Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Java Champion and Developer Advocate at Okta. developer.okta.com

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10+ YEARS


Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

Scott Bain on Writing and Publishing a Book

Scott Bain has an interested blog entry called Writing and Publishing a Book:

I recently completed the process of getting a book published ("Emergent Design"). It was my first time doing this, and I thought it might be valuable to some of you if I shared some of the things I learned about writing a book, and about the publishing world.
...
Now, it turns out that I made a bit of a mistake, but got lucky.

The mistake? I wrote the book, then went to the publisher. This can lead to a real disaster. You may have written a beautiful, smart, compelling book for which there is no market whatsoever. Even a great book that nobody wants to read is worthless.

In my case, I knew there was a market because the market had asked me to write the book. Still, if I'd gotten involved with the publisher earlier, several things would have happened:

  1. They would have kept me on a writing schedule. From time to time I got lackadaisical about getting the book done, and the publisher would have held my feet to the fire a little. That would have been healthy for me.
  2. They would have reviewed chapters as I wrote them, which would give me early and frequent feedback. In other words, I would have gained all the benefits of using a Lean/Agile approach.
  3. They would have helped me write. I didn't realize that publishers have extensive support mechanisms to help their authors; access to peer-review, copy editors, technical editors, and so on.
In other words, they would have really smoothed the process. [Read More]

Good to know - thanks Scott! I've been thinking about writing a book again and was actually considering writing first and shopping for a publisher later. I guess that's the wrong approach eh?

Posted in General at Mar 12 2008, 04:12:29 PM MDT 3 Comments
Comments:

I don't know that I would agree with Scott. His points 1 and 2 make some sense, although this has more to do with personal time management. With a book in hand, you have something the publishers really want, along with the ability to negotiate a better deal. Publishers are always weary when entering into the book writing contract because of the off-chance the author pulls out (which happens more frequently then they would like to admit). A book in hand offers a publisher the ability to go through a quick copy-edit and tech review, and get to marketing much much faster. It also cuts that "tech-delay" risk where tech moves faster than the book publisher (i.e. that happened to me with Professional Apache Geronimo where the release of the book - based on 1.X of Geronimo - coincided within 1-2 months of Geronimo 2.0). More importantly, it allows you to get into a bidding war with a group of publishers. If you are a "known name" in the industry, you should be able to get a higher "bonus" and royalty by shopping around and having the publishers bid on the product.

Posted by Jeff Genender on March 13, 2008 at 09:54 AM MDT #

Not only that, Jeff. When you start to write a book you have to be able to afford writing full time in order to have the time it needs to do the writing. One won't be able to work as a busy consultant or contract developer and write the book on a schedule on evenings and weekends. Your family needs you too as well.

So writing a book on your own schedule when the publisher doesn't pay you for writing is certainly a good idea. If the publishers is paying, then writing the book is the job. Either one.

Posted by Stephan Schwab on March 13, 2008 at 05:36 PM MDT #

Solid points.

One thing I often say when talking about testing and design applies here, I think.

"Anything is acceptable if the risk is acceptable"

So, the risk of writing the book beforehand and then contacting the publisher is twofold:

1) You may write a book that cannot be effectively marketed
2) You may encounter a lot of re-work once the publisher gets it.

If these risks can be mitigated to an acceptable degree (in your own case), then I suppose writing up-front is acceptable too.

I'll just add that I found the collaborative process with the publisher to be such a positive thing, that I would not mind doing it again, and more. I may be unique here...

-Scott-

Posted by Scott Bain on April 01, 2008 at 09:01 AM MDT #

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