It all started with a birthday reading.
Leading up to my birthday, I signed up for a mini intuitive reading and asked the reader: “What do my guides have in store for me for the coming year?”
In a few minutes, I was told that I was going to write a book. I was floored—I had no book idea in the works. And I laughed inside, thanking my spirit guides for this “homework.”
I continued to think about this potential book. Later in spring, I did another mini-reading with the same intuitive and asked specifically what this book was supposed to be about. “You’re going to teach how you do what you do,” she said.
How do you teach writing? Or editing? And fill 200 pages with that instruction? It didn’t feel right to me, but I continued to think about it.
I thought about my background in public relations and how the vegan industry was booming, and one way I could teach people that relates to what I do for work now is to teach vegan businesses about marketing, using case studies from existing businesses. I Googled to see what sort of business books were already out there in case someone had already written this book, and I only found ONE book about vegan businesses: Vegan Ventures by Katrina Fox. I bought the Kindle version right away and went through it pretty quickly. Turns out she had written a book with a very similar model I had been thinking about. So I was inspired—someone had led the way! I thought that if I started this book this year, I could have it out by November 1, 2022, or World Vegan Month next year (as I thought aiming for this year would not be possible).
I had another intuitive reading (this is my third with same person now) and told the reader that the book I ideated is different from the last reading I was given. “You have many books in you,” was the response. And I was also warned that this book might come earlier or later than I thought it would, so I’m okay if it doesn’t launch right on that date.
Enroute to Harrison Hot Springs to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, I shared my idea with hubs (the first person I told about it). He asked me if I was going to write this book because an intuitive told me to, or because I wanted to, and I clarified that it was the latter (since this was MY idea, not the intuitive’s) and so far no one had done a book about this, and I was excited to be that person.
A timeline started forming in my head, and I figured I would start collecting case studies in October to start writing the book in November. I also started thinking about who I’d hire if I was going to self-publish the book. Mitali Deypurkaystha at Let’s Tell Your Story Publishing had a Masterclass on self-publishing scheduled in September for VIVAS, so I figured I’d wait to see that before I made my decision. I had exactly a $10K CAD budget to invest in this book, and thought that just might be able to cover a book coach, editor, cover designer, voice actor (for the Audible version) and publicist, all of whom would need to be vegan. I plan to format both the print and ebook myself, which means it’s gonna be pretty damn perfect by the time it gets in your hands.
There was only one vegan publisher I knew of at this time, which I wasn’t super impressed with.
I thought about the questions I’d have in my form and I created the forms in September because they started to inflate my brain. This was a good idea because I kept changing the forms before I’d sent any out. I had three different forms: One for companies, one for marketing or public relations agencies, and one for solopreneurs. Each form was similar with slight variations in wording, and an extra question for companies about revenue and number of employees.
I also signed up for Mitali’s DIY program (now called The Expert; other programs accelerated for authors who want to publish in 90 days). I’m really glad I did this because even though I’ve published a book before, I know I made a lot of mistakes then (that I didn’t know were not book standards), and even though you are on your own with the writing of the book, Mitali has a lot of tips on how to prepare, plan and get started. Her ideal reader avatar exercise was great, and she makes herself available on Slack and weekly Zoom calls (which are really early in my time zone!) for any specific questions.
I started building my list of companies, agencies, and solopreneurs. Katrina Fox had 60 contributors in her book, so I figured I’d aim for 50, which meant I had to create a list of about 200 companies. The obvious big corporations selling plant-based products were on the list, but I also wanted to make sure I represented Vancouver, got a range of companies across industries, and tried to reach companies in different areas of the world. Most of the companies I added to the list that I had never heard of before were from the Vegan Women’s Summit, Green Queen, and vegconomist newsletters.
After getting feedback from Mitali on my email message, I sent out the first emails the last week of September and asked folks to submit their case studies by the end of October. My book outline was as follows:
1: The Basics
3: Direct Marketing
4: Sales Promotions
5: Public Relations
6: Digital Marketing
7: Events and Direct Selling
8: Everything Else
(Plus front and back matter)
I discovered another vegan publisher after listening to Kathleen Gage’s podcast (she had an author on as a guest) but by then I’d already decided to self-publish and remembered the perks of having creative control over my work.
I think it took me the end of the first week of October to get all 200 or so emails out. The first case study I got was from Humane Wildlife Solutions in the UK—congrats Kevin!! (I should send him a comp copy of the book when it comes out…) I got just a handful that first part of the month. Week 2, the follow-ups started (and for any potential authors reading this and doing a case study book: you will need to follow up.) In retrospect, there are a couple of things I would have done differently to save some time and emails between the recipient and I:
- Linking to the form right in the email (instead of saying “I’ll send you a link to a form”)
- Give the option to schedule an interview with me instead of filling out the form (in the form I asked if I could do a follow-up interview)
I’d say that 75% of the folks who submitted case studies told thorough stories. The rest would have served better as interviews because they would have shared more verbally. I could have followed up with these folks, but at the same time, a handful asked me if they could do video calls with me (I did a total of 10 by video).
There are pros and cons to prioritizing the form. If I had given the option of form or video, I would probably have gotten a lot more video requests that would have taken time to schedule, record, transcribe, and then put into the book. Prioritizing the form forced people to write out their story, and this made it a lot easier to pull quotes. But like I said, there were probably a bunch of folks from whom I could have gotten better entries.
While waiting to get case studies, I started on my introduction and conclusion. As the stories trickled in, I started writing bits around the case studies and fleshing out the book. I’m glad I did this instead of waiting the month to get ALL the case studies I wanted, because this process ended up taking longer than I’d hoped.
After the second week of October, I didn’t get nearly as many responses as I’d hoped, so I added more companies to the list. And I put the form link directly in the email. The folks I sent to the last week of October instead got a deadline of mid-November.
In early November, I asked Mitali about speaking negatively about a company (without mentioning their name) that added me to their newsletter (not once, but TWICE, after I had unsubscribed the first time) when I emailed about my book. I’ll say here that many of the info@ or hello@ emails likely went into cyber purgatory and never reached their intended destination even after a follow-up because some customer service reps/teams are better than others. In this case, I was not impressed by the local company who did this, and wanted to talk about them in the book. Mitali cautioned that if it was obvious who I was talking about, that might get me in trouble later, but if they never read the book, they may never know. I started feeling afraid already, so I decided not to identify them.
I reached the 30,000 word minimum for a book this month as I added more and more case studies to the book. I also passed the limit for free transcription on Otter and upgraded. Also, because there’s a question in the form that says “Who else do you recommend I contact for this book?” I had to keep adding to the list, so my deadline extended to end of November. I asked a total of 276 companies to be in the book. Some of these I realized were owned by parent companies that aren’t vegan, which at first didn’t bother me (I wanted big names to be in so people would pay more attention) but after some discussions in Facebook groups I thought it would go against the spirit of the rest of the book, so I’m pretty glad none of those companies ended up submitting after all.
I started posting videos on social media to ask for suggestions for companies in specific industries where I had gaps and prioritized responses from women and people of colour since I noticed there were a lot more white men and women responding. By mid-November, I realized that there were some chapters that were going to be VERY thin because no one was using those tactics, so I merged Advertising and Direct Marketing together. And I continued posting videos to ask for examples of companies doing various tactics. The section on Email Marketing was surprisingly the smallest, even though nearly everyone said they used it. They just didn’t elaborate on how or focused on it as a major way they reached their marketing goals.
So I thought to myself, I’m going to need to find examples online to fill in some of these thin sections, and started doing that. Then I thought to ask Mitali whether I’d need to ask for permission to mention these companies even if I pulled information from their websites, and she explained this is a grey area because everyone’s Terms & Conditions policy online is different. Upon exploration, I found many sites have legalese to the tune of “you cannot use anything we say here without our permission” so I figured ALL the companies I wanted to talk about I’d need their okay on. So more work was needed!
There were still some folks I was emailing for the first time asking for their case studies in the 3rd and 4th week of November because of the videos I posted on social, so the NEW deadline became December 10. At the end of the month, I started sending out excerpts to all the companies whose examples I wanted to use. Fortunately, some of these folks were on my original list for case studies, so I didn’t have to send too many new emails explaining what the book was about, and just used the same email thread.
By this time, I’d fleshed out most sections of the book, even though some were still very thin. And most of this time was spent adding the last bit of case studies and asking for approvals to use examples. There are a couple of companies I was super stoked to get approval from:
- The Body Shop: While they couldn’t commit to a full case study, I was mainly interested in them announcing their transition to becoming vegan, so along with what’s posted on their website, they sent me their news releases. The entire transition section is possible because of them. (And Eleven Madison Park would have had a section just as long, but they still serve regular milk for coffee, and the company owns non-vegan restaurants-cue sad trumpet music.)
- VFC: UK’s Vegan Fried Chick*n, which is probably my favourite vegan business in the entire book. I’d only heard about them because they said they were against using the term “plant-based” in a blog. Then another UK-based company said I should contact them about their Cluckwit of the Month social media posts (BRILLIANT) and yet another said they had a great newsletter.
- PETA: While I didn’t ask PETA for a case study (the focus of the book is on for-profits rather than nonprofit), I did mention it a couple times and wanted to make sure they were okay with that.
- Mid-Day Squares: This is my favourite Canadian vegan business (I love their bars AND their marketing) and they hadn’t responded to any of my emails even though I’d already written some sections mentioning them. Then I remembered we’d interviewed CEO Lezlie Karls at VEG Networking Canada and there were some marketing questions I’d asked her afterwards. This video isn’t publicly available, but I added more content using her answers to those questions, and I sent that off at the end of November. In early December I followed up with the CEO via LinkedIn, and it worked!!
Because of this book, I have a newfound respect for British folks, where veganism was coined by The Vegan Society. Not only does the UK probably have the most amount of vegan businesses among any other country, but there are some companies that are really brilliant at marketing, like THIS and Meatless Farm, who I was also stoked to get approvals from.
By this time, I was super confident my book was going to be a success, even though I’d only reached 47 case studies (I have another 2 dozen or so companies as examples). There were 3 more folks who submitted but barely put a sentence into their answers. Two of these were women-run, foreign companies I hoped would elaborate further on their stories but they didn’t want to, which is okay.
It boggles me that sending an Instagram DM just to ask if I can use a company’s tagline in my book either didn’t work because people never checked their message requests, or became such a bureaucratic endeavour (“please email our PR team”…and wait…and wait), but such is life. I’m happy that most of the companies whose examples I REALLY wanted in the book all approved, so a handful of companies who did not respond won’t be in the book, unless they get back to me before I start formatting my manuscript.
As I finished the case study period, followed up, and waited for folks on approval to use their examples, I finished the Introduction and Conclusion. I was already filling out the Acknowledgements section as I went along too, because there were lots of folks to thank aside from contributors, and I didn’t want to lose track of them. I double checked my references (adhering to a proper style is a bitch and I want to make my editor’s job easy) and when I was looking at the Chicago Manual of Style for something, I discovered that a shortened version of Notes was okay to do as long as you have a full Bibliography (which this book will have). So I shortened all the notes in the book and it looks SO much better without the long-ass hyperlinks.
I also started planning for the next phase: reading aloud and doing my own first edit of the book before the manuscript goes to beta readers in January. And I remembered Melody Owen from Author Nation recommended authors do blogs about their books, so voila. Heather Landex, an author in the UK, offered to send me her book, Inclusive: The New Exclusive for free so I could use it as a resource, but I didn’t know how long it would take to get to me, so I followed up with her after Christmas and she sent me the PDF book version…it’s a great book, and I added a couple of new paragraphs because of it.
I continued to wait for permissions from companies to use examples. After a few emails, I’d try sending a DM on Instagram and sometimes got a new email address to try, so some of these approvals took up to 4 weeks!
I went back to the The Vegan Publisher’s course and found out there were a bunch of lessons on writing your book draft I’d missed because I thought I went through them all and the next module was on editing. There were some tech issues that happened and that’s why I thought I’d finished the second module out of three, but I hadn’t! It’s a good thing I revisited the course site because there were some great tips on how to simplify writing and putting in introductions and summaries for each chapter, which I added in.
I had my old company’s Instagram account that I was going to use as an author account, but asked why I’m making myself post twice…so I’m going to cancel that account. I’ll also be cleaning up my old company Facebook page and turning that into an author page at some point next year.
That was a lot…but the planning and writing of a book is the bulk of the work, so the next blog update will likely be shorter—we’ll see how it goes!
Header photo: Tosha Lobsinger