She’s Geeky Bay Area 2013, Friday Session 1C
Convener: Strata & Gayle
TAGS for the session:
Specific Resources that Surface in Your Session
URLÂs and other Links, Books, Organizations, Articles etcÂ
Please list below the essences or key points of the conversation (3-5):
(This may include key understandings or new learning, outstanding questions,
observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion – action items, next steps)
Co leader Gayle McDowell wrote two books, one self published (Cracking the Coding
Interview), one via Wiley on getting a technical job: The Google Resume: How to
Prepare for a Career and Land a Job…
CB community member manager on community news site… have written things for that
website, considering writing a digital book. What is the best technology for that and is an
ISBN number needed?
Co leader Strata Chalup: coauthored second edition of The Practice of System and
Network Administration, contributed chapter on Unix user groups another book (edited
by Mark Burgess), planning a technical management book. Currently working on
Second Life. Also a book making.
Elecia White: wrote a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel. But then wrote
an O’Reilly book- Making Embedded Systems. It came out in November and I’m figuring
out how to publicize it.
Suzanne: in O’Reilly conferences, looking for speakers. Speaking at conferences is a
great way to publicizes books!
Katherine Mancuso: interested in diversity issues related to disabilities. Inclusion and
diversity on website. Want to write a book on making a site usable but for a more
general usages (WordPress and Drupal users) instead of highly technical people.
Stacey Banks: Done a lot of presentations on security and entrepreneurship. But writing
presentation is easier than writing a book. (So she thinks.)
Self publishing vs Traditional
Gayle: Self publishing is a useful… this doesn’t mean it has to be electronic only. You
can self publish in hardback and soft. Publishers provide editing and publicizing. But
self publishing has a higher profit margin. Publisher royalties are usually 5-10%, self
publishing is 50%.
Strata: Setting up a google search to find pirated copy.
CB: Upfront costs for self and trad publishing?
Gayle: In self publishing covers cost money ($800) and layout can be done by the
author (or can cost $200 – $300). Amazon has Create Space which publishes on
demand (as does Lulu). These can be modified fairly easily… upload a new PDF. This
correction process is pretty easy, probably uploaded 3-4 PDFs.
Abby: How do bad reviews work on Amazon? Can you publish a new copy and get rid
of bad reviews?
Gayle: No… you really can’t. Negative reviews or advertisements for competing books
in reviews. Really can’t do much. Most effective for getting positive reviews: encourage
emails and ask people for reviews. You also can vote the good reviews as useful and
Abby: Wholesale pricing? Do publisher support that or what about self publishing?
Gayle: Some help… especially for self published.
Abby had asked about ISBN numbers… ISBN numbers are are required to list on
Amazon. Publisher will do that for you, Amazon will give you one for about $10 via
Create Space. Every version has an ISBN: hardcover, softcover, Nook, Kindle are all
separate ISBN, it can add up.
Strata points out that you can put an ebook on a USB drive.
Writing a proposal is a lot like a biz plan
Kaliya: Less about the after, more about the pre process, getting it done.
Catherine: And what to put in a proposal? Should I write a book before talking to a
Strata: Writing a book proposal is the place to start. It will help you organize the book
and figure out if people are interested… publishers or readers. When writing the
proposal, don’t worry too much about the title, start with the TOC.
Title: (ok to leave this blank)
Table of contents:
Start with the intro
Then at the end, you’ll probably have an index (for non-novels) Indexing can cost
money though a publisher.
Now for the fun stuff… filling in the table of contents. This is a recursive process,
high level items, medium level items. Carry around the TOC and look at it a lot. Think
about sequencing and organization.
[You are essentially building and outline and thinking about how to present the
information effectively. ]
This process helps you write the book. You’ll find chapters that excite you, that are more
fun for you to write. This is likely to become your sample chapter which many publishers
want in the proposal.
In step 3 (TOC, sample chapter were 1 and 2), you’ll need to identify and and discuss
your audience. Who is going to buy your book? Who is the target market?
Gayle: A book is a product, this is a lot like a business plan. You need to know who is
going to buy the product.
Strata: The audience section may also describe promotion of the book- what you plan
to do and what you want the publisher to do. Some specificity is good: who do you want
to provide free review copies to? How will that help sell the book? Remember it isn’t
about who might want the book but who will talk about it and get people to buy the book.
Bloggers, magazine, vocal target audience members, etc.
(Strata used an example concerning raising chicken, I didn’t capture that. -El)
If you are having trouble writing about your audience, it may be that you are intimidated
by the marketing process or that you don’t know your audience as well as you thought.
Use friends and colleagues to help define audience.
Writing the book
Kaliya: ok, done all this, what do I do to really do it. How to go from what I have to a
book? Books are not about making money, they are about establishing a reputation.
Strata: Write the chapters… fill in the outline. Figure out what you have and where they
go in the outline. Organizing the material.
Gayle: Organize your thoughts around the questions you are trying to answer. Maybe
a big question for the whole book (what is identity) and then break it down into littler
questions (what is identity as it pertains to X).
Gayle: Using old material can be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, Sometimes
it is easier to rewrite about what you know well, it will flow more smoothly.
Catherine and Gayle: How to figure out how to make your book proposal narrow
enough? You can pitch a proposal and get information from audience member and
Gayle: The publisher also wants to know you can effectively promote the book.
Conference presentations, etc.
El:To write a book, you have to write. Sit down and write. Do it. Don’t be too self critical,
just make progress. Writing 2000 words a day (4-5 pages, an long blog post). Then you
have a book in one or two months. Make a word goal. Commit.
Notes from Katherine Mancuso
This was in room C, session 1 – I wasnÂt the official notetaker so this isnÂt EVERYTHING
Gayle McDowell –
self publishing can be a better method for making money –
second book was professionally published
Elecia – notetaker – OÂReilly author on embedded systems
Suzanne Axtell – OÂReilly Conferences
Strata – written 2 books on system administration
four women seeking to write first book-
Write a proposal before you go to the trouble of writing a book – make sure it matches market/publisher/audience needs
When writing a proposal for a book write out a table of contents first as kind of an outline – start with basic parts like introduction and index and bibliography!
now try ÂrecursionÂ – carry this around with you in your notebook. fill out a few topics. then go back and add more. shuffle it around.
roll them around and mix up the sequence
this table of contents will help the book more or less write itself
write your sample chapter (publishers require), and make that the thing you LOVE THE MOST to write about within the book
who is your audience? who is going to buy the book? whatÂs the market? (publishers)
What is your promotion plan? – publishers tend to turn you down if you donÂt have a very established audience. people in your field have to know who you are. have a blog/site first.
Why write a book? – become a recognized expert – almost anything else (like blog posts) is easier to do. OR, write a blog and make it into a book.
broadness of books? – how well does it address your audiences needs vs how broad is the market for your book – totally balance the two issues.
you can write a proposal and pitch it and theyÂll tell you if itÂs too broad or too narrow
what questions does your book answer?
how to work with multiple authors – set up chapters in a subversion repository and make sure everyone can contribute.
how do you do it – Âyou just do itÂ
National Novel Writing Month helps
how do you write your blog?
2000 words a day is 5 pages. donÂt spend an hour and a half thinking, just do it.
artistÂs way morning pages
write easier first. donÂt start with hard stuff.