For Vicki Saunders, holding her first book in her hand was the greatest achievement of her life.

Called SPONSORSHIP FOR ATHLETES, Saunders’ book meant that life could be different – for her as well as her readers.

She says: ‘So many things in my life had been incomplete. I had given up. I got academic scholarships, career opportunities, and placements, but I quit them all when they got hard or boring.’

Written from idea to manuscript in two and a half months, including two edits, Saunders’ book marked a change: the end of a turbulent and unhappy period, and the start of a new career. Since publishing her first book in 2014, Saunders has started a consultancy, advising athletes about how to get sponsorship and companies about how to make the most of their sponsorship programs.

What to write about

Until she did it, Saunders had never considered writing a book. Her day job was writing proposals for an engineering company, but despite her writing and marketing talents, a book seemed unattainable.

Then she attended a seminar that promoted the idea of authoring as a key means of developing influence. At about the same time, she had been inundated with coffee requests from friends who wanted to talk with her about sponsorship. Why? Because she’d been able to help her then boyfriend – Richard Bowles, an adventure runner who sets records on mountain trails over 1000km – to secure a lot of lucrative sponsorship deals.

‘It was a topic that people kept asking me about. And that was the reason for writing the book. I could only speak to so many people, and the book could reach a broader audience.’

Starting with the blurb

Saunders started by writing a description of the book she wanted to write.  She says: ‘I wrote: In this book you will learn this and I will teach you about that. And I wrote the introduction. Then I realised I was teaching a process so I identified the steps and put them on A4 pages, with headings, and stuck them on the wall. I’m very visual. I need to see it.’

Excited by the project, Saunders almost had to hold herself back! ‘I felt a need to get all the ideas out of my head and into the book. I was excited knowing people were going to be reading this at some point.’

No delete button

Saunders started writing on Melbourne Cup Day in 2013, and collected her book from the printers on Valentine’s Day (14 Feb) 2014. To get it done, she did not allow herself to delete anything. If she got stuck she chose a chapter at random to see if she could add to it or change it. ‘I was scared to delete anything. I didn’t know what was right or wrong. I had to trust that what came out was right for now,’ she says.

To keep to her self-imposed deadline, she contacted two editors early and secured a promise that they would do their work quickly, provided she met her deadline to deliver the manuscript to them on time. 

The shock of feedback

Saunders wasn’t prepared for her editors’ feedback. She was initially disappointed and overwhelmed to hear that her book needed more case studies, examples and explanations. But the feedback was clear and specific, and she made the changes.

Her second editor corrected grammar, spelling and style. ‘I knew it needed an expert writer to tidy it up.’ She found her printer – Nicholas Cane from Minute Man Press – by looking inside the first few pages of a book she admired. Cane guided her through the printing process. The book was 26,000 words and she had 500 copies printed. 

Book launch, business launch

Saunders’ first book was her stepping stone towards a new career as a sponsorship and partnership expert. At her first seminar on the topic of sponsorship, attended by aspiring athletes, Saunders had her book for sale. It created instant credibility, she says. ‘I got recognition as an authority and great feedback. People asked me questions and expected me to know the answer. That made me step up. If I didn’t know the answer, I made it my business to find out.’

Lessons learned for book number two

Having written a book for athletes, the next obvious market was a book for the sponsors. But Saunders approached her next book, ‘The Ultimate Guide to Sponsoring Athletes’ with the wisdom of experience.

This time, having written her blurb and intro, she compiled every bit of content she’d already written – blogs, proposals, models, case studies and so on. Once assembled, the existing content suggested the structure. She had written some chapters almost completely, and saw clearly the gaps to be filled.

She also lined up ‘trusted readers’ – her mum, some colleagues – who could provide feedback, which she welcomed instead of feeling overwhelmed. She knew her audience well, since her business had bought her into contact with many sponsors. ‘I knew they liked details and reassurance and case studies. And I pre-empted the questions I knew they would ask.’

Return on investment

For Saunders, writing her first two books has returned the effort in four ways. They both boosted her confidence in herself, and gave her a great sense of personal achievement. They attracted an audience of followers, many of whom have become clients. They delivered the status and authority to launch her practice. Gifting books to prospective clients opened doors that led to the contracts which now sustain her business. 

And now she is hooked, planning a third book. Called ‘Pounce’, Saunders is co-authoring the book, which is all about finding and connecting with opportunity in every area of your life.

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