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Editing and Writing Technical Books. Robbie Allen [email protected] http://www.rallenhome.com/ January 26, 2006. Bio. Technical Leader at Cisco Systems Editor/Author at O’Reilly Media Grad student at MIT For more on my books and blogs, see: http://www.rallenhome.com/.

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editing and writing technical books

Editing and Writing Technical Books

Robbie Allen

[email protected]

http://www.rallenhome.com/

January 26, 2006

slide2
Bio
  • Technical Leader at Cisco Systems
  • Editor/Author at O’Reilly Media
  • Grad student at MIT
  • For more on my books and blogs, see:http://www.rallenhome.com/
slide3

The many flavors of Editors

  • Equal parts project manager, “information architect”, and technologist
  • Different types of editors:
    • Acquisition
      • Sign books
    • Technical
      • Review books for technical accuracy
    • Developmental
      • Edit and manage books from signing to final draft
    • Copy
      • Check for correct grammar and spelling, good content flow, consistent use of styles, etc.
    • Production
      • Manage the book from final draft to publication
life as an acquisitions editor
Life as an Acquisitions Editor
  • Stay current with technical trends
  • Research new book ideas
  • Find authors
  • Negotiate contracts
life as a developmental editor
Life as a Developmental Editor
  • Work closely with authors
    • Weekly concalls, frequent emails
  • Manage author (ever changing) delivery schedules
  • Read and re-read a LOT of chapters
  • Search for good technical reviewers
  • Manage technical reviewers (ever changing) schedules
  • Meet deadlines!
life as a technical editor
Life as a Technical Editor
  • Shares some of the responsibilities with Developmental Editor
  • Primary focus is on ensuring the book meets the needs of target audience
    • Technically accurate?
    • Well organized and presented?
  • May help with tech review
life as a copy editor
Life as a Copy Editor
  • Review entire manuscript, looking for:
    • grammatical errors
    • spelling errors
    • logical errors
    • formatting inconsistencies
  • Involvement per book: 2-4 weeks
life as a production editor
Life as a Production Editor
  • Manage production process
  • Create production schedule
  • Work with graphics artists on any figure issues
  • Work with dev editor on front and back cover copy and index
  • Incorporate QC feedback (QC1 and QC2)
references
References
  • “The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers”
  • Writing Process
    • http://www.praxagora.com/andyo/professional/process.html
  • Writing for O\'Reilly

http://www.oreilly.com/oreilly/author/intro.html

  • Dave Taylor on the Writing Business

http://www.askdavetaylor.com/cat_the_writing_business.html

slide11
Q/A
  • How do you get a job as an editor?
the joys of being an author
The Joys of Being an Author
  • See your name in print
  • Make money
    • More on this later
  • Gain instant credibility
    • Whether it is deserved or not
  • Educate people
the toils of being an author
The Toils of Being an Author
  • Writing is hard work
  • Writing a book is a lot of hard work
    • Your friends and family may not like you very much during the process
  • You\'ll become an Amazon addict
  • People will think you know it all about the topic
  • Some people will be jealous
  • And bad reviews
common myths about being an author
Common myths about being an Author
  • You must be rich
  • You are an expert
  • You can write well or have a background in writing
how to get started as an author
How to get started as an Author
  • Start a blog
    • Short
    • Doesn\'t pay (besides AdSense)
    • Published instantly
  • Write an online article
    • Short
    • Doesn\'t pay that well (per article)
    • Published quickly
  • Write a magazine article
    • Longer than online articles
    • Pays well (per word)
    • Can take a long time to publish
how to get started as an author cont d
How to get started as an Author (cont’d)
  • Become a technical reviewer for a book
    • Lot of work (if you do it right)
    • Pay varies, but generally not very well for first timers
    • Your name in the acknowledgements
    • Get a glimpse of the publishing process
  • Contribute a chapter to a book
    • Amount of work varies depending on the content and timeline
    • Pay varies, often by page or flat fee for the chapter
    • Get a better understanding of the publishing process
  • Write a book
    • More work than you think it will be (yes, that\'s a lot)
    • Pay is good, but not in relation to the amount of work you put in
    • Long time between when you start writing and the book is in stores
create a proposal
Create a proposal
  • Some basic information:
    • Summary
    • Target audience
    • Detailed outline
    • Page count (this is hard; give a guestimate)
    • Schedule (2 chapters, 50%, 100%, final draft)
    • Biography
    • Writing sample (sample chapter if possible)
  • More detail the better
picking a publisher
Picking a publisher
  • Start off picky
  • Does the publisher have a good reputation?
  • Does the publisher have a good bookstore presence?
  • Is the publisher going to publish competing titles?
  • Is the publisher’s contract overly complex?
pitching a proposal
Pitching a proposal
  • Most proposal submissions are by email (a few are by snail mail)
  • Do you know someone in the business that can refer you?
  • Agents can help
  • Ask for a response by a certain date
small sampling of publishers
Small sampling of publishers
  • O’Reilly:

http://www.oreilly.com/oreilly/author/intro.html

  • Addison-Wesley:http://www.awprofessional.com/about/write_for_us.asp
  • APress:http://www.apress.com/about/writeForUs.html
  • Peachpit:http://www.peachpit.com/about/write_for_us.asp
  • SAMS:http://www.samspublishing.com/about/write_for_us.asp
  • Osborne:http://shop.osborne.com/osborne/aboutus/writeforus.shtml
  • No Starch Press:http://www.nostarch.com/releases/book_proposal.pdf
  • Syngress:http://www.syngress.com/authors/
  • Wiley/Dummies:http://www.dummies.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-100097.html
  • Sybex: http://sybex.com/sybexbooks.nsf/f8b757a5c6780f3b8825696100043e5b/0960e3fa471f4d4e88256976007d23da?OpenDocument
do you need an agent
Do you need an agent?
  • The short answer is no. At least not to get your first book published.
  • Agents take a cut of your royalties (which aren\'t much to begin with)
  • Agents are good for getting corporate whitepaper gigs and pitching large projects (like a book series)
  • Agents do the following:
    • Shop your proposal around
    • Review your contract and help you negotiate better terms
signing a book
Signing a book
  • Publisher contracts should be understandable to the layperson (many are not)
  • Publisher generally retains copyrights, but it is a bargaining chip
  • Avoid non-competes at all costs
  • Make sure you get a “right of first refusal” for the next edition
  • Other tips:http://www.askdavetaylor.com/what_makes_a_good_publishing_contract_for_a_writer.html
the process of writing a book
The process of writing a book
  • You do initial research
  • You start writing
  • You do more research
  • You do more writing
  • Your editor provides feedback on your chapters
  • You incorporate the feedback
  • Your editor sends your chapters out for technical review
  • You incorporate the feedback from tech review
  • The editor may edit the chapters one last time
  • You do final clean-up
the process of writing a book cont d
The process of writing a book (cont’d)
  • Copyeditors make (mostly) grammatical corrections. Your editor may ask you to address some of the copyeditor comments if he can\'t.
  • Both you and the editor review the first quality check (QC1). This entails reading through the entire book again to look for any leftover errors.
  • The editor reviews the second quality check (QC2). This is typically a quick pass through the manuscript looking for anything grossly out of whack.
  • You review the index and front and back cover copy
  • Your job is done!
  • How long does this take? 1-3 years (or longer)
from writer to marketer
From writer to marketer
  • Switching hats
  • Go on a book tour, e.g. http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/?cat=8
  • Sign books at a local bookstore
  • Speak at conferences or user groups
  • Create a website to support the book
  • Participate on forums
  • Put info about your book in your email signature
  • Ask friends, family, co-workers, and everyone else to write reviews for the book
  • Engineering Amazon
what makes a book successful
What makes a book successful?
  • The book must be useful (duh)
  • Must be the top 1 or 2 in the category
  • Need a large audience
  • Need successful publisher and self marketing
  • Keep writing
how much can you make
How much can you make?
  • Typical advance: $10,000 spread over a series of 4 payments
  • Typical royalty: 10% on the wholesale price of the book
  • Wholesale price typically 50% of retail price
    • $50 x 50% = $25 (publisher gets for each book – not accounting costs)
    • $25 x 10% = $2.50 (author gets for each book)
  • Have to “earn out” your advance before you see any royalties (can take a year or more)
  • Can earn anywhere from $15,000 - $60,000 over the life of a book (2-5 years)
  • Can help jumpstart a consulting or training career
  • Book publishing cost breakdown:http://www.oreilly.com/oreilly/author/ch03sb.html
  • Tim O’Reilly’s perspective:http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/ask_tim/2003/salesexpect_0603.html
references29
References
  • The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers
  • What it’s like to write
    • http://www.praxagora.com/andyo/professional/process.html
  • Writing for O\'Reilly

http://www.oreilly.com/oreilly/author/intro.html

  • Dave Taylor on the Writing Business

http://www.askdavetaylor.com/cat_the_writing_business.html

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