So You Want to Write a Book?

February 19, 2010 at 2:45 pm (sql server standard, SQLServerPedia Syndication) (, , )

What the heck is wrong with you?

Still interested? Fine. I’ll tell you my take on this whole business. I’m only an expert on this if you take the adage that the expert is the guy that’s a page head of you in reading a book. To date I have published two full books and three chapters in a third. I can easily think of enough people who all have more experience than that with book writing that I’d have to take off both shoes to count them all.

Is anyone still reading? Cool. So you have the desire to write a book? Let me pop your first bubble. You will make very little money. This bears repeating. You will make very little money. If you were to figure out your hourly rate for writing this book, something I’ve never had the guts to do, you’ll cry yourself to sleep at night for being such a total fool to agree to write a book.

Still here? Let me pop your second bubble. Your home life/free time/family time/sleep cycle/excercise will suffer. Yes, that’s right. You’re getting paid pennies and you’re suffering for it.

Glutton for punishment? OK. Here’s how you do it. Do you have an idea for a book? If not, stop here and go and think of one. I’m assuming a technical readership since this is a geek blog about geek topics by a geek. Do you think you know everything there is to know about… oh, I don’t know, SQL Server 2008 hierarchy data, and you’re convinced you can fill 200+ pages talking about it? Great! You’re on your way. Pick a publisher. I’m not providing links or suggestions here. If you don’t know any book publishers that means you’re not reading books. If you don’t read them, I don’t think you should write them. Stop here and go read a technical book, preferably one of mine.

Have a publisher in mind? Go to their web site. Every one I’ve looked at has a “write for us” web page. Follow the directions there and submit your idea. You’re now on your way. I’m sure things are different for the big name authors or authors outside the technical sphere, but since you don’t have a name and you’re writing technical books, that’s pretty much all you need to do. You don’t need an agent or a lawyer. You’re going to get a non-negotiable contract from the publisher and you’re going to sign it because you want to write a book. Assuming they like your idea. Ah, but you’re not done with simply submitting the idea. You need to do two other things, and these won’t be easy. You need to define your market. Are there more than 20 people interested in reading a book on the hierarchy data type? Sound easy? It is a bit. Here’s a more challenging one for you. You also need to define how your book will stand out from the rest. If Itzik or Kalen has written 50 pages on hierarchy data types… ready for it… how will your 50 pages be better than theirs?

Stopped crying? Other options are to write articles for publication in places like SQL Server Central or Simple-Talk or SQL Server Standard (and I know the editor from SQL Server Standard most intimately, he needs articles). A few articles about the hierarchy data type and you’ll be a recognized expert. Now, if one of the publishers decides, “Hey, we could really use a book on the hiearchy data type,” and they happen to notice your article, you might get invited to write for them. Or, someone else writing a book needs a chapter on the hiearchy data type, they may contact you to help out. Or, if you’re constantly hanging out on one of the online discussion sites answering detailed questions about the hiearchy data type, the publisher or another author may find you and ask you to write a chapter.

Anyone still here? Of the two approaches, I’d suggest writing articles first. That’s going to do two things for you. First, it gets your name out there and you’ll get noticed. That’s how I did it. Second, it’ll let you decide if you like writing. The first time you get an article back that’s gone through a serious technical edit and it looks like someone has questioned every other word you wrote and the comments, while kind, bash through your arguments and ideas like a wrecking ball… you get to decide how much you like writing. A book is 50 times worse.

Want more? That’s about all there is. There are lots of details when it comes to the act of writing the book, how versions are managed, the writing schedule, promotion (if you get any), how you split the oodles of cash with your co-authors, if any (authors I mean, there will be very little cash), that sort of thing.  Networking is a useful tool. I wrote my second book because I happened to be at a publishing party for an author and I ran into his editor. A short conversation and a couple of emails later… I’m losing sleep and skipping exercise for very little money. Having friends and contacts will lead toward getting partnered up for a book. That’s how you can get tapped to write a chapter or three.

Still reading or have you all long ago stopped reading because this book writing thing is way too much of a pain?

Would I do it again? In a heart beat.

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Plagiarism

January 1, 2010 at 9:36 am (Misc) (, , , , )

UPDATE: Lulu has removed, not just my stolen material, but all offending material. That means some of the links in this post will no longer work. Back to the post…

And really bad plagiarism at that.

I received an email from someone suggesting I check out a book on Lulu.com, that it might be a copy of my book. Sure enough, this other guy, William Miller, had posted my book, with the original cover (that had my name on it) and the original description on his own “author” page. He also offered a decent little discount on the price. Nice guy. I tried to get an image of his copy of my book, but I can’t find anything on any of the internet archives, which is just as well. His work does show up in a Google search and you can see the cached page from a Bing search.

I contacted Lulu.com and they promptly took my book down. Thanks guys.

But, as I type this, Mr. Miller still has an account. Further, works published under his name are copies of older works, although again, he offers a discount. At least he took the extra effort to provide a different cover graphic. I’ve been in touch with other authors that were on his page (one of them was the original contact that got this started) and it appears that some of them have had their work removed. I appreciate Lulu’s fast response to this issue, but from what I can see, at this point, they’ve only done about a 1/4 of what they need to do. They should pull down all of Mr. Miller’s work and shut down his access to the system. Then, they need to do at least a little bit of oversight to ensure that people can’t do this in the future.

Just so we’re clear, Simple-Talk and Red Gate set up that Lulu page. I wrote the book on spec for them (and thanks, again) and they have publishing rights (although I have copyright). I’m not fighting over this for money because I won’t make a dime if an extra book sells on Lulu, or anywhere else for that matter. I just really and truly hate being ripped off, even though, in this case, money is not involved. I’m especially peeved because of the amount of work that goes into writing a book, even an obscure technical manual that’s only 200 pages long.

I also want to emphasize another point. I think Lulu is providing a great service and they seem to be doing things in an above the board, if somewhat inadequate, fashion. Based on the experiences that I’ve had to date, I’d recommend them for people who wanted to self-publish. I don’t mean for this to be a hit piece on Lulu. I want to get the guy who did this smacked around a bit more and make sure he, or others of his ilk, can’t do it again.

And one other point, kind of a side point, I started posting about this when I found out about it on Twitter. My first response from Lulu was through Twitter. I’m actually wondering if they first saw my complaint on Twitter instead of in the email I sent. I’m going to chalk it up tot he power of Twitter.

If you do want a print copy of the book in question, you can get it on Lulu, or a slightly newer version on Amazon.

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Reading to Learn

March 30, 2009 at 10:55 am (spatial data, SQL Server 2008, SQLServerPedia Syndication) (, , , , , , )

I just finished chapter 1 of Alastair Aitchison’snew book on SQL Server spatial data, “Beginning Spatial with SQL Server 2008.” If this is the beginners book… oh boy. The advanced book must be insane. Seriously though, Mr. Aitchison seems to have written a fantastic book. I’m going to tear through it as fast as I can because I’ve got two projects that are looking to start using spatial data and quite frankly, I’m a bit lost.

There’s a great discussiongoing on over at SSC as to the worth of technical books for DBA’s. It’s based on this editorialby Tony Davis. I’m surprised by the number of people who say they don’t use books. It seems that a lot more people use blogs and articles and discussion groups to learn. Maybe I’m showing my age a bit, but I don’t think a blog post or an article is going to get the depth and knowledge that Mr. Aitchison is displaying in this book. I know I’m regularly opening Kalen Delaney’s Inside SQL Server 2005 (and the new one for 2008 just came out) to look up bits & pieces of information that just isn’t as readily available on the web. Also, it’s worth pointing out, except for the editing that comes from people who read this blog, no technical review is done of this information. I might be right about the things I post, but I could be VERY wrong. Same with any other blog you read, including blogs by the big names. Despite the errors that creep into books (and trust me, they do), books are very carefully scrutinized by multiple sets of eyes to try to catch those errors prior to publication. They miss some, but they try not to miss any. Few blogs are like that. Not that many technical publications are terribly strict about technical accuracy either. I generally find more good information in the right books than anywhere else.

End of rant. I need to get back to reading this excellent book.

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Training and Learning

August 18, 2008 at 8:06 am (SQL Server 2005, SQL Server 2008, Tools) (, , , )

I think these are usually two different things, but most people conflate the two. There was a great discussion over at SQL Server Central based on an editorial by Steve Jones. It’s worth reading through to see how people learn or get themselves trained.

One common theme is reading books. I’m looking at stacks of them all over my desk, so it would be hard to deny their use. If you too like to read, then I’ve got something for you. Red Gate is doing a promotion where, when you purchase SQL Tool Belt, you can also download five E-Books offered by Apress. Several of them look pretty interesting, so this is a good deal. Not to mention, if you’re not using some of the tools from SQL Tool Belt already, you’re in for a treat. SQL Compare and SQL Prompt must be open on my desktop most days and I use several of  the other tools every week. Get a good book and check out the great tools.

Updated to accurately reflect the offer.

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