Meet Bob Wiltfong and Tim Ito - (Part 2)
Last week Bob and Tim discussed their humorous book The BS Dictionary - Uncovering the Origins and True Meanings of Business Speak. They shared the history of how the book began, how their career backgrounds helped them along the way, and how they each added their own funny twists to the business jargon. They each talked about their favorite buzzwords, the origin of the words, and why they chose them.
This week we focus on the collaboration process, the search for representation, the publishing aspect of bringing a book from concept to completion, and we delve into their personal writing quirks. We finish with their best advice for aspiring authors.
How did you go about finding representation?
Bob: After I had gathered what I thought was enough for a book, I looked up the literary agents who represented some of the authors I thought fit me and my point of view. I then wrote solicitation emails to several of them, seeking representation. Two of them got back to me. One of them was a fit. Duvall Osteen of Aragi got the book. She loved the idea as much as I did. As I recall, I found all of the information I needed to do this through Google searches.
How long did the entire process for this book take from concept to having the book in your hands?
Bob: Phew. Yeah, it was a long process. From beginning to end, about six years. I wrote (off and on) for 2-3 years. Then we spent a year (or two?) shopping the book (in various iterations depending on the notes we got from people and what we thought would sell) to publishers. After landing at ATD Press, my memory is it took about a year-and-a-half to get the book where they wanted it all the way to actually having a copy ready for the public to buy.
Tim: For Bob, it was years in the making. He had the idea and had been shopping it around for a bit. I would say, once we collaborated on it, it probably took 6 months to finish the draft and another 6 to go through the final editing, copy revisions, get all the reviewer quotes, and finally get the finished copy.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned when creating this book?
Bob: The origin stories were always fun to discover. I was surprised by how many conflicting origin stories there were for some of the entries though. It demonstrated to me that, online, somebody can say something and then be quoted by several other sites, and, before you know it, the whole world thinks it’s true. You have to dig deeper (go beyond the first few pages of results on your search) sometimes to find the actual truth of things or, at the very least as an author, list your sources and acknowledge that sometimes we don’t know for sure what’s right.
Tim: To me, the origins are fascinating. Finding out that the concept of a “lunch & learn” was developed by two housewives in Nebraska. Or that “push the envelope” referred to the mathematical envelope (the tightness of the turns aircrafts could make at high speeds). Or, how “hands down” was a horse racing term that referred to the position of the jockeys’ hands when they knew they were a clear winner. I had never given it much thought before we did the book.
Can you briefly describe your collaboration process with this book? Who originally contacted who? Did you brainstorm together in the same physical space or contribute content separately via phone calls, emails, and Zoom?
Tim: I had been working at what was the eventual publisher of the book (ATD) and was in charge of the author relations/new business publishing there. Bob came to us with the original idea and I loved it. Eventually Bob suggested he needed help to finish on the deadline so we started working together on it. We worked via shared Google drive documents mostly. I let him know when I finished a section and he did the same.
Do either of you have any creative writing quirks?
Bob: Does procrastination count? ;-)
Tim: Bob can probably confirm this, but I have a hard time writing outside of a linear process. I literally started with A and worked my way to Z. I write most of everything I do that way, which can be limiting if I have a thought for later in a book. I will put a note down if that’s the case.
Many aspiring authors are looking to coauthor a book, but don’t understand how coauthors split the profits from book sales and how that is distributed. Please explain a little about this process as it relates to your particular situation.
Bob: This is my first book. As a first-time author at a small publishing house, there’s no real big money involved here. I get about $1 per book sold and I think we’ve sold a couple of thousand. My literary agent, Duvall Osteen, negotiated my contract with ATD Press.
Tim: Because of the way the book came in and because I was associated with the publisher at the time, I was being paid to basically help Bob write the book, so I receive no profits from the sales out of it. Which is fine. It was a joy to work on and would do it again in a second. Bob also deserves all the profits for this one.
Will there be a Part 2 of The BS Dictionary or do you envision a second but different collaboration? Perhaps investigating the terminology of other organizations and how that verbiage has trickled into society?
Bob: I would LOVE to write many more volumes of this book. And, yes, there are so many industries (computers, aviation, construction, etc.) with a unique language of terms that you could do stand-alone BS Dictionaries for each of them. There is more than enough material to work with. Our working list of BS terms (that were not covered in the initial book) now stands at over a thousand entries!
This is going to sound ridiculous, but I think The BS Dictionary is sort of like Starbucks when it started out. In 1971 (when the first Starbucks opened) nobody knew there would be so many people in the world who would be into drinking coffee. But then Starbucks created a world where it’s hard to understand why nobody tried to do what they did sooner. I think the same can happen with The BS Dictionary. There is a whole world of people who have to use words and phrases on the job that are completely unique to the workplace. And many of those people know that these words and phrases are inherently kind of silly and ripe for parody. So, into this void, I envision a world where there are several BS Dictionary volumes and many a daily calendar of terms gifted at holiday office parties.
Tim: We do hope there is a BS Dictionary sequel! Typically, the publisher waits a few years before doing a follow up, but we’ve been in discussions with them about that. We already have a list of another several hundred new terms.
Are either of you working on individual books now? If so can you share a tidbit?
Bob: I do have another book idea (that’s fiction) that I would like to write. It’s a little bit like The Grinch mixed with Harry Potter. It would be a challenge to write, but I’d be excited to do it. I have been told some authors are actually paid to write books before they hit the shelves (like an advance). I would love for one of those authors to be me. It would make writing a book so much more easy if someone paid you to do the work. Is that wishful thinking? I hope not.
Tim: I just completed the writing on a book called, The Small Business Marketing Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Best Practices in 12 Core Marketing Areas, which my company is about to start shopping around. The material comes from our business and the class I’ve taught for seven years now on digital marketing.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Bob: All it takes is one person to say yes. Keep looking for that yes. It’s out there.
Tim: To me, I think the best advice I can give is that it always pays to be curious and observant. You can learn a lot just looking around you, from the people you know and interact with every day. The more curious and observant you are, the more empathetic you can be to someone else’s circumstances, which means you can better write to that “reality” in a sense. We always say this about marketers and I think it’s also true certainly for journalists and writers – the best ones are curious about other people. And I think you’ll find fascinating stories everywhere if you really want to dig in.
To learn more about Bob Wiltfong and Tim Ito, or to purchase their book, visit:
ATD Press - https://www.td.org/books/the-bs-dictionary
Instagram - @thebsdictionary
YouTube - The BS Dictionary
LinkedIn - The BS Dictionary
Twitter - @thebsdictionary
Facebook - @thebsdictioonary