“Using DesignBais” Book Coming Soon!
My first book, Using DesignBais, will be available soon. Here’s the current status. Comments and suggestions welcome.
This is a massive undertaking. I’ve worked on other books before as Tech Editor and Reviewer but I’ve never written a book on my own. If you wouldn’t mind providing some feedback, I’d really appreciate your comments on any or all of the following:
- Writing this in MS Word, I originally used standard 8.5×11 formatting, but I’ve decided to print this as a
6×9[Edit: Given my options I’ve chosen a larger size] 7.44×9.68 (Crown Quarto size) softcover book. That squeezes the material and adds another 50 pages, but I like the smaller profile.In any case, there are more than 200 pages here so far and I’m still writing like a madman – there might be 300 by the time I’m done.
- Standard book font is 11 point. I need to experiment with that. Does anyone have a specific issue with printed technical material that is too large or too small?
- I have a lot of color images in the book. I can’t print some pages in color with others in black and white, the whole book needs to be one or the other. Color printing dramatically increases printing costs, especially of something this big. My view is that I want this to be high quality – let’s do this right the first time, regardless of the cost. Black/white/grey images are almost unbearable, especially for sections where I want to emphasize the use of color. Hmm, well are they? I’ll view the material in black and white to see how it looks, but your opinion means more to me than mine.
- Spiral bound or normal "perfect" binding? I’d like for this to be a normal book where people can see the binding on their bookshelf. Maybe that’s just vanity, but to me "real" books aren’t spiral bound. Many developers like to open up books like this on their desk and have it lie flat while they try the examples, so there is some value to spiral binding. I could offer both so that people can choose what they want. What do you think?
- "What’s all of this stuff about printing anyway? No PDF?" Well, no. I’ve been struggling with this for a couple years when considering other projects. The problem honestly is that I’m spending a ton of time on this material and I don’t want it to walk away. I’m not writing it for the greater good of the Pick or DesignBais communities, I’m doing this for profit. We all know that if this is published in electronic form, there will be a lot more copies out there than I know about. Unfortunately there are no acceptable Digital Rights Management tools which allow authors to protected digital material like PDF or MS Word documents. Until such tools are standardized, affordable, and accepted (right up there with email and blogs) I can’t publish material like this electronically.
- "So what’s actually in this great literary work anyway?" The table of contents reads much like that of the DesignBais Reference Manual which comes with the software. I’m not duplicating material there. In fact, when the material in the ref is already good I’m referring back to it. (Mistake or good move?) This is a supplement of things you don’t find in the ref, though since I’m helping to maintain the ref there are many cases where I note that some material really should be in the product ref, so I take it out of my book and put it in the ref. Maybe that helps to clarify the difference – fundamental material you need to know is (or will be) in the ref, but I’m trying to provide special insight into how to use the software (or use it better).
- "Why not give it away? If more people have the book then they’ll recognize you as an authority and that will drive in business and your time investment will be well compensated…" We’ve all gone for this: "give me what I need for free and I’ll bring you a world of people who will pay for it." Sorry, I’m done chasing carrots, now I’m going after lettuce. Many people write books as a calling card, fully expecting they will get absolutely nothing from it but credentials. Books you buy in the store frequently get the author about 20% of the list price, if that. This blog is my calling card and there is plenty of free material here. I’ve left well over 10,000 more cards as forum postings over the last 13 years or so. No, this particular book has information that will help people to do their jobs and make clients and management very happy. I think there’s value in that, so I’m not going to be shy about charging for it.
- "I’m not going to pay for something that should be in the product manual !" If you’ve ever been to a book store you’ll find thousands of books covering material that is and is not in the product manuals. Some of these books are written by people close to the product development. Others are written by outsiders like me who happen to like the software and feel we can contribute some additional insight. The bottom line is that the material in my book is not in the product reference and most of it never will be – especially the notes about bugs and other anomalies which should help you avoid wasting some of your time.
- "So how much is it worth and how much will it cost?" If people came to me with questions they would expect to pay something for answers (well, most would .. OK OK, one or two would maybe offer to buy me a cup of coffee…) Estimating just 1 hour per page, consider that I’ve spent at least 200 hours on this. What’s 200 hours of consulting time worth to you? What’s it worth to me? Let’s compromise – if I give you 200 hours of my time, would you be willing to give me just 1 percent of the value of that time? That’s about where I’m pricing the book. My initial offering will be for $200 per copy which is less than the cost of 2 hours of my time. Let’s break it down further. Between printing and other distribution costs I’ll only get about $100 per copy. So in essence, if you pay me for one hour of my time, I’ll give you the benefit of a couple years and a couple hundred hours of research.
- "Books in the stores cost $25-60, why sell it for $200 when you can sell a thousand copies for $10 and make it up in volume?" He he, let’s be realistic. There are only so many people who will by interested in this specialty material. I’ll be lucky if I sell 100 copies let alone 1000. Pick professionals who wrote books 20 years ago are still giving away the volume that they printed and thought they were going to sell. No, I’m expecting quite modest sales here to a small and focused group. We’re all paying thousands of dollars for our software and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for a couple hundred for this sort of detailed and insightful technical information. Anyway, I don’t think I need to make any more excuses to justify the cost, but I do welcome your comments.
- "And when is this supplement to War and Peace going to be ready?" I had originally expected it to be done in time for the DesignBais conference this month. That’s not going to happen but I’ll probably print a few preliminary copies to give people an idea of what to expect, take orders, and deliver the finished product by mail when it’s ready. Given my schedule I don’t expect the first volume to be ready until sometime in late May. That’s unfortunate but I think people will be willing to wait for this content.
Anyway, that’s enough out of me for now. Again, I’m very open to all comments, questions, and suggestions. I’ll respond in email and post some of the common questions here – assuming registered visitors don’t post here first.
Thank you for your continued interest and support !!!
5 thoughts on ““Using DesignBais” Book Coming Soon!”
My initial answer to #3 was going to be: Black and White, but post them in color and have a url in to book. However, on pondering #9 and #10, I can’t fault you for the price point you are setting as it will have an extremely limited audience, but for the price, you should go ahead and do the book in color. AND do it perfect bound (#4).
Regarding e-publication: Have you checked out Microsoft Reader? While I normally don’t recommend MS products, since DB really only works well on MSIE, restricting your readers to a Microsoft only product shouldn’t be a problem. I know from experience (inability to backup e-books I’ve purchased) that purchased copies of e-books in Microsoft Reader from can be restricted to use with ONLY the first copy of Reader that opens the file. (Of course, I’m sure this can be hacked, but then can’t everything?)
For that money it had better be perfect bound and full colour! 😉
Seriously, it all sounds good. I think in MV we have long done ourselves a disservice by undervaluing our products, the environment, and ultimately ourselves.
I want a DB book that will sit alongside my tomes from Sams, Wrox, O’Reilly, Microsoft Press et al and look just as professional. DB is as important to me as .net, Perl, HTML, CSS, SQL, SAP and all the rest, and my DesignBais reference material deserves to be of equal quality.
The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned, I’m feeling left out after Vegas!
The advantage to spiral bound is that it makes it easier to lay out while working at the keyboard. I recall the old Editor books from TAB were that way and it made for much easier reference. Yes, regular binding is like the "real" books but, face it, many of them are placed on the shelf and rarely are opened after that. If this is real reference book, spiral would be helpful. Or, as you suggest, offer it both ways. I prefer, of course, spiral.
Text size? I have a World of Warcraft book, for example, that has print so small, I have to use a magnifying glass to read it! Avoid that, please. 11 pitch is a good compromise.
Cost? $200 is not unusual for a highly specialized reference book with such a limited audience. When Pick and DesignBais finally take over and rule the world, you can offer a special $19.95 version. In the meantime, you have costs to recoup and it may not sell many copies over its lifetime, realistically. I’ll start saving for my copy now.
Tony, I just re-read your original post and saw the "late May" estimate for the first volume. Any revised estimate?
Thanks for asking, Steve. Back at the conference in April I fully expected to have the first edition done in May. My book was targeted to v4.1 users who were coming from v3.3. It introduced many items as being new or different from prior releases. What I found at the conference was that there were many people who were still unaware of some core features, so that prompted me to revise the material with less assumptions about what the reader already knows.
Also, we were told that v4.2 was coming "soon" with a number of new features, and I didn’t want to publish my first edition right before a new DB came out with a whole slew of new features, so I decided to hold off. None of us knew it would be 8 months before we’d see the new release.
So the plan now is to get into v4.2 as soon as I can, and ensure that the book covers basics from all prior releases as well as advanced usage, and then of course add in all of the v4.2 enhancements.
I don’t want to speculate as to when I’m going to finish this. I’m on the verge of committing to tech editor work for another "C#" book for a major publisher, and that’s going to take a lot of reading/writing time. However, I am committed to this project, and I’ve found writing about DesignBais is about as entertaining as actually using the software, so for me a book about DB is as much fun as it is work.
Regards – T