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Book Writing #2: The Rest Of The Story >

[Comments] (4) Book Writing: The Told Story: Baron Schwartz wrote an excellent article on the experience of writing a technical book. I thought I'd add supplementary stories about the three books I've been involved in.

The first book I worked on (Beginning Python) has not been very successful, but it's in a very crowded space. (It's a very distant second among books with that title!) My experience working on Beginning Python was much like the one Baron describes. I wrote my chapters nights and weekends, using all my free time. The publisher expected documents in Word format, which was a big pain. I wrote in Emacs and once my draft was done, spent a day pasting it into OpenOffice and setting the styles manually. I didn't have any problems incorporating reviewer feedback into the text, but there was only one review pass. The publisher hired technical reviewers to go over my chapters, but I couldn't even email them to ask for clarification--they'd already done their job and gotten paid.

I wrote three chapters for Beginning Python which translated into me busting my ass for a couple months on top of a full-time job. I think I wrote good stuff, but I got very little directly to show for it--a couple thousand dollars of an advance that will never be earned out. This is the fate of most books. All I can say by way of encouragement is that your chances are a lot better writing technical books than writing fiction. But, looking at it long term, Beginning Python was my apprenticeship. I showed that 1) I can write well, and 2) I make deadlines instead of slipping them or flaking out altogether. My work on this project opened the doors for other projects, which were much more successful. I'll talk about those later.

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Posted by emile at Tue Jun 17 2008 12:04

Ok, I'm desperately curious now. Are you the one on the left, in the middle, or on the right?

Posted by Sumana at Tue Jun 17 2008 12:25

He's the good-looking one, OBVIOUSLY.

Posted by Susie at Tue Jun 17 2008 13:13

you're the 5th out of 8 authors and your picture is on the cover? Didn't the others forget to turn in pictures or something?

Maybe the book would sell better with a cute animal on the cover.

Posted by Leonard at Tue Jun 17 2008 13:33

Yes, we were the only 3 who sent in pictures.


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