9 January 2003
Michael W. Lucas talks about: Publishing Computer Books Or, how to eradicate your copious free time Why Write a Book? It's a great idea! Fame and glory! So that someone will hire you to do the sort of things you wrote the book about. Help a community. Money. Lots of it. Huge piles. (Yeah, right.) Why Shouldn't You Write a Book? Writing a book is an abhorrent idea. It takes all of your time. "How you do things" is no longer adequate. You need to understand the underlying priciptiles. "Once you become a writer, the world will treat you with a base ball bat the rest of your life." -- Didn't catch who said it How to Sell a Book Write something else first ("let them come to you" method) magazine articles, etc. "Beat on doors" method. Write something, get submission guidelines, and submit frequently. Choosing a Publisher Go to the bookstore, get some authors name, and talk to them. Are they happy with their publishers? (Pick the least unhappy one.) Publisher publicity -- will they promote your book? Secret tip: if you have a clue, publishers will take anything you're willing to write down. Designing your Book Topic? The first book on any given topic sells the most. Competition? Who's competing (and how many) with your book impacts whether it's worth the effort. Contents/outline? The flowchart for your work. Don't write what you know -- know what you write. Have enough interest in your work to keep you motivated. Actually Writing a Book Writing tools -- the publisher will almost certainly want it in Microsoft Word format. [sigh] Surrender all free time. Carryout menus are good. (estimated word total) x 1.5 / days = words per day Take your laptop everywhere. Remember, nobody but you sees first draft Start each day by revising yesterday's work Hard part: write well If you can't write well, rewrite until it sucks less Using your Friends Get anyone possible to tech review Your proofreader is your new best friend. Buy them drinks, find them dates, take them to dinner. Honesty is more important than praise. Dealing with Your Editor Editors are like sysadmins -- they have users (writers), each "user" has their own unique requirements. Read the submission guidelines (the FAQ). Remember: it's your book, it's their job. Learn to enjoy rejection Keep expectations low. Some editors will send your work straight to the publisher with no real editting done. The Publishing Industry Simultaneous submissions tend to make publishers grumpy. Rights -- electronic rights, translation rights, etc. What constitutes "publication?" Web sites, for one. Agents. If your idea is good, try to sell it yourself. An agent will take 15% of everything. How to make Editors Pound on Your Door Reputation -- don't need much of one. Just don't suck. Deliver press-ready work. Be flexible and responsive Be accurate! Try not to put too many stupid errors in your work. Unique topics are a big plus After manuscript Delivery Await editor's pleasure. Be patient. It'll take a while. One day, proofs will arrive: review carefully, return quickly. Set up web page for your book. It's a good place for errata, for one thing. After Publication Your first copy! Try not do get too loud celebrating. Your first errors! They'll be in there. Don't panic. Fix it in the second edition. Next book? If your book is any good at all, you'll be asked to do another one. Dealing with your Legions of Adoring Fans Always give readers an answer, even if you say you don't. "Hi! I bought your book and it was coo!" Thanks. "Hi. I bought your book and it sucked. Loser." Sorry you feel that way. "Hi. I bought your book and it didn't cover setting up my circa 1984 GerbilWare software-based math coprocessor, so could you ..." "Hi. I saw a link to your book and you seem like a nice guy ... could you tell me how to get rid of the porn spam in Outlook?" "Hi! I want to be your new best friend." Some mail simply defies classification [ Imagine a very nice "Absolut BSD vodka" parody advert ] Getting Paid This happens eventually. Advances are against royalties. You will not see another penny until the royalties excede the advance. You get royalties after the publisher gets money in hand. (After the book is bought, after the bookseller pays for it. It could be several months.) Understand the "royalty period" and "holdbacks." It could take a year or two to get any real cash in hand. Get sales figures. Look for Absolute OpenBSD -- coming soon! Okay, eventually. See ... you're learning.