The self publishing journey of Building the Pyramid

Written by John Stein - 11 December 2014

The self-publishing journey of Building the Pyramid coincided with the twenty-year anniversary of ‘The Winning Formula’ – the performance framework I developed in 1994.

The commercial landscape has changed considerably over the years and the framework has had to adapt and evolve over time to remain relevant.

The journey has been challenging, exhilarating, memorable and personally fulfilling. I developed a love for management development, an entrepreneurial flair unique to our family gene and a personal desire to be original in the learning world.

These factors contributed to my early decision to self-publish Building the Pyramid, although my instinct told me it might be a ‘tough ask’ convincing commissioning editors of the value of publishing ‘a business fable set in ancient Egypt involving a Pharaoh tasked with building a pyramid in order to reach the New World’.

The decision was reinforced in a chance meeting with a leading business book editor, who on hearing about my publishing vision said “It’s not a traditional heavyweight, dry tome. We would never touch it.” She also added “Writing a parable requires courage, best of luck!”

Other factors contributed towards my decision to self-publish.

Building the Pyramid supports a twenty-year research, evidence-based and practical approach to helping leaders and managers deliver growth. Over 1,000 organisations and 100,000 professionals have supported the formula. I wanted the book to accurately reflect their journey and the feedback given to me over the years, therefore, control of the content was important. This extended to the editing, production and marketing process.

Timing was also important to me. The traditional in-house workings of the publishing industry can result in a two-year wait to see your book launched. I wanted to offer Building the Pyramid to the market sooner.

Self-publishing seemed the right thing to do, although to many people it is considered a high-risk venture.

The self-publishing process involved a great deal of ‘on-the-job’ learning. It also meant that every single overhead in the creative, production, promotion and distribution process was absorbed by our business. Risk and reward though can come in equal measures. My first priority was to set the budget.

My second priority was to recruit a team specialised in specific areas important to the process. Two editors experienced in management development and business book publishing helped me. I also invited a number of professional managers with different backgrounds to read, review and challenge the original manuscript and the re-drafts that followed. Their forensic feedback on the concept and the content was vital to the finished piece of work.

A Google search unearthed a creative artist who was able to transfer the written word and my interpretation of how I visualised the Building the Pyramid brand on to the page maps, illustrations and book cover.

The research, writing, editing, testing and production of the book lasted a year. A sixty-thousand word first draft ended with a twenty-seven thousand word, one hundred and twenty-eight page completed publication. More importantly it could be read in less than two hours – an important objective of mine from the outset.

The self-publishing journey has been extremely challenging at times. Would I do it all over again? Definitely.

It required a real team effort to produce Building the Pyramid. It also brought with it growth, confidence and personal satisfaction. When you think about it, self-publishing is the literary equivalent of ‘building a house’.

Throughout the whole process, I never lost sight of my overall goal - to produce an original book which I hoped would inspire leaders and managers on their organisation’s unique journey.

Great leaders are great storytellers and I used a parable to improve their understanding of the challenges facing them on their journey and demonstrate how knowledge, skill and talent can be used to deliver growth, sustainability and success.

On a personal level, the self-publishing journey of Building the Pyramid has been and still is a huge adventure. Being shortlisted for the Management Book of the Year in the Commuters Read category is a wonderful surprise and a moment to cherish.

Best wishes on your journey, wherever it may take you.

To learn more about the Management Book of the Year competition visit:

For updates on the competition follow @cmi_managers on Twitter and use #ManagementGold.

John Stein

John Stein is the founder of the winning (formula)®, a champion of growth and the author of Building the Pyramid.

He is recognised as a leading authority on the human performance challenges facing organisations on the growth journey, and has dedicated his career to working with leaders and their teams to build agile, successful and sustainable organisations.

In a world of constantly changing commercial landscapes, he focuses on developing the navigation skills of the 21st century leader.

Building the Pyramid is shortlisted in the Commuters Read category of the CMI Management Book of the Year. The book is available from

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