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The 'Adventure' In Self-Publishing an IT Book 156

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-dangerous-to-go-alone-take-this dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Author Keir Thomas has blogged about his experiences self-publishing a computing book. Quoting: 'I knew that publicizing the book would be difficult so I hit upon an idea: Why not give away the eBook (PDF) version? I could use Amazon S3 for hosting the file, so it would cost me just a few dollars per month. Sure enough, giving the eBook away generated a lot of publicity. ... Since going on sale at the start of 2009, the book has made me $9,000. ... I’ve had worse salaries in my life, and I’m very grateful, but I know total royalties would probably have been higher had I gone through the traditional route of working with a mainstream publisher. I estimate I have to give away 446 copies of the eBook for every sale of the print edition.'"
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The 'Adventure' In Self-Publishing an IT Book

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  • by nametaken (610866) on Friday March 18, 2011 @04:27PM (#35535690)

    He does this for at least two of his other books. He sells .99 kindle ebook versions. I just bought one of them.

  • by cjonslashdot (904508) on Friday March 18, 2011 @05:09PM (#35536218)

    I have also self-published a book: my most recent book, Value-Driven IT (http://ValueDrivenIT.com). Prior to that I had published three books through traditional publishers (Prentice Hall, Addison-Wesley). I will note that the term "self-publish" is a little ambiguous, since anyone who gets an ISBN number and publishes a book with that number is a publisher, by definition.

    I also "gave away" the content, by putting it on a wiki, and also making hard- and soft-cover versions available from Amazon.

    Unlike many who self-publish, I went through all of the steps that I would have had to go through had I published the traditional way. These included extensive review by subject matter experts, extensive editorial feedback and revision, professional layout (including an index, legal permission for graphics used, etc.), forewords by industry luminaries, and pre-publication commentary (known as "advance praise") by industry experts.

    Some of the things I learned from the self-publishing experience are:

    1. Amazon puts one's book near the bottom of the list when you search for it: they put their "partner's" books at the top (the publishers who pay them, it seems). Thus, if one searches for my book on Amazon, by the book's exact title, one finds all kinds of irrelevant things first, and then my book shows up on about page five of the search results - if lucky.
    2. The above is true for many things. The marketing of books and other content are essentially a pay-to-play environment. Getting noticed because something is good is difficult unless someone who is very well known latches onto it and talks about it.
    3. Publishers don't add a-lot of value over self-publishing, unless they think that your book is going to be a hit. (My first book was a big hit.)

    Also, books that are "cross-over" books - i.e., interdisciplinary - are very hard to market, whether one uses an established publisher or self-publishes. This is because people generally read IT books when they want to learn about something that they heard about, and if something doesn't fit into an established niche, then one will not have heard about it. My most recent two books (High-Assurance Design and Value-Driven IT) are both cross-over books and therefore are hard to market.

    There is also a misconception that people who write technical books do it for money, and that their motivation is book sales. My first book was a big hit (sold about 30,000 copies: that is a-lot for a technical book). However, if I calculate the money I made on an hourly basis given the amount of time it took to write the book, I earned at the rate of about $30/hour. Not very good, especially considering that I earn about five times that in the other work that I do. The reasons for writing a book (for me) have always been that (1) a book establishes one as a recognized thought leader in the industry, it (2) helps one to organize one's thoughts about something, and (3) it serves as a "calling card" when one does consulting (which I do). Royalties are not a very good reason for writing a technical book.

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

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