How I Organized the Writing of The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success | Part 1: Getting Started

A reader with an interest in writing recently asked me how I organized the wealth of information that is in my book, The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success (Theme Park Press, 2017).

Here is the question:

I have a question about your writing and research methods. This is a big book, and you’ve obviously done a lot of research. How on earth do you organize it all so it’s at your fingertips when you do the first draft?

I sent a short response to the inquiry, but here is a more detailed multi-part blog posting of the general process I followed.

The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success (TBWD) was an expansion of a long article I wrote in 2006 based almost entirely on Internet research.

In that article, titled “Walt Disney and His Business Philosophy in Action,” I presented a short sketch of some of Walt Disney’s career highlights. Then I analyzed what I had learned to identify some business principles that I thought reflected Walt Disney’s business practices and which I presumed he would agree were valid based on the evidence of his own words and actions. After having identified the principles I wrote a few paragraphs to justify each of the nine.

A vastly condensed version of my essay was published in Rotman Management Magazine (Spring 2009) under the title “Think Like an Iconoclast: The Principles of Walt Disney’s Success.”

I was guided in selecting principles – not rules – by my understanding of methodological induction and my years of strategic consulting experience working with entrepreneurs and business executives, combined with my understanding of effective business practices. Principles are high-level generalizations that subsume a vast number of observed concrete instances across time and place, and are thereby validated as proper guides to effective thought and action.

On an autumn day in 2013 I received an intriguing email from Bob McLain, publisher of the newly launched Theme Park Press. Bob had discovered my long Walt Disney essay on the Internet while seeking new potential book projects and invited me to convert my essay into a book of 150 to 200 pages for publication.

I jumped at the opportunity immediately.

A number of years earlier, publishing and literary agent Stan Wakefield had shopped a proposal I had prepared to write such a book to a number of publishers with whom he worked, including Pearson/Prentice-Hall, AMACOM, John Wiley & Sons, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, ABC-CLIO (Praeger/Greenwood), and McGraw Hill’s trade division. Unfortunately there was insufficient appetite for another Walt Disney biography. The general view was that the mass market for Walt Disney biographies was saturated.

There were lots of continuity gaps in my original short essay, but I immediately recognized that I could add content in two areas to close those gaps: the struggles of the studio during the World War II era; and the period in the 1960s covering Walt’s development of the EPCOT concept and purchase of land in Florida.

I was hopeful that doing a little more research and rewriting would take me about nine months. Nine months soon stretched out to almost exactly three years to research, write, and edit the manuscript to my satisfaction.

Where I had originally hoped for a December 2014 release date, four Christmases went by before the actual publication date of May 9, 2017.

Each year I would email my publisher to let him know I was still working on the book and making good progress in trying to create the book I envisioned. By pursuing the business angle, I could create something different and unique compared to all other Walt Disney biographies currently in the market, and of a quality that would make us both proud.

To Bob McLain’s credit, and in the spirit of Walt Disney, he always encourage me to follow my path to create something of quality, leaving the publication date open-ended.

[Other posts in this series can be found here.]

© 2019, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved. 

Barry Linetsky is the author of the acclaimed book The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success (Theme Park Press), and an Honorary Disney History Institute Historian. Barry is a writer, photographer, researcher, and business strategy enabler.

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