, don't even think about the chapters, let's just talk about … Do an editorial calendar and talk about all this. Let's pretend you're a client, how would you go about building a house? Now let's pretend you're a client and you're nearing retirement age, 55+, what would you consider if you were going to be building a house for yourself, or if you're going to renovate the house that you live in and you want to stay in the community that you spend all your time in and your family lives there and so forth?”

If you look at the statistics of AARP, they tell you that 80 some percent of people 65 years and older don't want to move. We just feel like we have to move, we have to downsize. Meanwhile, our generation, because I'm nearing that stage myself, we really don't want to relocate, but the house that we live in doesn't quite work for us to stay here for the next 10, 20, or 30 years. What we started doing is with blogs and podcasts, just like this one, we started creating chapters and started from the … Chapter one is, how do you choose a site, right? First step one, right? We need a piece of property, what should we consider when we're looking for a site if we want to build a house for, a forever house, we call it a home for life, right? Then from that step on, you just kind of go through the natural steps that we go through in the architectural process and in the build process, and all we do is tailor it as if we were talking to the baby boomer generation. Because obviously their needs are different than if you're in your twenties and you just got married and you have small children, right? That's how the book developed.

Enoch: Okay. It sounds like you broke it down into little pieces that correspond with the actual phases of designing and getting the project built, is that correct?

Francisca: Exactly, yes.

Enoch: Okay. Then you either talked, or you wrote about each one of these things through either a podcast, where you might have been talking, or a blog post where you were writing, is that right?

Francisca: Yes. We did three things. I think the exercise was extremely valuable because it forces you to continuously polish your message. We did it first on Blog Talk Radio, so it was no video, just talking, right? Then I did the same topic, finding your site in a YouTube channel that we have, it's called 360 Home Living. Then we did the writing part, the blog. Because for me, the hardest thing and maybe this is for many people, is to write about it. I actually have no problem talking about it, and it's very easy for me to talk about it if I'm not on video, it's easier. I started with talking about it without me looking at the camera, because that always is distracting. Then, I talked about the same topic on the camera and then the same topic writing about it. We did that with 20 topics and the 20 topics are the two sections of the book. The first section is about the whole process of finding your team, and finding the property, and who you're working with. The second part is what are the design aspects that we should consider when we are designing a home for life? That pretty much is the book. It's a summary of 20 blog posts, podcasts, radio interviews, and then a video, YouTube channel video.

Enoch: Okay, so you had … It sounds like you had at least three different kinds of medium or three different kind of media for the actual sections or chapters, right? You said you had an audio podcast, a video podcast, and then actual written blog. How did you take that raw material and what process did you go through to take those three different media and then turn those into the actual written content of the book?

Francisca: We made an outline of the 20 things that we wanted to talk about. 10 of them were first about the finding your team, and then the other 10 are about how to design and build this house. What I did is talk about each one of the topics in these three different types of media. I think that the purpose was to continuously polish the message, so that by the time you get to the writing part, which is for me the hardest part, I already had a much clearer picture of what the key points were that I could then put in the book. Does that answer your question?

Enoch: Yeah, it does. It sounds like you use that process to kind of hone your ideas and like you said, get clarity around what you wanted to eventually put in the book.

Francisca: Yes, because the hardest thing is to start. When you talk to someone about a book, they sort of have a vision of what they would like to talk about, but they don't really know what that's going to look like, what are the chapters going to look like, what kind of headings, what's the … You sort of know your mission, but you really don't know everything else. Sometimes that holds you back in a way, because you're sort of thinking, “Well, I shouldn't do anything until I have it all figured out.” You can't do anything, you have to do it and then you figure it out. How do you loosen that whole process up? I think that by doing the Blog Talk Radio and then the YouTube channel, by the time I was getting to the writing part I already had a much clearer picture of what I needed to focus on. As we were evolving that, the book didn't start as an empty nester book, it started as a building your dream house.

Then I took that turn to focus on the baby boomer generation because I felt like there was such a void for that demographic in terms of great architecture. I just felt like, I kept hearing over and over again so many people nearing their 50's and wondering where they needed to go. Our kids are gone, we shouldn't be in this big house, but I don't really feel like moving into a condo. It's just not what I want to do and I want to be able to have a home that my kids can come back to. My kids are not interested in buying a house, we've heard that from the millennial generation, right? There's a gap that needed to get filled and I thought this was a perfect opportunity for us to put a book out there that answers some of those questions from the perspective of an architect and a custom home builder.

Enoch: Oh, that's fantastic. How long did you think it took that an initial process of getting the audio podcast, the video, and then the blog posts, that kind of raw materials together?

Francisca: That took about six months, but it was extremely … How would I say? Very diligent. I mean, we basically mapped out the six months and put down the 20 topics and we religiously had one phone call every week and one YouTube every week, so it was almost like a whole, like a serious project. You have to sort of put that lines to things, otherwise they don't happen, right? It was a lot of work in that sense. That I couldn't just say, “Oh well, we'll talk about it next month. This month I'm really busy so I can't … ” We actually put it on the calendar and I knew Bridget, the publisher, she was going to call me on Tuesday morning and I was going to be talking about lighting. It really didn't matter what was going on in the rest of everything else, right? That we were going to talk about lighting for ten minutes, and then we were going to talk about exterior finishes, and then we were going to talk about flow of the main floor, and all the things that we talk about in the book.

I think putting it on a calendar and creating an on paper editorial schedule forces you to get it done. Then after that I had all the content. Now all we had to do, and that took another four months to put it into … Design the cover and the pages and the size of the book and … You know how designers are, we're very picky. We want it just right. Everything matters, right? The color of the font and the size of the numbers on the page and everything matters. That took, that was a whole other process too.

Enoch: Your publisher, her name is Bridget, is that right?

Francisca: Yes, Bridget Palmer and her company's called Brand Spoken. I mean, she was really instrumental. Obviously, without her I would have not been able to do this.

Enoch: What support and help did she provide? What was her part?

Francisca: The accountability, and the scheduling, and the mapping out of the strategy, and sort of making me talk about it. She is the one that had the idea of doing the Blog Talk Radio first, because she realized that I would be very comfortable with that. There was no video, there's no writing, I can talk much more easily. Because I told her, I said, “I can't even picture the idea of writing a chapter.” She goes, “Well you surely can talk about it. You have for … Talking to me for the last hour and a half, so let's not worry about the writing, let's just talk about it.” She basically would sit with me and I would tell her, “I think we should be talking about this, and that,” and little by little the whole book evolved.

Enoch: Would you recommend that other architects go down this path of writing a book?

Francisca: I think a lot of architects want to write a book, they just … It's just really hard to take that first step. I don't know if … For me, it's difficult to write, period. Four, five years ago when we first launched our first blog that was like, it was a huge undertaking just to get started. It's just not something that doesn't come easy to me. I think some people may say the same thing, they have great ideas and they can surely talk about it and be very convincing verbally, but maybe the concept of sitting down and writing 300 words just is daunting. If you can record yourself little by little and then gather all that information, that might be it and then you can have the recordings transcribed. That's what we did, we did all the recordings then we had it transcribed. Then we did the YouTube channel and had that transcribed. The content was already there, I really didn't have to invent it. Now we had to just make it look pretty and coherent. I think a lot of people [inaudible 00:19:14]. Yeah.

Enoch: Go ahead.

Francisca: No, I think that the process is really important. Once you get started, it will all develop. You just need a tight schedule, someone to hold you accountable, and just map out a six month very diligent process of work schedule.

Enoch: Was there a lot of editing that needed to happen from the rough draft? Is that something that Bridget did, or did you do that? How did that work?

Francisca: I did a preliminary editing, but she did all the editing and then she actually has editors too that then gave it another look. Then I had three people, she asked me to find three people that she thought that would be interested in the book, either clients, or colleagues and I sent them the draft. They're the three people that are quoted in the book, there's a little blurb about them. I sent this draft to take a look at it, to get their feedback. I shared it with three people, and I hear that from a lot of authors that it's good to have a draft and then send it out to three, or five, or ten, how many people you think would be good to just get a different perspective. Not that you're going to rewrite the book, but it's always good to get the feedback. I did that too, and that was … I mean, there's a graphic component to the book, and then there's a content component. Then we also wanted to make sure that the book was an easy read. It's only, I think it's 100 pages and every page has a big photo and only 300 words. It's not something that it's going to be painful to read, we wanted it to be very pleasant, really like a coffee table book.

Enoch: Yeah, that is fantastic. What was the original launch date of the book?

Francisca: It was June 1st of 2016, so just now this year. We put it on Amazon and they were … We used a company called BookBaby and they are the fulfillment part of the process. The book is printed on demand, I'm sure you've heard that term. It's not like I have 1,000 books in my basement and I am sending them directly to Amazon, and then Amazon sends a book out. That's one way of doing it, but there's many other ways to do it. There's a company called BookBaby and they specialize in … Also the design of books, they can help you with pretty much every stage of the book. We are working with them on the fulfillment process. When Amazon, when someone puts an order in Amazon, Amazon contacts BookBaby and BookBaby sends them the books.

They print like maybe 10 or 20 copies that they have there, but not 200. The good thing is, also you're not buying anything that you may not sell. Also, you can make a tweak here and there if you wanted to. Someone told me, “All the photos in the book are your projects.” I sort of assumed that that's kind of self understood, but I've had several people tell me, “No, that's not that self understood. It could be that you're using other people's projects, and so you should quote that somewhere.” I'm thinking in the next batch that goes out, I will put a little note there saying all these projects are actually projects that we've done.

Enoch: That's fantastic.

Francisca: Yeah, I mean it's a whole different way of publishing a book, right?

Enoch: What would have been the most effective ways of marketing the book?

Francisca: Well, I'm hoping you're going to tell me that.

Enoch: Because we're working on some marketing we're just going to start here. I'm just curious, have you done much marketing in the book up until now, or has it been focused on, let's get the book out, and then now it's out, now we feel good about it, now we're going to market it out there?

Francisca: Well, I have done some marketing, and we have a video that launched the book out, and we've done newsletter marketing, and we also have done a three month … We did a three month social media campaign talking about the book is out, right? It's very localized marketing and I would like to do more nationwide, or even global, because I think the book really is relevant to anyone, it doesn't matter whether they are here in northern Virginia, or in Spain, or wherever. It's relevant for everything. This is an issue that all cultures have. Obviously, in this country I think more than anywhere else because people like to be extremely busy all the time, right?

Enoch: That's very true.

Francisca: We don't … Yes.

Enoch: Very true.

Francisca: Sometimes we forget about our own lives. I would love to market the book nationwide.

Enoch: Yeah. How many copies have you sold? Well, first of all, do you know how many copies approximately you've sold so far and if so, how many have you sold?

Francisca: I know, it's 92.

Enoch: Okay, fantastic, 92.

Francisca: Yes.

Enoch: Well, we are … Francisca Alonso, you're a member of our Million Dollar Mastermind group in the Architect Marketing Institute and one of the things that we are focusing on over the next few months will be the marketing of the book. When we-

Francisca: I'm really excited.

Enoch: Hopefully, maybe we'll have you back on and have a different story … Have some amazing incredible experiences to share with our listeners.

Francisca: Sounds great, really looking forward to it. Thank you.

Enoch: In parting, is there any last kind of thoughts on the whole process of the book that you want to leave with our audience you feel would be valuable for them?

Francisca: I think my biggest eye-opener was to just do it. A lot of people think about it, we talk about it, and we have it in our bucket list, but most of them don't do it simply because it's hard to get started. I would say, just start. Just start self recording yourself, or have someone else self record you, start doing little YouTube videos of just throwing ideas out there, don't worry about the title, don't worry about the pages, the layout. All that stuff is really secondary, just start putting your content in some sort of media. If it's talking is easier than writing, then just talk it. Then you can in a much easier fashion figure out how to put that on paper.

Enoch: That was fantastic. Well thank you Francisca Alonso for being on the Business of Architecture.

Francisca: My pleasure, thank you Enoch.

Enoch: Okay, bye-bye.

Francisca: Bye-bye.

Enoch: That is a wrap. Thank you for listening today. If you're looking for more time, freedom, impact and income as an architect, get instant access to my free four part architect profit map by visiting freearchitectgift.com. The sponsor for today's show is ArchReach, the client relationship management tool built specifically for architects. If you want to systematize your marketing and business development ArchReach will help you do it. Visit archreach.com to learn more. The views expressed on the show by my guests do not represent those of the host and I make no representation, promise, guarantee, pledge, warranty, contract, bond, or commitment, except to help you conquer the world.


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Enoch Bartlett Sears is the founder of the Architect Business Institute, Business of Architecture and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He helps architects become category leaders in their market. Enoch hosts the #1 rated interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show where prominent guests like M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Thom Mayne share tips and strategies for success in architecture.


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