Friday, July 13, 2012

Weekend Reading: The Thoughts on Books and Publishing Edition

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.

15 comments:

  1. Have you seen this brutal description of writing a tech book?
    http://philip.greenspun.com/wtr/dead-trees/story.html
    I wrote more royalty checks today and this couldn't be a more exciting time for our company or the authors and illustrators we work with. Thanks for including me today!

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    1. I think it is awesome that you guys are working together! Yay! I can't wait to see the book.

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  2. congrats on the book!! that's awesome.

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  3. Wow! That's impressive!

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  4. I basically agree with Scalzi too. :) I'll buy your book!

    I'm not sure about Moxie's...I probably will buy it just for support because her community has been so great, but it was the community I loved most. Moxie's thoughtfulness is great (although on Babble she kind of lost that, for pageviews I guess) but whether her own opinions are parenting are expertise...I'm not sure. I totally support her doing it though. I love all the experimentation.

    I have two books on the go, different fiction genres, one for traditional publication (hopefully) and the other for self-e-pub (for sure). Now I'd better go work on that... :)

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    1. I got the impression her book was going to include a bunch of the stuff from the comments. (Which is why I read it as well!)

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    2. Funny, I share @Cloud's exact thoughts on not always agreeing with Moxie on "stuff like homeopathic remedies and various chemical related health scares," and also homebirth - but I appreciate the excellent resource she is and I'm so glad she's putting out a book. If she does another book for parenting kids age 3 and up, I'll be all over it.

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    3. This past week with my regular doctor out of town and a very interventionist substitute, I've been thinking that maybe giving birth over my home toilet or at the side of the road wouldn't be so bad. At least at home nobody is going to dehydrate me, and we can keep water bottles in the car. And she won't be forced to be born before she's ready. (Thank goodness my regular doctor gets back tomorrow, though we'll have to get her to re-sign the birth plan, as the substitute doctor crossed stuff out without permission.)

      From now on I refuse vaginal exams. 6cm dilated means NOTHING, except that I'm one of those women who apparently has a multi-day/week and painless first stage labor.

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    4. Ugh, @nicoleandmaggie- I'm glad your baby held off for your regular doc!

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  5. Bravo on the book!
    And, if you're not happy with how the illustration works out, or have a future need, I have a sorority sister who illustrates children's books - I'd be happy to connect you.

    My thoughts on publishing: I can't even manage to get my blog off the ground. Er, either of them. I think I have a mental block. But I LOVE hearing about bloggers I've followed (or known of) publishing books... I imagine it's very rewarding for all the hours and energy they've put into their blogs. :)

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  6. Yay Cloud! I'll buy a copy!

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  7. Thanks for the good wishes, everyone! I'll keep you posted about progress when I know more.

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  8. As usual, I'm late to this party but oh well: congrats on the book! I think it's great, and let me know how/if I can support it when it comes out (besides buying it, which is a given).

    I obviously have lots of thoughts on publishing, but they basically boil down to: there's no one right way. Options are opening up all over the place (yay for the democracy of buying on the internet!), and if you have a book in you, then there are a lot of ways to make it happen. Some will make you more money than others, some will take over more of the work than others, but there are more paths than ever to successful publication.

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    1. Thanks! Late comments are always welcome here. I always enjoy your posts on publishing. I think you're right- there are lots of options now, and some will work better in some situations than others.

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  9. As someone who has been a writer, a proofreader & copyeditor, an English teacher, &, through it all, a bookseller in my long history of employment (I think it's too scattered to be a career--maybe a "careen" instead), I think that there are many resources that the traditional publishing model can bring to bear on helping a writer reach their best work as well as their most appreciative audience. In light of that--and in light of the fact that proofing & copyediting one's own work still seems to me to be the most challenging application of these skills--the only publishing thoughts I have is that I'd hate for the self-publishing trend, laudable & open as it is, to drive those other models out of business. (Thus my continuing concerns about Amazon's aggregation of increasingly large & unbalanced pieces of the publishing & bookselling pie, electronic & real-world alike.) But my belief is that writers also continue to be readers, & the typos or logic-os they come across in less rigorously edited works will spur all of us on to continue to support good writing, & good book design, in all their forms--from self-published to agented, from hefty hardbacks to mass-market pulp novels to books designed specifically to be used on single-platform ereaders.

    I'll look forward to reading your book when it comes out, Cloud, & I too will try & support Moxie's book when it arrives. Congratulations on finding the time & energy not just to compose a great story, but to record it, & then talk to a publisher about it! My hat's off to you.

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