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  • Creating The Art of Strategy with Overleaf

    Posted by Kate on October 1, 2020

    When Erik Schön chose to write his book, The Art of Strategy: Steps Towards Business Agility, his research, along with positive feedback from friends and colleagues, led him to Overleaf. He wanted something that would enable him to produce a beautifully typeset document that could be exported and uploaded straight onto Amazon’s print on demand platform, and Overleaf fitted that requirement perfectly.

    Erik Schön The Art of Strategy Open Book


    Erik started with writing LaTeX in the 1990s, when he wrote his 80+ page Master’s thesis. Studying theoretical computer science, which involved a lot of mathematics and equations, LaTeX was the natural choice for Erik, but as Erik says:

    “The other reason for using LaTeX is that the result is so beautiful, and it’s easy to do once you’ve got started!”

    — Erik Schön, The Art of Strategy

    As a lifelong fan of Sun Tzu, Erik has worked professionally and privately on his works since the late 1990s, and recently decided to write up a collection of his observations, which he published on a Medium blog, before collating them all into his book - The Art of Strategy: Steps Towards Business Agility.

    Erik Schön - The Art of Strategy

    The Process

    Erik did not want the daunting and time-consuming task of ‘writing a book’ to loom over him, and, as such, took the approach of slicing up the task by writing a series of blog posts on Medium between January - March 2019. This provided Erik with the motivation to find the time to write blog posts that took 5-10 minutes to read, and also enabled him to garner feedback throughout the process in the form of ‘claps’ after each post, which gave him the energy to persevere.

    Over a period of three months, Erik wrote one chapter a week, and soon had 13 chapters! During the Christmas break of 2019 he found himself thinking that he could actually turn this series of blog posts into a book. He already had 90% of the content ready from his blog posts, as well as a glossary, primarily formed from the many translations of the original text.

    He started to research the process of self-publishing, talking to his network and friends about how he could get started and what tools were available to support this venture. Many complained about the existing tools provided by publishers and when one friend mentioned using a markup tool it made Erik think back to his days of using LaTeX, leading his search to turn towards tools that enable LaTeX. On finding Overleaf, he was greatly relieved at what the platform was able to provide now compared to the LaTeX tools of the mid-90s.

    “When a friend mentioned markup and my thoughts turned to LaTeX, I thought ‘aha, this is my home turf’, something that I was very comfortable with. I then spoke with professors who used LaTeX and the general consensus was that Overleaf was much better than other LaTeX programmes.”

    — Erik Schön, The Art of Strategy

    Erik had started working with Overleaf when he discovered the Tufte template - Tufte has been a huge inspiration to Erik as the template was really nicely typeset, making it easy to read and focus on the images. Between Overleaf and Tufte, Erik was able to turn his blog posts into a book!

    Why Did The Process Work?

    • Writing blog posts not a book - by writing the blog posts Erik received a lot of feedback after each post. This gave him the motivation to continue during what could have been an arduous process - publishing cycles can be horrendous, typically taking 16-18 months to get something published.
    • Straight from Overleaf PDF to Amazon - Amazon have automated tools for checking margin sizing, and as Overleaf provided a PDF output, Erik could go straight from Overleaf to Amazon, with no other intermediaries.
    • Providing a Paperback Option - Erik wanted to be able to provide a paperback option via print on demand - which was easier via Amazon (although they did take a larger cut).
    • Streamlined Typesetting Process - With LaTeX and the Tufte template you’re camera ready - why should you do another round of typesetting that takes months?
    • Typesetting like poetry - many asked if there were mobi or epub versions available, as the content was already available via the Medium blog post series and there are some tools that facilitate going from HTML to epub. But Erik questioned whether mobi or epub were right for the content; with Sun Tzu being almost like poetry, it was important to him that it was typeset in a certain way, and he didn’t want the reader to lose that experience.
    • Easy to Use Templates - Using the Tufte book template made the process much easier for Erik, as did the book cover, which was a seperate template. As Amazon had a lot of guidelines/requirements for the book cover, he happily found a template that suited his needs and their requirements.

    “With LaTeX and Tufte, you’re camera ready, why should you do another round of typesetting that takes months?”

    — Erik Schön, The Art of Strategy

    The Results

    Using Overleaf, Erik produced his 190 page book which was published in April 2020. In just 3 short months since publication, Erik’s book, The Art of Strategy: Steps Towards Business Agility, is listed as #53 in Systems & Planning and #134 in Business Management on Amazon Germany. It has also been sold 300+ times in paperback and PDF format on Amazon, Leanpub and Google Play Books, as of 12 October 2020.

    “If you know any markup language you can do it – if you know html, etc. You don’t need to be an expert in LaTeX. The hardest part is having the content!”

    — Erik Schön, The Art of Strategy

    Interested in Writing a Book on Overleaf?

    If you’d like to have a go at writing a book on Overleaf, why not get started with one of our book templates, there are loads to choose from, including the Tufte book template that Erik used for the Art of Strategy! You can also read about the features and benefits of Overleaf for Authors or register for a free account today.

    About Erik Schön

    Erik Schön, author of The Art of Strategy: Steps Towards Business Agility, is an executive and strategist who has successfully developed and deployed strategy for over 20 years in small, medium and large organizations. Hacker turned software researcher turned system engineer turned manager and leader turned navigator, speaker and writer, Erik has led large, global R&D organizations in complex product development.

    About Overleaf

    Overleaf is a startup and social enterprise that builds modern collaborative authoring tools for scientists — like Google Docs for Science. Our primary product is an online, real time collaborative editor for papers, theses, technical reports and other documents written in the LaTeX markup language.

    Overleaf has seen rapid adoption across science and research, and now supports a community of over six million users worldwide. This community includes major institutions such as Stanford and Caltech, with Overleaf becoming an integral part not only of research collaborations but also of undergraduate teaching. Many large international tech companies and labs use our enterprise solutions, and we work with several major publishers: for example, supporting collaboration on IEEE’s member platform, and making the journal submission process smoother for LaTeX users across many academic publishers.

    Overleaf was founded by two mathematicians who were inspired by their own experiences in academia to create a better solution for scientific collaboration and communication. Now we are a team of forty, based mainly in and around the UK and in the US. We were recognised as the best SaaS for NonProfits or Education in 2020 and one of the UK's top 100 fastest growing businesses in 2018.

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