Author Topic: Professional Diaries #4 with Gary Bandy, professional PFM writer  (Read 347 times)

Napodano

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Professional Diaries #4 with Gary Bandy, professional PFM writer
« on: January 13, 2023, 11:45:38 GMT »
For this new instalment of Professional Diaries I have the pleasure to welcome Gary Bandy.

‘Helping accountants to write better’ is the statement on his Linked’In page. Not a small feat for us consultants in the PFM realm, struggling to keep a fine balance between being analytical and being clear in our assignments.

Gary is a chartered public finance accountant and has worked as a freelance consultant in public financial management for public sector and voluntary organisations since 2005. As well as advising public organisations on any aspect of their financial management he teaches at university level and he writes books, courses and articles (find out more at https://wordswithfigures.com/ and https://garybandy.co.uk/ ).

His diary, among other topics, will focus on the process that led him to publish the third edition of his book ‘Financial Management and Accounting in the Public Sector’.

Dear Gary,
The floor is yours. We, PFMBoarders, will follow your posts with great interest in the coming weeks.

[A reminder to the readers: diaries are not meant for a conversation, we have the fire-side chat for that in the PFM Board. Yet any registered PFM Boarder is free to make a comment on any of Gary’s posts below.]
« Last Edit: January 13, 2023, 16:34:34 GMT by Napodano »

GaryBandy

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Re: Professional Diaries #4 with Gary Bandy, professional PFM writer
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2023, 10:25:58 GMT »
December 2008

In December 2008 the global financial crisis was underway and I found myself in Juba, the capital city of what is now South Sudan. Back in 2008 South Sudan’s independence referendum had not yet taken place but there was a n autonomous government in place under the terms of the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement that ended more than 50 years of conflict.

I was in Juba as part of a team from Warwick Business School that was delivering a five-day course in public finance to 50 civil servants from the Ministry of Commerce and Development.

My connection with Warwick Business School goes back to 2002 when I enrolled in its part-time Master’s of Public Administration. I completed the degree in 2005 but remained in contact with the business school as many alumni do. In the 2000s Professor John Benington and others from the business school were involved in various capacity building projects in fragile states, including South Sudan.  In 2008 he put out a call for a public finance expert to go to South Sudan and I volunteered.

I had been an independent public finance consultant since 2005 so I was free to take on any project that interested me. Although I had given many presentations in my career by then I had never delivered a lecture. It was a challenging and rewarding week in a hotel beside the River Nile.

There were (and are) no direct flights between South Sudan and the UK so the team had to fly home via Nairobi. In Nairobi we had a 12 hour stopover during which John and I had a conversation about teaching financial management. It included this exchange

John:         For the MPA we have a textbook for each module except the financial management module.

Me:            Why’s that?

John:         We’ve never been able find a suitable one.

Me:            I guess they’re a lots of accounting textbooks aimed at people who want to be accountants and there are all those books with business tips that are sold in airports.

John:         Yes, but they’re not public-sector focused.

Me:            I see there is a gap in the market.

John:         Why don’t you write a book to fill the gap?

Ultimately, two things came out of my trip to Juba. First, having proved myself in the classroom I was invited to teach public finance courses at Warwick Business School. Second, I wrote a book proposal. That’s the subject of the next diary entry.

GaryBandy

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Re: Professional Diaries #4 with Gary Bandy, professional PFM writer
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2023, 11:26:51 GMT »
July 2009 to February 2010

Non-fiction publishing is not the same as fiction publishing. In 2005-06 I wrote a novel. It was set in a city council and was called 'Power, Corruption and Lies'.

The way fiction publishing works is that first you write the book and then you send it (or usually just the first three chapters) to agents and publishers and hope they like it enough to ask to see the rest of the manuscript. JK Rowling was rejected 80 times before getting a contract. I gave up after about 30 rejections.

Those rejections came after I wrote 8 drafts of 100,000 words. That’s a lot of effort. Non-fiction publishing, I was relieved to discover, works the other way around: you get a contract before you write the manuscript. This is much more time-efficient.

The way to get a contract is to send a book proposal to the publisher. A book proposal is a lot like a business case. In it you have to explain the core subject matter and approach and back it up with a description of the audience for the book (the market), analysis of similar books (the competition) and your social and professional networks (the sales strategy). Appending a draft chapter to prove you can write clearly can help, too.

In 2009 I wrote a proposal for a book that would explain public sector financial management to non-accountants. I had in mind something like the business books you see in airport booksellers. It was called ‘Ten Rules for Managing Public Money’.

I sent the proposal to 3 academic publishers. One said no thanks. The second said it was a good idea but they did not know how they would sell it. And Routledge said they were looking for a finance book to fit into their Masters in Public Management series. (This is a much better feeling that getting 30 rejection letters!)

The process from this initial acceptance to getting a contract is somewhat bureaucratic. My first editor, Terry, had to take the proposal to a committee for approval to issue a contract and he could not do that until he had verified the idea. This required sending my proposal to some academics (anonymous to me) for their comments and advice on the idea.

I was sent the comments from those academics and in December 2009 had to produce a revised version of my proposal. It was this version that Terry took to the committee and, in February 2010, I was issued a standard book contract. This required me to deliver a manuscript of up to 125,000 words for a book called ‘Financial Management and Accounting in the Public Sector’ by 31 July 2010.

GaryBandy

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Re: Professional Diaries #4 with Gary Bandy, professional PFM writer
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2023, 10:47:43 GMT »
July 2010

In January, when the publisher asked me how long it would take to write the manuscript I thought six months was more than enough. I thought: how hard can it be?

One challenge I had underestimated was changing my concept for the book to an academic textbook. My original book proposal is attached. The proposed chapters are all ‘rules’ such as  Know Your Budget and Be Accountable. Now I had to write something structured into the stages of the PFM cycle: budget preparation, approval, execution, etc. And, also, I had to read relevant books, articles and reports in order have a theoretical basis for the book.

By July I had written about one and a half chapters. I asked for a 3-month extension without declaring how much I had actually written. I knew it was unrealistic and I was just putting off the day or reckoning.

September 2010

By now I had finished chapter 2 but the looming deadline was causing me a lot of stress. I did not want to admit to failure, partly because I thought the publisher would drop me.

My wife gave me a pep talk. She advised me to forget about getting any consulting assignments and just be a full-time writer until it was finished.

I asked for, and got, an extension of the deadline to Christmas. I had 8 chapters to write in 13 weeks. So, that’s what I did.

I would spend every day in my home office writing and re-writing the manuscript. I had to do about 2,000 words a day. That’s harder than it sounds when you have to do it every day.

When each chapter was drafted I would print it out for my wife to review. She is not an accountant so she was the perfect reader to assess whether my writing was clear enough for non-accountants to follow.

December 2010

I had written all the chapters by Christmas 2010 but there was a couple of weeks’ work needed to collate the reference lists at the ends of each chapter. By mid-January 2011 I would be ready to submit the manuscript to the publisher.

 

 

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