Editing and writing technical books | Adam Salviani

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  • Editing and Writing Technical Books

    Robbie Allenrallen@rallenhome.comhttp://www.rallenhome.com/

    January 26, 2006

  • BioTechnical Leader at Cisco SystemsEditor/Author at OReilly MediaGrad student at MIT

    For more on my books and blogs, see:http://www.rallenhome.com/

  • Equal parts project manager, information architect, and technologist

    Different types of editors:AcquisitionSign booksTechnicalReview books for technical accuracyDevelopmentalEdit and manage books from signing to final draftCopyCheck for correct grammar and spelling, good content flow, consistent use of styles, etc.ProductionManage the book from final draft to publication

    The many flavors of Editors

  • Life as an Acquisitions EditorStay current with technical trendsResearch new book ideasFind authorsNegotiate contracts

  • Life as a Developmental EditorWork closely with authorsWeekly concalls, frequent emailsManage author (ever changing) delivery schedulesRead and re-read a LOT of chaptersSearch for good technical reviewersManage technical reviewers (ever changing) schedulesMeet deadlines!

  • Life as a Technical EditorShares some of the responsibilities with Developmental EditorPrimary focus is on ensuring the book meets the needs of target audienceTechnically accurate?Well organized and presented?May help with tech review

  • Life as a Copy EditorReview entire manuscript, looking for:grammatical errorsspelling errorslogical errorsformatting inconsistenciesInvolvement per book: 2-4 weeks

  • Life as a Production EditorManage production processCreate production scheduleWork with graphics artists on any figure issuesWork with dev editor on front and back cover copy and indexIncorporate QC feedback (QC1 and QC2)

  • A Recent Production Schedule

  • ReferencesThe Forest for the Trees: An Editors Advice to WritersWriting Processhttp://www.praxagora.com/andyo/professional/process.htmlWriting for O'Reilly

    http://www.oreilly.com/oreilly/author/intro.htmlDave Taylor on the Writing Business


  • Q/AHow do you get a job as an editor?

  • Backup Writing Technical Books

  • The Joys of Being an AuthorSee your name in printMake moneyMore on this laterGain instant credibilityWhether it is deserved or notEducate people

  • The Toils of Being an AuthorWriting is hard workWriting a book is a lot of hard workYour friends and family may not like you very much during the processYou'll become an Amazon addictPeople will think you know it all about the topicSome people will be jealousAnd bad reviews

  • Common myths about being an Author You must be richYou are an expertYou can write well or have a background in writing

  • How to get started as an Author Start a blogShortDoesn't pay (besides AdSense)Published instantlyWrite an online articleShortDoesn't pay that well (per article)Published quicklyWrite a magazine articleLonger than online articlesPays well (per word)Can take a long time to publish

  • How to get started as an Author (contd)Become a technical reviewer for a bookLot of work (if you do it right)Pay varies, but generally not very well for first timersYour name in the acknowledgementsGet a glimpse of the publishing processContribute a chapter to a bookAmount of work varies depending on the content and timelinePay varies, often by page or flat fee for the chapterGet a better understanding of the publishing processWrite a bookMore 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 inLong time between when you start writing and the book is in stores

  • Create a proposal Some basic information:SummaryTarget audienceDetailed outlinePage count (this is hard; give a guestimate)Schedule (2 chapters, 50%, 100%, final draft)BiographyWriting sample (sample chapter if possible)More detail the better

  • Picking a publisher Start off pickyDoes the publisher have a good reputation?Does the publisher have a good bookstore presence?Is the publisher going to publish competing titles?Is the publishers contract overly complex?

  • 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 helpAsk for a response by a certain date

  • Small sampling of publishersOReilly:

    http://www.oreilly.com/oreilly/author/intro.htmlAddison-Wesley: http://www.awprofessional.com/about/write_for_us.aspAPress: http://www.apress.com/about/writeForUs.htmlPeachpit: http://www.peachpit.com/about/write_for_us.aspSAMS: http://www.samspublishing.com/about/write_for_us.aspOsborne: http://shop.osborne.com/osborne/aboutus/writeforus.shtmlNo Starch Press: http://www.nostarch.com/releases/book_proposal.pdfSyngress: http://www.syngress.com/authors/Wiley/Dummies: http://www.dummies.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-100097.htmlSybex: http://sybex.com/sybexbooks.nsf/f8b757a5c6780f3b8825696100043e5b/0960e3fa471f4d4e88256976007d23da?OpenDocument

  • 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 aroundReview your contract and help you negotiate better terms

  • Signing a book Publisher contracts should be understandable to the layperson (many are not)Publisher generally retains copyrights, but it is a bargaining chipAvoid non-competes at all costsMake sure you get a right of first refusal for the next editionOther tips:http://www.askdavetaylor.com/what_makes_a_good_publishing_contract_for_a_writer.html

  • The process of writing a book You do initial researchYou start writingYou do more researchYou do more writingYour editor provides feedback on your chaptersYou incorporate the feedbackYour editor sends your chapters out for technical reviewYou incorporate the feedback from tech reviewThe editor may edit the chapters one last timeYou do final clean-up

  • The process of writing a book (contd) 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 copyYour job is done!How long does this take? 1-3 years (or longer)

  • From writer to marketerSwitching hatsGo on a book tour, e.g. http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/?cat=8Sign books at a local bookstoreSpeak at conferences or user groupsCreate a website to support the bookParticipate on forumsPut info about your book in your email signatureAsk friends, family, co-workers, and everyone else to write reviews for the bookEngineering Amazon

  • What makes a book successful? The book must be useful (duh)Must be the top 1 or 2 in the categoryNeed a large audienceNeed successful publisher and self marketingKeep writing

  • How much can you make? Typical advance: $10,000 spread over a series of 4 paymentsTypical royalty: 10% on the wholesale price of the bookWholesale 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 careerBook publishing cost breakdown:http://www.oreilly.com/oreilly/author/ch03sb.htmlTim OReillys perspective:http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/ask_tim/2003/salesexpect_0603.html

  • ReferencesThe Forest for the Trees: An Editors Advice to WritersWhat its like to writehttp://www.praxagora.com/andyo/professional/process.htmlWriting for O'Reilly

    http://www.oreilly.com/oreilly/author/intro.htmlDave Taylor on the Writing Business