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What is it like to write a book – in two hours or less

‘Procrastination has always been my weakness,’ I confessed to my new friend Ron earlier tonight. ‘Oh, who cares? It’s charming!’ His reply was just what I needed. The time had come to sit down, overcome an insane bout of writer’s block and finally tell you what it’s like to publish a book – in two hours or less. And so, here I am – sitting outside on my little balcony with nothing more than my laptop and a cup of coffee. I swear I’m not going back inside until I have put something online. This joyful occasion should occur right before the start of the Ten O’Clock News since it is now almost 8 PM. I am not going edit this text so sue me if it comes across as a stream of consciousness. I have to do this.

Want to buy my book? Sure you do, it’s frickin’ fantastic! Dutch readers can order VOLUME on bol.com. Are you outside the Netherlands? No problem! Just head over to Amazon.com and VOLUME will be yours soon. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 – the day I realized I *really* had to work on my photography skills.

What is it like to publish a book – in two hours or less

To start out with the answer to my question, publishing a book is a surefire way to give you writer’s block. At least if you once started out as a blogger, like I did. Blogging isn’t necessarily very hard. You go to a nice PR event, take a few snapshots and put them online along with a simple story that should run at least 300 words. As all online content creators know, the 300-word minimum is the sacrifice we all bring to the almighty Google algorithm. Writing – and photographing – an entire book, however, is a different ballgame. It is a lesson I ended up learning the hard way this past year and a half. Don’t get me wrong, though. I am thrilled with the result. And I hope you are, too. But now that I know what I can accomplish with the help of not one, but two book editors and a brutally honest former teacher turned art director, I feel kind of alone and uncertain about going back to writing something as easy as a blogpost. I gave it a try (or five) these last few weeks and nothing felt good enough.

Before I tell you how I ended up in the book business, let me share with you the only upside to having writer’s block. It’s living in an apartment that is spotlessly clean. After all, what better excuse for putting off writing can you think of than a white carpet that just *has* to be vacuumed right now or a toilet that is simply begging for a good scrubbing in case someone drops by unexpectedly. But I digress and that is not something I should do because it’s 8:48 and the clock is ticking.

Let’s start at the beginning. In 2016, I received an e-mail from a very reputable publisher in Belgium asking me if I had ever considered writing a book. As far as I was concerned, you might as well have asked a priest if he wanted to become the Pope. Because both the priest and I would have been perplexed at first and then pleased, nay amazed, that a dream we never even dared to have was suddenly coming true. I decided to meet for coffee with the editors, because I figured I had very little to lose. Much to my surprise, they were serious. Did I want to write something about a subject they were planning to publish a book about? Or would I have a better idea and prefer to develop my own concept instead? I went for the latter option (no surprise) and before I knew it, I was daydreaming about what my ideal interior design book would look like.

The book I wanted to write would have to be colorful and sophisticated. Within five minutes, I had thought of the title. VOLUME. Not Volume, but VOLUME in all-caps. Because my book was going to be loud and proud. With fascinating life stories and one-hundred per cent original photography. I wanted swatches! Color charts! Oh wait, that would be too expensive. Instead, I should seriously consider adding as many practical tips as I could. Or at least, that is what my editors told me. Sure thing! I then composed a list of the people I wanted to interview around Europe. I also asked my former teacher and longtime friend Ingrid if she would be interested in designing my book. After all, she was not only a fantastic designer. Ingrid and I also shared a taste for the unusual (we still do). We signed the contract and before we knew it, we had to get started.

My first trial run at Zomers was a frustrating affair

One of the first things Ingrid suggested was that we should take some trial photos first, just to get an idea of what the book was going to look like. We started out on a cold winter afternoon at Zomers, a photogenic flower shop here in my hometown of Rotterdam. It didn’t take long for both of us to realize that if wanted to make a success out of my book, I really had to work on my photography skills. Unfortunately, there was little time for more practice. I was flying to Portugal for my first interview and photoshoot the week after our trial run. Things got even more challenging when I found out my appointment was cancelled right after my plane had touched ground in Porto. I roamed the streets for two full days before and ended up interviewing the owner L de Luz, a vintage lamp shop I discovered just outside the city center. The stories she told were everything I had hoped for. The photos, however, did not necessarily all turn out the way I had wanted to.

After I got back home, I finally faced the music. I might be a halfway decent photographer when it came to publishing a blog and selling the occasional photo to an interior design magazine. But when it came to doing the photography for a 224-page book, I had to make some serious improvements – stat! My savior turned out to be Ingrid’s partner Chidi, who happened to be a fantastic photographer with a few hours to spare. Chidi taught me to  take my time to set up a photo instead of just snapping away and then hoping a few photos would end up looking good enough.

Whoops! It’s almost 10 PM so time’s up – and I’m not nearly halfway done with my story :-/ But a deal’s a deal – I’m putting this blogpost online and will have to continue tomorrow as soon as I feel like it.

 

 

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