Writing a technical book

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)

Cred-

Poetry (Self Published)

In Case I Don't See You Again
Corporate Poetry
Poets & Hackers (e-book)
Technology (Published )
R for Business Analytics
(Currently Writing)
R for Cloud Computing ( Springer) – Due 2013
R for Web Analytics and Social Media Analytics (Springer) – Due 2014
Top 5 Myths on Writing and Getting 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.

Book Publication

The book publication process has three parts-

1) Proposal

2) Manuscript

3) Editing

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-

http://www.springer.com/authors/book+authors/faq+for+book+authors?SGWID=0-1725014-0-0-0

http://support.sas.com/community/authors/index.html

http://oreilly.com/oreilly/author/intro.csp

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!

 

 

 

Apps for Google Drive

I kind of liked the fact that Google Drive has a lot of apps already- even though it is quite young.

Especially the mechanical engineer in me liked the AutoCAD app and the video editing apps, the online bitcoin wallet, free project scheduling app, the cloud’s first (?) open office document reader and etc

Developers would especially like playing with the OAuth Playground app for Google Drive on the Google Chrome platform.

Check out  for yourself.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/collection/drive_apps

Radoop 0.3 launched- Open Source Graphical Analytics meets Big Data

What is Radoop? Quite possibly an exciting mix of analytics and big data computing

 

http://blog.radoop.eu/?p=12

What is Radoop?

Hadoop is an excellent tool for analyzing large data sets, but it lacks an easy-to-use graphical interface. RapidMiner is an excellent tool for data analytics, but its data size is limited by the memory available, and a single machine is often not enough to run the analyses on time. In this project, we combine the strengths of both projects and provide a RapidMiner extension for editing and running ETL, data analytics and machine learning processes over Hadoop.

We have closely integrated the highly optimized data analytics capabilities of Hive and Mahout, and the user-friendly interface of RapidMiner to form a powerful and easy-to-use data analytics solution for Hadoop.

 

and what’s new

http://blog.radoop.eu/?p=198

Radoop 0.3 released – fully graphical big data analytics

Today, Radoop had a major step forward with its 0.3 release. The new version of the visual big data analytics package adds full support for all major Hadoop distributions used these days: Apache Hadoop 0.20.2, 0.20.203, 1.0 and Cloudera’s Distribution including Apache Hadoop 3 (CDH3). It also adds support for large clusters by allowing the namenode, the jobtracker and the Hive server to reside on different nodes.

As Radoop’s promise is to make big data analytics easier, the 0.3 release is also focused on improving the user interface. It has an enhanced breakpointing system which allows to investigate intermediate results, and it adds dozens of quick fixes, so common process design mistakes get much easier to solve.

There are many further improvements and fixes, so please consult the release notes for more details. Radoop is in private beta mode, but heading towards a public release in Q2 2012. If you would like to get early access, then please apply at the signup page or describe your use case in email (beta at radoop.eu).

Radoop 0.3 (15 February 2012)

  • Support for Apache Hadoop 0.20.2, 0.20.203, 1.0 and Cloudera’s Distribution Including Apache Hadoop 3 (CDH3) in a single release
  • Support for clusters with separate master nodes (namenode, jobtracker, Hive server)
  • Enhanced breakpointing to evaluate intermediate results
  • Dozens of quick fixes for the most common process design errors
  • Improved process design and error reporting
  • New welcome perspective to help in the first steps
  • Many bugfixes and performance improvements

Radoop 0.2.2 (6 December 2011)

  • More Aggregate functions and distinct option
  • Generate ID operator for convenience
  • Numerous bug fixes and improvements
  • Improved user interface

Radoop 0.2.1 (16 September 2011)

  • Set Role and Data Multiplier operators
  • Management panel for testing Hadoop connections
  • Stability improvements for Hive access
  • Further small bugfixes and improvements

Radoop 0.2 (26 July 2011)

  • Three new algoritms: Fuzzy K-Means, Canopy, and Dirichlet clustering
  • Three new data preprocessing operators: Normalize, Replace, and Replace Missing Values
  • Significant speed improvements in data transmission and interactive analytics
  • Increased stability and speedup for K-Means
  • More flexible settings for Join operations
  • More meaningful error messages
  • Other small bugfixes and improvements

Radoop 0.1 (14 June 2011)

Initial release with 26 operators for data transmission, data preprocessing, and one clustering algorithm.

Note that Rapid Miner also has a great R extension so you can use R, a graphical interface and big data analytics is now easier and more powerful than ever.