This is a fairly concise collection on how to write a technical book. It may seem arrogant for a 1- book author like me to do so, but I get a lot of queries on this and it seems there is a fair amount of information asymmetry on this process. I have experience with getting rejected and accepted in both creative and technology domains, but I will make this post fairly tech specific.
Books I have Written-(click on images to go to the book site)
Poetry (Self Published)
- Publishers dont like unsolicited manuscripts.
Well they don’t like unsolicited manuscripts from total unknowns. This is also very domain specific. If you are writing a novel, or a poetry book, or a technical book, approval rates will depend on current interest in that domain.
Advice- If you are first time author to be, choose your niche domain as one which you are passionate about and which has been generating some buzz lately. It could be Python, D3, R etc.
- Publishers get all the money
No, they don’t make that much money compared to a Hollywood studio. Yes, books are expensive, but they basically are funding a whole supply chain that may or may not be efficient. Your book is subsidizing all the books that didn’t sell. Proof reading, and editing are not very glamorous jobs, but they take a long time, and are expensive. I have much more respect for editors now than say 3 years ago. The ultimate in supply chain efficiency would be if each and every hard copy was printed on demand, and each and every soft copy was priced efficiently given pricing elasticity. Pricing analytics on dynamic book pricing (like on Amazon)— hmm
- Writers get all the money
You would be lucky to get more than 14% from a gross selling price of a hard copy or more than 40% of an electronic book. You want to make money, dont write technical books, write white papers and make webinars.
- Writers get no money
You don’t make money by writing a technical book, but your branding does go up significantly, and you can now charge for training, webinars, talks, conferences, white papers, articles. These alternatives can help you survive.
- I got a great idea- but I keep getting rejected. That guy had a lousy idea, but he keeps writing.
THAT guy wrote a great proposal, spent time building his brand, and wrote interesting stuff. Publishers like to sell books, not ideas.Writer jealousy and insecurity are part of the game – you have a limited amount of energy in a day- spend that writing or spend that reading. Ideally do both.
The book publication process has three parts-
1) Proposal- Write an awesome proposal. Take tips from the publisher website. Choose which publisher is more interested in publishing the topic (hint- go to all the websites) . Those publisher websites confusing you yet- jump to the FAQ.
Some publishers I think relevant to technical books-
2) Manuscript- Write daily . 300 words. 300 times. Thats a manuscript. It is tough for people like us. Hemingway had it easy. I used a Latex GUI called Lyx for writing http://www.lyx.org/. You may choose your own tool, style, time of day /night, cafe , room to spur your creative juices.
3) Editing- you will edit, chop, re edit and rewrite a book many times. It is ok. Make it readable is my advice. Try and think of a non technical person and try and explain your book to clear your ideas.
Once your proposal is accepted, you sign a contract for royalty and copyright.
Once the contract is signed you write the manuscript.This also involves a fair amount of research, citations, folder management , to keep your book figures, your citations ready. I generally write the citation then and there within the book, and then organize them later chapter by chapter. Un-cited work leads to charges of plagiarism which is the buzz kill for any author. Write, Cite, Rewrite.
You will also need to create index (can be done by software) so people can navigate the book better , and appendix for hiding all the stuff you couldn’t leave behind.
Once you submit the manuscript ,you choose the cover, discuss the rewrites with editor, edit the changes suggested, and resend the manuscript files, count till six months for publication. Send copies to people you like who can help spread the word on your book. Wait for reviews, engage with positivity with everyone, then wait for sales figures. Congrats- you are a writer now!