Dave Taylor, grizzled computer book vet that he is, has some advice for anyone who might want to write a technical book.
First off, don’t do it for the money. As Dave says, you have to love what you do, and you definitely need to write for more than money. Hey — fame, respect, future books, better jobs, all these count as decent reasons too.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t treat prospective deals like a pro, or that you don’t expect to make it big on one of your books eventually, but with your first book you’ll learn that on an hourly basis the advance for writing a computer book pretty much sucks, and if your motivation isn’t higher — such as truly helping people to understand the topic at hand, or building your own career — it’s just not worth it.
That said, there are ways to make yourself more fortunate: keep in mind that I’m stealing most of these ideas directly from Dave but they bear repeating…
1) Write books that are useful. Dave’s Wicked Cool Shell Scripts is a hit for good reason, and it has a distinct market and great publisher behind it.
2) Syndicate, market and extend your brand. Dave does a lot more than books: he writes articles, speaks, syndicates, blogs, and participates in user groups. His web presence supports and expands the market for his books, and his books likewise support what he does on the web.
3) Fight Google with Google. Google, MSDN and countless other web sites are challenging the entire reference category. A few blame MSDN for disappointing .NET book sales, and I think it’s easy to blame Google and improved online help for the downturn in lower end reference — who needs a book anymore to figure out how to format a letter in Word???
Instead of being victimized by Google, Dave works within the framework of Google, selling ad space while simultaneously working to get his various pages ranked as highly as possible. Plus, he found that free advice goes a long way toward finding new readers, and he works at finding cost effective ways to do this.
For more of Dave’s wisdom and advice, check out AskDaveTaylor .