During the early 90s I started reading management books in the hopes they would help me become a better manager. I was surprised at how few management books addressed the problems I was encountering as a manager. In 1995 I decided I would like to write the book that I most wanted to read.
I spent the next five years getting my ideas straight. I must have read well over a hundred books and generated a pile of notes many inches high. As a front-line manager I was working very long hours and did not have the energy to start writing. When I became a consultant in 1998 I stopped working incredibly long hours. Late in 1999 I was offered a new role in management which I eventually declined because I realized that I would never write the book if I went straight back into management. I got my notes in order and at the start of this millennium I started typing. My employers, QinetiQ, kindly let me write in my own time on work premises.
The first draft of the book was titled "Bad Managers should be Shot" and took just 12 weeks to complete. It was quite a short book, only half the length of my first book published, which is called "Dr. Peeling's Principles of Management". I was very lucky that many friends and colleagues read the first draft and gave me lots of really helpful comments. I then spent six weeks redrafting the book, followed by more test reading. A few final tweaks and I had a finished draft in my hands.
I knew I had done things all wrong. Most of the books written by established authors or commissioning editors, to advise new authors, suggest that you first write a proposal for your book containing a description of the book's unique approach, a table of contents, chapter synopses and some sample chapters; then you may try to find an agent, and with (or without) their help you find a publisher. Once a publisher has been found and a contract signed you then write the book. I did not do this because I did not know that I was capable of seeing a book through to the end.
I sent my book off to a large international publisher and four weeks later received a brief note rejecting it. What to do next? I really did not want to get an agent, but I suspected that I was going to spend many months sending my book off to publishers, and I was going to collect a stack of rejection letters.
One of the books I had read about how to write a book suggested thinking about small independent publishers. It also suggested considering publishers who had published books you liked. One of my all time favourite books is Peopleware by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister which is published by Dorset House Publishing of New York. I checked their web site, which I really liked, so I emailed them (25th August 2000), saying how much I liked Peopleware and asking if they would consider a manuscript submission. I received a really friendly reply saying they would be delighted to look at my manuscript, so I emailed it off. Six weeks later I received a charming email from Wendy Eakin the President of Dorset House (who I only later found out is married to Tim Lister). They liked my book, but felt it needed less material on business issues and substantially more about the people-related issues, which they thought was the strongest part of my manuscript. To cut a long story short "Dr. Peeling’s Principles of Management – Practical Advice for the Front-Line Manager" was born on Valentine's Day 2003 (the day I received my first copy).
Dr Peeling's Principles of Management sold in only modest quantities. I had retained rights in non-US English speaking countries but felt that my chances of finding another publisher must be pretty remote given that my first book was not a runaway success. However, in October 2003 I read an article by the well known management author Ros Jay (working under her other name Roni Jay) who was one of the founders of a new publishing house called White Ladder Press. Roni/Ros eventually decided that although she liked my book it was not right for White Ladder's list and kindly passed my book to her publisher Rachael Stock at Pearson Education's Prentice Hall imprint (the largest publisher of business books in the UK). Rachael liked the book but thought it needed major structural changes to make it a faster read. Eventually Rachael decided not to publish it. In the summer of 2004 I related this story to a friend who suggested I send my original manuscript (Bad managers should be shot) to Rachael. I did just this; Rachael loved the book; and to cut another long story short Brilliant Manager was born in the Summer of 2005.
In 2006 Rachael took a short career break, in which she gave birth to twins. Samantha Jackson became my editor at Pearson. I pitched a proposed book titled "Brilliant Business Tips" to Sam. Sam quite sensibly rejected the proposal, but one of the chapters was called "Brilliant Negotiations", and Sam asked me if I was interested in pitching a proposal to her for a book with such a title. I was one of QinetiQ's most experienced negotiators, and I am fascinated by the subject, so I bit Sam's hand off. I wrote the proposal, and Sam and her boss Richard Stagg refined my ideas, and I was then off on my second book. It was due to be published in 2008, but early in 2007 Sam told me that Prentice Hall's Brilliant Series was going to be re-launched at the end of 2007, and did I want to accelerate the delivery of Brilliant Negotiations to be part of the launch, and would I like to write a second edition of Brilliant Manager. To cut yet another long story short, I made the deadlines with minutes to spare.