Thursday, July 19, 2007

Book Updates

It's been about a week or so of continued radio silence, so I thought I'd pop in with an update.

I'm in the middle of chapter three of the Rails book. I think it's going well, but nobody other then me has read the chapters yet, so that's easy to say. My first milestone date is the end of the month, and four chapters done -- that's about one-quarter of the entire book.

I did want to say a few things about how somebody like me comes to be writing a book like this. I was first contacted with this idea in early February. If you're keeping score, that means that this project spent about five months going from a gleam in an editors eye to a signed contract, and it will spend about five months going from a manuscript to a printed book, but only about four months for me to actually spend on the writing.

Anyway, I have an agency (Studio B) that represents me for technical writing. Sometime in early February, I received an email from them saying that an unnamed major publisher was looking for a writer for a Rails book, and was I interested. I don't know exactly what happened between the agency and the publisher before that, but Studio B is often approached by publishers looking to match an author with a topic.

I was very interested -- I'd been kind of hoping to do a book on Rails for some time. I talked to an editor at Wiley about what kinds of things they were hoping for and put together a proposal. At the same time, they also expressed interest in a proposal on a different topic, and I did that as well. The proposal contains a description of the market for the book, and a description of the outline. The goal is to convince the publisher that the book is worth doing, and that the author is a good person for the job. In this case, since the publisher had initiated the process, making the case for the book was easier than it might otherwise have been.

The publisher liked the proposal. But if you were wondering who pays attention to Amazon reviews, I was specifically asked about the difference between the ratings for the Jython book versus the wxPython book, to reassure them that the higher ratings for the wx book were not solely due to the co-author.

After that, there was some time spent waiting on the two proposals, and which one the publisher wanted to do. At various times, all four possible answers were given (the Rails book, the other book, both, and neither). Eventually, they settled on doing the Rails book. I was informed of that decision in early May, and then my agent and the publisher began negotiating over contract details. I don't think I can really say much about that, but most of the time is not spent on money, but rather on details of which side is responsible for various parts of the finished product beyond the text itself, and who is liable for what if things go wrong (hint: the author is usually liable...) We also settled the length of the book and the schedule.

Oh, and you know the author pictures that appear on the cover of a Wrox book? Rest assured that the pictures are one very well covered topic in the Wiley/Wrox contract.

And that's how a bill becomes a law. I'm enjoying working for Wiley so far, the people I've dealt with have been enthusiastic and helpful. Now, I think this is long enough and I should probably get back to the book itself...