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Behind the Scenes: Writing a book

Every so often on Biz Column Friday’s I’m going to take you behind the scenes into my business and tell you about what goes into certain aspects of it. Today I thought I would drill down into what goes into writing a book as mine is out next week.

I got approached to write my first book back in 2009. It hadn’t actually even crossed my mind before, so I was fortunate in that I didn’t have to approach and pitch ideas to publishers. Being signed with a publisher comes with a lot of plusses – it means I get editors, PR machines, production, design and all those aspects taken care taken of. The first book, Girl’s Guide to Decorating, was the concept of my publisher which was great, but I wanted to do my own thing too. My second book and certainly this new one are more my babies! I’ve kind of found my groove not just with my decorating, but also my “yabbery” writing style and graphics and design. The books now totally rock and echo my vibe and that feels totally on brand. With that in mind I wanted to break some boundaries with COLOUR, which is bigger, fatter and even cooler than before!

Penning a tome is a fast forward way of strengthening your brand, like instantly. It takes you into new territories no matter what industry you are in. It also helps build credibility, engages more people and gives more value to your audience, which also co-incidentally gives you a lot of content for social. There are a lot of win wins.

The writing part: That bit was easy I have to say, having written the blog for over 5 years I’m now pretty comfortable with writing. Scheduling it in and finding the time was harder; I think I wrote the bulk in a little under 2 weeks. Extremely long days mind but I’m happier creeping out of bed at 4am and writing undisturbed for a full 12 to 14 hours than doing bits here and there. I have a fairly rambling mind but my fabulous editor Zelda Turner focused me with emails like “1500 words on finding colour inspiration by 10 am tomorrow!” and it worked for me.

Another trick is I jotted down section headers that resonated with me like “transformative styling tips for using colour, masterful mixing tips, off radar ways to change up your pad” and so on. I wanted to ignore the science part about colour, the more you get bogged down in rules on colour theory the more conventional and uptight the design, and the more I tend to switch off so I wanted to shake things up a bit.

The photography part: I spent a hell of a lot of time researching some homes I admired – some of the coolest pads on the planet, that made my heart skip a beat, that were all different and pushed boundaries. Having found the ones that really resonated with me I then emailed the owners asking if we could come by and shoot. Then me and my good bud and best photographer ever Graham Atkins-Hughes began a crazy trip all over the place. We have been collaborating now for over 10 years and I have to say working together is so blissful. There is a lot to deal with on shoots as you’re art directing, styling, thinking about concepts, making sure you’re covering everything, so being with someone who is not only a fabulous photographer, but makes you laugh, understands what you’re looking for and takes beyond gorgeous pictures is amazing.

We hot footed it all over – from Paris shooting Jean-Louis Deniot’s beautiful left bank apartment, to Kelly Wearstler’s house in LA. We had days where sometimes we would get off the plane and go straight in and shoot, like for instance a long haul flight from Heathrow to JFK. Luckily being in club the journey didn’t feel as frazzled, in fact sipping wine zillions of feet up laying out watching New York House Wives was pretty cool and felt very glam on recollection. That said we worked some crazy hours.

The design part: Once all the photography was in we then had design meetings and worked on the layout. This is a long, long process, and I really pushed for the look and feel I wanted. The riskiest decision being the cover as I mentioned on a blog post recently. No image just cool font so you have to open the book to see what’s going on. I think it’s paid off as we’ve have had a lot of feedback on the cover, and it sets us apart on a shelf. Oh and it’s the exact same font as our paint tins so again ties beautifully into the brand.

The PR part: Next part is you sit back wait 5 or 6 months, chew your nails and impatiently wait for launch day and the press part to happen. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes with my team and the publishers here. Magazines and newspapers want extracts, journalists want exclusives, radio stations want interviews. Then there are signings and the launch and so there you have it. It’s a long process but COLOUR officially arrives next week in Australia, UK and Europe and will be out in the US in August!

Oh and one more thing none of this would have happened if I hadn’t opened my store. I hadn’t started blogging until after the first book got published, so my first book deal wasn’t based on social media stats as so many deals are these days! I had nothing on social to speak of. Just my store that happened to look super cool and that had received pretty amazing press and put us on the radar! So the moral of the story is you never know when you start out with your business exactly quite where you will end up. I have a clear path ahead of where I want our business to go but that has so expanded from my plan 10 years ago. You never quite know what is round the corner from some amazing collaborations, to books to Design Schools all over the world. All because of one store. Pretty incredibly hey!


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