Hmmm… a book sprint

Next week I am off to my first Book Sprint. After years of working in traditional publishing, I am entranced by the idea of being able to write and produce a book collaboratively in a single week. The books I’ve been involved with over the years have each taken months from start to finish, and it’s pretty normal for the author(s) and the rest of the book team to become completely exhausted by the end of the process. For months, much of the team would have been working long hours on the book—on top of a demanding day job, in many cases. This is a strain for anyone and can be hard on the entire family of each member of the team.

The Book Sprint concept (created by Adam Hyde) sure sounds like a refreshing new way to think about book production. The idea is a facilitated collaboration where the entire team is physically working together for a week, focused exclusively on the book. It sounds like it could be a very tiring week, but comparing it to the sometimes grueling pain of a 3-6 month book project, a single tiring week sounds like a walk in the park. Also, the idea of building a community around a book is really appealing. Bonding can happen during traditional book production, but it’s hit or miss and really depends on the personalities involved. It’s been my experience that the more actual physical communication that takes place between a book team, the more enjoyable the process, with in-person contact being ideal, but rare. Even phone contact gives a communication edge over email. When the entire book is handled over email, it’s easy to have miscommunication (or worse) crop up, especially as people become more and more fatigued. So I’m eager to experience the entirely in-person experience of community during the Book Sprint. I think there are other aspects to the community angle of a book sprint that I hope to learn more about also.

I asked Adam Hyde if I could observe a Book Sprint when I learned about the concept at Books In Browsers 2012. I knew there were a few local ones coming up. Adam prefers not to allow observers because it changes the dynamic. It’s apparently almost impossible (or maybe completely impossible) for someone to observe without chiming in at some point, and if someone is just commenting and critiquing without being a part of the writing process, it presumably throws a big monkey wrench into the works. So… I am going to be put to work!

I think (hope) that this story will be interesting to my friends in the publishing world. Can a book really be written and produced in one week? What kind of quality are we talking about in a project of that duration? I have a number of questions and reservations about how this process could be adopted for traditional publishing (it was developed for freely licensed and distributed content such as documentation for open source software), but I am going in with an open mind. Really looking forward to it! I’m especially interested in the authoring/production tools that make this process possible.