September 30, 2020. It seems like so long ago that we arrived at the small, red cottage in the Swedish woods. After barely three days, we began a new chapter in our journey, the writing of our book. Back then, we were still full of optimism that our book would be in stores in the spring of 2021. We would do everything ourselves, from writing to design, from publishing to sales. We stuck the cabinets full of post-its and puzzled out the structure of the book. Day after day, we would grab a stack of cards from the cabinet and write new chapters. By the end of the day we read each other's stories, gave feedback and high-fived each other again and again. Celebrating successes, that too we learned during the trip. Behind us hung a timetable that pushed us all the time. We managed to stay on schedule, but the days behind the laptop became longer and longer. Suddenly we were working seven days a week, from early morning to late at night. Was this how we envisioned the work-adventure balance?
Yes, we underestimated writing a book. Especially wanting to do it all ourselves was complete madness. Writing a book is already a daunting task, and then it really begins. Design, publishing, sales and book promotion. That takes at least as much time, and energy. Right from the start, we were convinced about the title of our book: On human power. During our journey, we learned an important subtitle: On human power, but not alone. Without all the interest, the help along the way, the support and trust of all the people, our journey would never have lasted four years. We realized the same thing in January of this year. We could write the book on our own, but we could not do it alone. We would seek a publisher.
Working with a publisher has many parallels to the sponsorship collaborations during our journey. We give up some of our freedom, but in return we get a lot in return. However, we had one important requirement: we wanted to keep the design of the book and the editing of the text in our own hands. The publisher would indicate his preferences, of course, but would be primarily responsible for the printing process, sales, and promotion to bookstores. We knew this would make our search more difficult, but we also knew we had a few advantages. We would be taking a lot of work off a publisher's hands. We approached publishers and soon came into contact with mo'media, a small publisher from Rotterdam, specializing in the travel sector. They were enthusiastic about our book, we about them. A small and close-knit publisher. More importantly, they found our proposal very interesting. After a sample design of a few pages, they were convinced. The compromise we had to accept: the book would be released in the fall. At first we were disappointed because we saw it as a book for anyone who would like to go on an adventure in the summer. The publisher assured us that the book would be a much better fit for Christmas.
In mid-April we returned to the Netherlands and Belgium. The text and design were ready in concept. Actually, the most fun part of writing the book was behind us. From then on followed a series of corrections, feedback, improvements, adjustments, proofs and re-reading. Olivier proofread our book at least ten times, while Zoë could dream up every page of the draft. Personally, we didn't like these months because progress seems so limited. The last mile is the hardest and that was certainly true for this book. In mid-August we handed everything over to the publisher and the book was send to the printer. The relief was great, our work was done, but the tension was just as great. Would it roll off the presses properly?
The publication date had then long been set: October 5th. For us this meant the beginning of a new period, the promotion of the book. The book could be so beautiful or so good, without promotion we would sell nothing. Zoë had vowed to do everything in her power to get the most out of it. Once a top athlete, always a top athlete. From the beginning of August, the only thing that mattered was that our book would inspire as many people as possible to pursue their dreams.
We had been working more than forty hours a week since the beginning of our book, but from the promotion phase on, it really crossed the line. We learned that being our own boss can also be its own pitfall. It's nice to set our own rules, but also extremely difficult to draw the line. When have we done enough promotion? When can we say, "We can be satisfied with this? Every extra effort, perhaps yields more sales. We found it particularly difficult to draw that line, and frankly, we didn't succeed. In our book we write that we are looking for the right balance between work and leisure. In our ideal picture, it tilts toward leisure. Practice what you preach, was anything but what we did. With pure passion we threw ourselves into the promotion and every second was one. We soothed our conscience with the idea that we only had one chance to do it right. A few months of giving everything and then we could go back on an adventure. That is also a balance, but an extreme one.
The official presale started in September. Hard work is always rewarded, they say. That was also true this time. We sold three hundred books in presale and already felt the incredible result of the hard work, the appreciation of all the dear people who follow and support us. Writing a book was a special process, a journey in itself, with just as many ups and downs. We learned that sitting behind the computer for a year really doesn't suit us anymore. Outside, that's where we want to live and work.
'Look at my hair, so much gray,' says Olivier.
'Yes, and those wrinkles around my eyes then,' replies Zoë.
When we look in the mirror, we find that we got older last year than in the five years before. Literally. We've had enormous fun writing our book, but also stress and disappointment. It is, like the world tour, part of life. That's what makes a process so beautiful because we learn from it.
We learned the last lesson at the very last moment. The book was ready and would be delivered on Friday, October 1. It would be the first time we would see the book. All day we waited for the truck that would deliver five hundred books to Zoe's parents in Breda. The weather was lousy with big traffic jams on the Dutch roads. At four in the afternoon the truck arrived in Rotterdam, but it would never make it to Breda before Monday. Disappointed, we put off our patience until after the weekend. We immediately receive a message from the publisher.
'We are now getting into the car to Breda!'
So it happens that the big boss and his wife ring the doorbell of Zoë's parents at half past seven in the evening. René and Petra can not stand that they already have the book in their hands while we stand empty-handed. Totally personal and unexpected they stand before us with our book. Tears leapt into Zoë's eyes when she opens the wrapping paper. She is excited by this special moment. With a big smile and wet eyes, she grabs Olivier, "We just made a book!" It is the first gasp of disbelief. From now on, an incredible journey of wonder, pride, and gratitude follows. The reactions to On human power are beyond words. So beautiful!
On Human Power is not available in English yet. We are talking with a North America publisher at the moment! In the meantime you can sign up on this list and then we will send you a message when the English version is available.
WoW! What a bible this is! That will be fine reading the next few months , let the fall and winter be nice and boisterous.... ! 👍🏼🍂🍁🍄❄️☃️ - Susan
The advantage of working (relatively) little and having time during the day: reading books at in the morning. But say, Never thought tears would come up when reading an adventure story! :o Your story about the sailing trip and the farewell is really very intense. It gives me goose bumps! Big hugs to who you were in 2017. Respect! - Glenn en Lisa
Hi Zoë and Olivier. DPD just rang the door with the book. Unpacked it, had some coffee. Now I'm reading it breathlessly. I didn't think it would turn out so beautiful. A jewel! Very happy with it. Many thanks. - Wouter.
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Congratulations. You are an inspiration and a testament to the strength and resiliency of the human spirit. My son Erich and I feel blessed that we were able to briefly meet you on your incredible journey. We will be looking forward to the day when your book is available in English.
So great that you are still following our adventures! Yesterday we watched our film on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and had to think about that evening in your yard. What a beautiful memory! Olivier’s brother will move to New York state next year and we will definitely visit him. Would be great to see you, Gael and Erich again!
All the best,
Zoë and Olivier