(a) really understood how to craft good tech books
(b) was really dedicated to tech books as a medium, despite all the attempts to 'disrupt books' which I respected
(c) was full of dedicated people that treated this as their craft
The other point I'll make is the author's name goes on the cover, but the work is really a team effort between dedicated editors, the publisher, reviewers, and others. No part is replaceable.
If I was to write another book, I'd definitely consider doing it with them. Not because they made it easy, but because they really were dedicated to the quality I wanted in my book
I also loved their super old school, Web 1.0, "we just do books" website 5 years ago :)
B.t.w have you seen https://bubblin.io?
I'm the developer behind it and the intent is definitely to disrupt books, albeit a little differently.
They never fixed the many factual inaccuracies before it went to print.
I don't think they create paper books anymore. Is that incorrect?
Just not from them directly.
I support independent publishing and small publishers, but as a consumer, you need to build trust in the quality of the content across the board, not just a handful. If I see a book from Springer or O’Reilly, I know I can at least trust some baseline expectations from a book - true there are some bad apples as well, but they are at least edible unlike Manning/Packt where I got a load of shit instead of an Apple for $29.
I used to be a big O'Reilly fan, but the quality of their content seemed to go down 5 or so years ago. It seemed like they were at the peak of churning out books on every topic imaginable - I think they stretched themselves too thin. They seemed to go from great to mediocre overnight. When they closed their online shop a year or so back, and really started pushing Safari hard I stopped getting anything from them.
For example their blender book is absolute trash and waste of time.
Their model in the middle of the book could be made in 5mins. And most of the book author writes about history of animation and other offtopics.
I'd also note that I often find Packt books which don't even spell the name of the topic they're covering correctly, right on the cover.
- The level of technical quality of the book was not what I would expect for ~$40.
- I was arguably naive and under qualified (although probably qualified enough for the level the book ended up being), having some Node and some security experience.
- The author was probably more naive and no more qualified, having no security experience.
- The book ended up becoming a list of tutorials about how to use certain libraries for authentication/etc in Node apps.
- My main feedback was that I felt an additional last chapter should be added, that showed how to deploy a node app behind Nginx with a basic security setup in production. I felt this was in-line with the very (in my opinion overly) practical nature of the book, I also felt that "deploy behind Nginx" or something along those lines was one of the most obvious things to do in terms of security, and a real quick win. They made it clear that adding a chapter, however short, was out of the question.
- Really the only thing I was encouraged to do was to test the code examples to make sure they worked. I did find a security vulnerability in one of them, and that was fixed, but that was probably the most meaningful change I had an impact on.
- 80% off a topic everyday
- $5 selected ebooks every other week or so
- $5 all ebooks few times a year
Why would they offer such steep discounts if the books are of high quality?
For me, I never even bother to waste time looking even at $5 (or even if free) since 99.9% of them are really just crap.
> Packt is planning to publish a book titled as 'SQLAlchemy cookbook' which would be a 300 page book and in the process of seeking potential authors to work on this book I also read through your resume [Link]. It is evident that you have an expertise in this area and as such seems to be an ideal candidate to author this book for us.
They linked to my actual resume that had 0 mention of SQLAlchemy. At the time, I had also graduated less than a year before, which was clearly mentioned on my resume as well.
This is my second self-published book and I've loved this approach. It lets me focus on writing and marketing, and I get to craft every aspect of the book.
They were kind enough to allow us to keep the advance and maintain the copyright on what we had written, some of which were turned into blog posts.
It'd be shocking if this weren't the case.
Was offered the Word Doc or Docbook-based XML format w/ Java validator + validating xsd, and others. Went with the XML, but built my own tooling for injecting runnable code (what is available in my git repository for the book) into the book, using code comments to define figures so I didn't have to copy / paste / update / etc., along with figure, and other convenient "macros" to save from typing the XML. Call it 85%-90% XML, 10% other stuff.
The major challenge I faced was that the validator provided to me was not the same as what was used by the publisher when I uploaded my xml for automatic generation for editing, leaving me in a situation where I didn't even know that my xml wasn't valid until I get a crappy message after `svn commit` and having to submit a build to their system (typically 1-3 minute delay to find out your pdf generation didn't work, try to find what weird xml edgecase you missed that your validator doesn't care about, and submit again). About 2-3 months before finishing with final edits, I found an XML editor that would validate with the xsd directly, finally getting my document validated (but breaking all of my formatting, requiring extra steps in my build process, ...), and allowing me to eliminate 30-40 minutes of the typical "find out what's wrong with my hand-written XML tonight" when editing.
They had a forum for discussing ongoing author issues, and I remember there was an author who was using his own Asciidoc -> docbook tool. Looks like they may have imported it more recently if OP was using that and there was no docbook option. I had started early on with a reStructuredText equivalent, but then realized that I didn't want to write / maintain a tool to write a book (and to maintain that tool for others going forward), and ended up with what I used - less than 150 total lines, no external libraries, and no maintenance going forward. :)
The technical reviewers were good, but certainly not world experts on the topics.
I didn't get any say in the cover images, just a proposal to which they showed me.
Regarding the topic of writer's block, my advice is to write blog posts instead of book chapters first. Depending on your contract, you might or might not be allowed to actually publish them, but if you did a bit of blogging first, you are likely used to writing blog posts, so the idea is not as scary as writing a book chapter.
You can do enough editing later, but starting from blog posts gives the chapters some independence that I as a reader appreciate.
"if you ever what to write a book," - "want"
"I needed to tke care of including images" - "take"
"in an attempt to illicit feedback" - "elicit"
"likely won't actually be approved until early 2010, " - "2020" (probably)
"copy-editing to correct grammar, and spelling," - "grammar and spelling"
"Manning do a lot of promotion" - "does"
"a random random tip of this list isshown" - "random", "is shown"
"it's shocking amount" - "a shocking"
I'm going to nitpick. The original sentence is grammatically correct in the UK and some other non-U.S. English speaking parts. I know this may sound very weird, but it's all fine and correct somewhere else, treating companies and establishments as plural.
I have a lot of Manning books that I've purchased directly from their site and/or from Amazon. I generally read them in the Kindle app (iOS, lt, web) or in iBooks. The only Kindle device that I've comfortably read any technical books on is the old Kindle DX, and that was just because the screen was relatively large.
Technical content and smaller e-reader devices will never be a good fit. Occasionally it's tolerable, usually it's not.
The latest book "C#, In Depth", Fourth Edition is really readable, even the code, on the iPad (9.7"). I even occasionally read some on my Android phone and while the code samples fold on themselves, they still make sense at atleast (nothing getting cut off by invisible scrolling or anything).
I don't know how people would expect to read a tech book on a 6" screen of a Kindle, there's a reason print versions of tech books aren't the same size of a mass market genre paperback.
- Manning has a high quality review process and generally puts out high quality books
- Manning's current production phase (what happens after content is done) and production timeline leave a lot to be desired; I know they have had some turnover in the department and they are self-aware and working on it to be fair
- Manning's main tooling (aka Word templates) leaves a lot to be desired as well. You have the choice to work with AsciiDoc (I did my first with them in Asciidoc and the second in Word) but their tooling for that is even less mature.
- You don't write technical books for the money. You do it for the career advancement and/or satisfaction. You read blog posts about the outliers (people who made a lot and people who made a little) because they're the loudest voices, but generally even a good technical book sells around 2000 copies because the audience of paying readers is so niche.
- He's right about the royalty negotiation. First-time, unknown authors have almost no leverage. After you have successfully completed a book you can negotiate a higher royalty rate/advance.
I'll add a few more points (hopefully they're not pissed at me for writing publicly about this):
- They do a very good job marketing to their own existing audience. They do less of a good job marketing to external audiences, although this has improved in the last couple of years.
- So much of how high quality the process is depends on who you randomly get as a development editor/technical editor/technical reviewer/copy editor. You don't have much say in the matter. So, it's a total crapshoot.
- It's better if you come to them than they come to you. I came to publishers with all three of my topics, not the other way around. You can then shop around. I submitted my proposals to multiple publishers and got multiple offers.
I disagree with another author who posted in this comment section—books, even by traditional publishers, are not always a team effort. 90% of the content of my three books is the same as would've existed if I had self-published. Of course being receptive to feedback is very important, but how valuable it is really depends on how good a writer/explainer you are to begin with and how good the people giving that feedback are.