In this episode of The Freelancers Show the panel share advice and experiences for publishing technical books. Each of the panelists has experience publishing books. Reuven Lerner published a book, Core Perl back in 2000, using a publisher and has self-published two more books in recent years. He is currently republishing one of his self-published books using a publisher.
Erik Dietrich has written three books, two of which were published through a friend and the third was self-published. Jeremy Green contributed to The Independent Consulting Manual and runs a SAS called Remarq, a tool for those who want to self-publish.
Why write a book? The panel warns listeners that if your goal is to make money that most likely will not happen. They explain that authors who make real money from their books are rare and authors who make money off of technical books are even more rare. One reason to write a book is so that people will know your name and want to hire yours. Another reason is that writing a book will give you more credibility with clients.
Having published a book can really impress clients, Erik shares how his book has brought him leads. Reuven explains how it shows prospective clients how knowledgeable and reliable he is, this is one reason he is republishing his book through an actual publisher. By having a publishing company publish his book it verifies his expertise for prospective clients, or as Erik puts it a book is social proof of your expertise. By having a published book, Erik receives a lot fewer requests for references or other proof of knowledge.
The panel addresses the profits made by publishing a book. Reuven shares a little of his experience both with a publisher and without one when it came to making money. His first book Core Perl he went through a publisher and didn’t make more than the advance they gave him. Frustrated he decided to self-publish his next two books. Reuven admits he was a fool for turning down the publisher when they approached him about one of his books. Since working with that publisher, they have sold more than 4x as many copies as he had in four years. He may not make more money but his name will reach more people.
Jeremy explains one of the downsides of going through a publisher. When a publisher sells your book you don’t get any information on who buys your book. You can’t reach out to them. You can’t share other products with them. When self-publishing you get all that information and are able to do those things to drum up more business.
The panel explains that there are three parts to self-publishing a book. First is the production of the book, writing it. Next, how and where to sell your book. The last thing to consider is marketing, how do you reach the people who will buy your book. The panel addresses each step and shares advice.
Jeremy explains how Remarq uses markdown in the production step of publishing the book. Reuven shares what he is currently using for his publishers and admits he would rather be using Remarq. In the past, Reuven has used so many different toolsets and each one was frustrating. The once piece of advice the panel has for production besides the tooling is to focus on the informational content first and design second.
Selling the book, Reuven explains how he used nearly everything to try and sell his book the first time around. Selling your book on your own is a major time suck and headache. Reuven suggests doing as he did and going through a third party, they have it all figured out.
Lastly marketing, Erik advises building a funnel to your site using youtube or other media, if you are unwilling to use amazon to market your book as he does. Reuven explains how he advertises his books like courses and mentions his book everywhere he can. It is hard to compete with publishers when it comes to marketing, they have the numbers and the followers.
Writing for a specific audience will make marketing easier. If you know who you are writing for then you will know how to market to them before your book is even done. Jeremy suggests using people from your target audience to read and review your book as you right, not only will this help you focus your book but will also have people who will spread the word about your book.
Now that they cover self-publishing, Reuven shares what it is like working with a publisher. It starts with a development editor, someone who finds authors and books to publish. Then you sign a contract with or without the help of an agent. Only after you sign the contract do you get assigned to an actual editor and a technical reviewer. These will read everything you write and give you feedback. His work is also read by a group of reviewers who give back feedback, some of which is a little harsh but all of which helps the book be better. Reuven explains how all of this has been a positive experience and that his book is better for it.
The last topic address in this episode is when you should you write a book. First, you must like to write, the panel advises those who hate writing not to write a book. Second, you must have something to write about. Publish something in a niche. You won’t make any headway writing a book about a well-known language and a well-known topic. Next, you need to have a plan for your book. Ask yourself what you want to get from writing this book. Lastly, find your audience, write a book that will appeal to your client base, not your peers.
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