Tag Archives: Pecha Kucha

Why My BIM Book Didn’t Sell and Why I’m Writing Another One

BIM-and-Integrated-DesignWhen I meet architects and others working in the BIM world, they usually mention that they have a copy of my book.

My standard response is something like:

“My publisher told me someone bought a copy. Now I who it is.”

Which isn’t far from the truth.

Of course I thank them – for purchasing the book, for reading it, for mentioning this to me – none of which they’re obligated to do.

Next, they inevitably ask me The Question:

How many copies has it sold?

As I embark on the lengthy and arduous process of writing and publishing another book in the architecture and construction space, I was reminded by my publisher that my last book sold only 1000 copies.

“1069 copies,” I unhelpfully corrected them.

In 2009 I wrote, and in 2011 John Wiley and Sons published, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice.

1069 copies! Including all of you who read my BIM book and told me they liked it.

Twelve out of 12 readers gave it the coveted 5-star rating on Amazon.

Disney Imagineering told me that they reference the book.

Firm leaders told me that they have a copy that they circulate in their office.

A few professors made it required reading in their classes.

The University of Salford named* their BIM curriculum after it.

I created the world’s only BIM book video trailer set to classical guitar music.

AIA National emblazoned the book across their website.

I placed book ads online including at Bob Borson’s blog Life of an Architect.

I went around the country touting the benefits gained by reading my book.

In fact, in 2011 at KA Connect, during a Pecha Kucha presentation, I went totally blank. And whether out of sympathy or who knows what, the book never sold better.

That time (gratefully, the only time) I froze-up on stage was one of the best things to ever happen to me career-wise.

I handed out coupons and gave books away as door prizes.

I wrote dozens of blog posts bestowing its virtues.

I sent out hundreds of emails to colleagues requesting they share a link.

And sent copies of books to friends, magazine editors and bloggers in the hopes they’d write a review.

Despite these efforts to move books, all-in-all equal to – or even greater than – what it took to write the book, the book sold poorly.

Pandering to architects has never been a particularly effective business model.

I recognize that it was not all my fault. The BIM book arrived in the midst of the world’s greatest economic downturn.

The fact that the book came out in 2011 was not lost on the author or publisher.

Nor the fact that the book’s undiscounted asking price is $75, that the book comes in hardcover (no inexpensive paperback version,) the images are b/w, nor that it looks like a textbook.

Why would anyone (apparently my students included) willingly purchase and read a textbook?

The book was faulted by one reader for appealing in its title (“strategies for architectural practice”) primarily to architects, whereas the “integrated design” in the title includes – and ought to appeal to – Engineers, Constructors, Owners and others.

As the author of the book, I take full responsibility for the fact that it did not sell.

I am mature enough to recognize that just because I like to read – and try to do so for a couple hours each day – it doesn’t mean that others like to read.

And even if they do, they may not like to read books per se.

I know my students don’t do their required reading, the word softly translated by my students as voluntary.

As though to say, how dare I assign textbooks?!

If only they knew how well-written they are!

I know everyone has a copy of BIG BIM, little bim and The BIM Handbook, but do you realize how excellent the writing is in Dana (Deke) Smith and Michael Tardif’s Building Information Modeling: A Strategic Implementation Guide for Architects, Engineers, Constructors, and Real Estate Asset Managers?

Or how exacting and spectacular the writing is in François Lévy’s BIM in Small-Scale Sustainable Design? François Lévy’s book is brilliant. I didn’t let the fact that it concentrates on smaller projects or that he uses Vectorworks, to dissuade me from reading it for pure enjoyment.

Having written a BIM book, and BIM blog for 4 years, I have a real appreciation for how hard it is to cut through the clutter and hype and say something that is mercurial and potent and insightful. Lévy manages to do this on every page – sometimes several times a page – and it is a shame more people haven’t read his book and sang its praises.

I learn best by books but recognize that professionals have different ways they prefer to learn: some by video, some lecture, some tutorial, or site visit, or hands-on, or via gamification.

When I interviewed very important people (VIPs) for my BIM book (Phil Bernstein and Chuck Hardy, among many others) I was blown away by the insightful things they said. And also by the way they said them. New things, things that you couldn’t find anywhere else.

I became who I am because of the books I read – and continue to read. For me, reading is like living two lives. The advantage it provides you is empowering. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can provide one with what can be found in a good book. Not first-hand experience (because in books, you gain other’s experience vicariously on top of your own;) new ways of looking at things (on top of how you already look at things;) new ways to do things (ditto;) and perhaps best of all, insights that take your knowledge up a notch – that could otherwise only be acquired through long and hard work on your own. All that, and they fit snuggly on a shelf or nightstand, iPad or Kindle.

This is why – despite the disappointing sales of my first book – I am devoting the next year of my life to writing another book.

I believe in the power of books and the power of the written word.

Especially as an antidote for those days I spend behind a computer monitor, messing with digital this, and computational that.

Books seem to place what I’m doing into a larger context, and in doing so, the best ones help provide a purpose for the time when I’m not reading.

* OK, not really but a pretty amazing coincidence nonetheless.

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Filed under BIM, BIM conference, education, writing

Why Bring Another Book into this World?

Here’s the transcript of the talk I’ll be giving in San Francisco next week at KA Connect 2011,

a Pecha Kucha talk entitled

“I’ll Collaborate as Long as I Can Work Alone,”

20 slides,

20 seconds each.

Let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

Randy

There’s a crisis in the profession

At 2 industry events just like this

I watched as an architect threw a chair at an invisible enemy

In both cases the speaker used the more generic “Designer” in lieu of the title “Architect”

Where’s the architect? Where’s all of my education and knowledge? Where am I? What became of me?

To quickly and effectively confront this situation head-on

I wrote a 300 page book

And published it with a traditional publisher

In just over 2 ½ years

Thoughtfully, the economy stalled my target audience’s crisis long enough for me to catch up

I started by building an online platform

An acquisitions editor on LinkedIn asks – anyone out there with a book idea?

I had one – the publisher turns it down but says those-four-magic-words:

What else you got?

Most writers have a book but no publisher

I had the enviable position of having a publisher but no book

They say the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas, right?

So I send them 17 ideas for books that will stop architects from throwing chairs

The publisher selects 3

Three that they feel would make a compelling book

The publisher says: “Combine these into a book you’ve got a deal.”

There was a sense of urgency – time was running out

The architecture profession is experiencing an identity crisis

The way we communicate knowledge to one another is changing

Publishing itself is going the way of the dinosaur – books may not exist when my book comes out

Nor, for that matter, bookstores.

At the same time the publishing and construction worlds are going through enormous changes

So is our environment

The world has a problem – it is heating up

And it takes collaboration – many minds – to solve complex problems

I saw my book as a way to collect and diffuse knowledge on this subject in this time of transition

And to teach design professionals the importance of working together collaboratively.

At the same time, buildings are becoming more and more complex.

We’ll only be able to tackle today’s complex problems through collaboration

Collaboration takes work and a prepared mindset

You have to be disciplined, can’t just show up and wing it

There was a gap in learning along these lines in the profession

My book sought to fill this gap.

I may not have originally set out to write a book on BIM and Integrated Design

But together they addressed the three topics my publisher selected from those I proposed

And BIM and Integrated Design go together like peanut butter and chocolate

Like Two great tastes that taste great together.

BIM and Integrated Design are two great technologies and processes that work well together.

It is often repeated that BIM is 10% technology 90% sociology

If that’s the case, why is 90% of the energy and resources focused on the technology?

My book comes at a time when few are focusing on the people side of the change equation.

Written from a firm culture standpoint, it addresses BIM as a cultural process.

So why a book?

A book allows you to collect knowledge in one place

Tell a coherent, compelling story

Books provide immersive experiences and expose us to learning that can transform our lives

But at the same time, what we consider a book is changing.

Our communications today are ephemeral

Like writing on a mental chalk board that gets wiped clean each night

And while the internet never forgets, so much of what we write and learn – including tweets and blogs – we forget

I set out to write a book whose message will last – and stick around.

For its content to lead to critical, necessary changes in the profession and industry

I made the book essentially a collection of stories

To do so I had to write the book less like a mental black board and more like a mental bulletin board, with knowledge accumulated over time

Where the latest information in the book builds on what came before.

Technology books are notorious for becoming dated or obsolete

To ensure that the book would remain relevant

Its focus is on people, relationships, and workflow.

These subjects are not as fickle as software and computers.

Technology may come and go.

The way people behave in response to new technology, however, does not change.

I grew up with Prairie Avenue Bookshop in Chicago

With the dream that I would one day write a book and give a signing there

After 48 years in business,

Prairie Avenue Bookshop closed while I was writing the book.

Will the chance to control their chair throwing tendencies compel architects to spend $75 on my book in the midst of an economic downturn?

My network had a lot of people who have worked with the technology and work processes

and have started to formulate their own insights

So I tapped into my network and set out to interview experts

People who were working in it,

leading it, had invented it, hire and retain those who use it

And people who were teaching it.

The book addresses the number one problem of BIM : not technology, but personality

BIM and Integrated Design require a much different mindset, and this mindset requires collaboration, coordination, team work, and knowledge sharing in order to succeed.

Overcoming the real barrier, which are the people who say they want to change but in the end have a hard time doing so.

Writing this book changed my perspective on everything.

Everyone I spoke with was completely open about sharing their experiences concerning the changes they were seeing in their teams, firms and industry

It’s like the observer effect

People spoke to me openly about the subject because there is a book

And there is a book because they spoke openly with me.

We so often think of collaborating with others outside our organization

When the most effective collaboration occurs every day, internally

Mentoring up and down

But first, this must take place inside ourselves – our seasoned selves mentoring our emerging selves, and vice versa.

Collaboration is an inside game – and my book sought to illustrate this.

My book will provide much needed background into a topic that many architectural firms do not yet fully understand

How can BIM advance the profession of architecture?

How can collaboration assure the survival of the architect?

This is not a technology book or a process book

This is a knowledge book

A book assuring that this knowledge is not lost.

Over 100,000 books are published in the US annually

So why bring another book into this world?

To shed some light

Into the lives of those who might otherwise feel like throwing a chair

In writing the book I was reminded that ours is a universe filled with enlightened minds

It’s just that the individual voices needed to be connected

And what better place to do that than in a book?

What do you think? Are books still the best place to capture and share information and knowledge?

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Filed under BIM, BIM expert, collaboration, design professionals, Integrated Design, people, process, workflow