I came across several things related to writing and publishing books this week. The fact that there are parts of all of these things that I agree really captures how I haven't really formed a coherent set of opinions about books and publishing!
First up, Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror has turned a bunch of his most popular blog posts about programming into an eBook... but he still thinks writing a book is a waste of time. (He is writing specifically about technical books- I don't know what he thinks about other types of books.) He has some really good points about how people get technical information and the relative pay off of writing a book versus, say, writing code.
Another blogger I read is also writing a book- Moxie of AskMoxie (the first parenting blog I read regularly, and still an oasis of "different approaches for different kids and families" sanity in a sea of judgmental obnoxiousness) is going to put out a parenting book. I'm sure she will draw on old posts, but it also seems like she's doing a lot of writing just for the book. This week, she had a post with her planned table of contents and one explaining why she's self-publishing. It looks like I'll be past the parenting time period she's writing about by the time the book comes out, but I may buy it anyway, as a way to pay her back for all of the support and sanity-saving venting and advice I got from her site in the early years. I don't always agree with her on everything- most notably on homeopathic remedies and various chemical related health scares- but on the core parenting advice, her site is a great resource, because she gives her opinion and then hosts a great discussion with lots of other opinions and ideas.
Next, Ginger at Ramble Ramble has a short plea about how to really help authors you love. Back when I put up a weekend reading post with links to short eBooks I'd enjoyed, Calee (who runs Xist Publishing - the company that published the kids eBooks I reviewed back when I first got my Kindle Fire) suggested I post some of the same comments I had on those books on Amazon. I am ashamed to say I still haven't done that... although it is on my list of things to do! In my defense, I can tell from my Amazon Associates stats that my post led to the sale of several copies of each of the books I mentioned.
Speaking of Xist Publishing, they are running a promotion around signing up for their email newsletter. And now is a good time to disclose that I'm going to have a book coming out Xist Publishing at some point- they've accepted the story I tell Pumpkin at bedtime, and it is with an illustrator now. I decided to go with a small publishing company like Xist for several reasons: (1) I didn't want to have to go the usual "find an agent, send my story off to a lot of big companies route." Not for any philosophical reasons, but because I don't have the time. If Calee hadn't liked the story, it probably would just stay something I tell my kids! (2) I like the production quality of the books Xist puts out. Frankly, I think it is better than what a lot of the big houses are doing for their kids books, and it is certainly better than what I would have done on my own. (3) Even if I could have found an illustrator on my own (a big if, and believe me, there was no way I could have actually illustrated the book myself), I liked the idea of having someone to run the marketing, etc. Marketing is not my strong suite, and even if it were, it isn't something I enjoy and want to spend my "spare" time on.
Basically, I agree with Scalzi on the value of specialization and having people do the things they are good at. Except, as Moxie described in her post... sometimes that leads to good stuff not getting published, and I'm all for good stuff being published.
But speaking of Scalzi (and his traditional publisher, Tor)... he's got a serialized eBook coming out soon, which I think is a really interesting idea. I think we'll see more of this sort of innovation in the future. Or at least I hope we do.
So I guess if you put all of this together I think that there is space for a lot of different approaches in publishing, at least for the time being. What about you? Do you have a coherent opinion on publishing these days? Or even an incoherent one? Tell me about it in the comments.