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!

 

 

 

The second meetup for R New Delhi Users

The R Users of New Delhi met for the second time on Dec 15, 2012. We meet on the third Saturday of every month.

12121

We talked on epidemiology using epi calc package  ( we have 1 doctor and 1 bio statistician) , and Cloud Computing ( we have two IT guys) and Business Analytics. We also discussed the GUI , R Commander , Rattle, and Deducer for beginners and people transitioning to R from other analytics software. We also discussed the R for SAS and SPSS Users books, and R for Data Mining Book. The free book for R for Epidemiology ( http://cran.r-project.org/doc/contrib/Epicalc_Book.pdf ) was mentioned . Not bad for 1 hour.

We are currently unfunded and unsponsored , I hope to get some sponsors to give away R books to encourage users and group members (excluding my own). The only catch to join this meetup group, you either need to attend (and be local) or present something ( if you are not in Delhi)2

I have been trying to get this group to go from Vector to Matrix to get a bigger sponsorship from Revolution , but I am constrained by meeting in a public cafe. That is due to change since we managed to get one sponsor for meeting place in Noida ( a Business School batchmate who owns his office)

http://www.revolutionanalytics.com/news-events/r-user-group/

Deadlines for applications are:

  • March 31, 2013 for Matrix and Array level groups.
  • September 30, 2013 for Vector level groups.

2013 Sponsorship Levels

The size of the annual grant depends on the size of your group.

Level For groups that are:  Requirements Annual Grant ($USD)
Vector Just getting started A group name, group webpage, and a focus on R. (Here are some tips on starting up a new R user group.) $100
Matrix Smaller but established 3 meetings in last 6 months with 30 attendees or more.  $500
Array Larger and groups  3 meetings in last 6 months with 60 attendees or more. $1000

 

Interviews and Reviews: More R #rstats

I got interviewed on moving on from Excel to R in Human Resources (HR) here at http://www.hrtecheurope.com/blog/?p=5345

“There is a lot of data out there and it’s stored in different formats. Spreadsheets have their uses but they’re limited in what they can do. The spreadsheet is bad when getting over 5000 or 10000 rows – it slows down. It’s just not designed for that. It was designed for much higher levels of interaction.

In the business world we really don’t need to know every row of data, we need to summarise it, we need to visualise it and put it into a powerpoint to show to colleagues or clients.”

And a more recent interview with my fellow IIML mate, and editor at Analytics India Magazine

http://analyticsindiamag.com/interview-ajay-ohri-author-r-for-business-analytics/

AIM: Which R packages do you use the most and which ones are your favorites?

AO: I use R Commander and Rattle a lot, and I use the dependent packages. I use car for regression, and forecast for time series, and many packages for specific graphs. I have not mastered ggplot though but I do use it sometimes. Overall I am waiting for Hadley Wickham to come up with an updated book to his ecosystem of packages as they are very formidable, completely comprehensive and easy to use in my opinion, so much I can get by the occasional copy and paste code.

 

A surprising review at R- Bloggers.com /Intelligent Trading

http://intelligenttradingtech.blogspot.in/2012/10/book-review-r-for-business-analytics.html

The good news is that many of the large companies do not view R as a threat, but as a beneficial tool to assist their own software capabilities.

After assisting and helping R users navigate through the dense forest of various GUI interface choices (in order to get R up and running), Mr. Ohri continues to handhold users through step by step approaches (with detailed screen captures) to run R from various simple to more advanced platforms (e.g. CLOUD, EC2) in order to gather, explore, and process data, with detailed illustrations on how to use R’s powerful graphing capabilities on the back-end.

Do you want to write a review too? You can visit the site here

http://www.springer.com/statistics/book/978-1-4614-4342-1

 

Databases in the cloud

One more day of me mucking around MySQL and Amazon (hoping to get to the R)

Different kinds of Clouds

Some slides I liked on cloud computing infrastructure as offered by Amazon, IBM, Google , Windows and Oracle

 

 

RevoDeployR and commercial BI using R and R based cloud computing using Open CPU

Revolution Analytics has of course had RevoDeployR, and in a  webinar strive to bring it back to center spotlight.

BI is a good lucrative market, and visualization is a strength in R, so it is matter of time before we have more R based BI solutions. I really liked the two slides below for explaining RevoDeployR better to newbies like me (and many others!)

Integrating R into 3rd party and Web applications using RevoDeployR

Please click here to download the PDF.

Here are some additional links that may be of interest to you:

 

( I still think someone should make a commercial version of Jeroen Oom’s web interfaces and Jeff Horner’s web infrastructure (see below) for making customized Business Intelligence (BI) /Data Visualization solutions , UCLA and Vanderbilt are not exactly Stanford when it comes to deploying great academic solutions in the startup-tech world). I kind of think Google or someone at Revolution  should atleast dekko OpenCPU as a credible cloud solution in R.

I still cant figure out whether Revolution Analytics has a cloud computing strategy and Google seems to be working mysteriously as usual in broadening access to the Google Compute Cloud to the rest of R Community.

Open CPU  provides a free and open platform for statistical computing in the cloud. It is meant as an open, social analysis environment where people can share and run R functions and objects. For more details, visit the websit: www.opencpu.org

and esp see

https://public.opencpu.org/userapps/opencpu/opencpu.demo/runcode/

Jeff Horner’s

http://rapache.net/

Jerooen Oom’s