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Writing a Book Proposal

Radar O’Reilly

No, this isn’t about the character from M*A*S*H. It’s about a fairly new blog set up by Tim O’Reilly & Co. I’ve added it to my list of must-read blogs and you probably should too.

A recent post is titled “Book Sales as a Technology Trend Indicator.” It’s a great summary of the computer book market, sales trends over the past couple of years, what’s hot today, etc. It’s important to note, as a reader already commented there, that the data presented is more of a “lagging indicator” than a “leading indicator.” Nevertheless, it’s all good information.

Here are a few of the more interesting points:

  1. The market appears to have hit bottom. A chart is used to show how 2004 sales were down vs. 2003, but that 2005’s sales (through March) are mapping well to 2004’s levels.
  2. Hot topics include Photoshop Elements, iPod, Sharepoint and Filemaker. Topics heading the other direction include Mac OS X, Dreamweaver and Flash, although Tim points out that each of these are now on older versions and are likely to pick up again with new releases.
  3. Red Hat was a topic called out separately. As Tim rightfully notes, the book market changed dramatically when Red Hat first released Fedora. He says the Red Hat book market is down 29% while Linux as a whole is up 32%. I can vouch for the fact that Red Hat books aren’t as dominant anymore, and that our general Linux Bible and our SuSE Linux Bible are both doing quite well now. I guess that in an odd way, we have Red Hat to thank for that.


Jason Marcuson

Do I get a commission for this?

Joe Wikert

You'll have to share it with Jeff Davidson...

Randy Charles Morin

got a 404

maybe u deleted the entry, but thought you'd like to know, just in case

Craig Starr

I’m surprised you haven’t shared your thoughts concerning the Apple ban on your books. I’m sure you are aware of this issue and thought you would have posted Wiley’s viewpoint. Personally I am on the publisher’s side of this controversy for various reasons and wonder if Apple believes banning books is the answer to a disagreement. It makes me wonder what’s so controversial in the book that Steve Jobs doesn’t want people to know.

Naba Barkakati

Joe, The Tim O'Reilly blog is a good new find. Thanks for pointing it out. By the way, do you analyze book sales data as well? If there is anything you share from your analysis of sales data, I think those observations would be helpful :-)

Joe Wikert

Hi Craig. The Apple situation is a tough one. I didn’t respond to this right away because other folks at Wiley are already doing that and I didn’t want to interfere with the official Wiley response. On a personal level I would say that Wiley has followed the highest standard of publishing protocol with the publication of this book, which is a balanced business biography. It’s important to note that the book was sent ahead of time to Apple for review. We stand behind our author, Jeffrey Young, 100%. We are concerned about how Apple's action affects our authors and customers and would like to resolve this situation so that we can get back to selling books through Apple's retail stores. We have a long-standing good relationship with Apple that we want to maintain, and our titles sell well through their retail stores. All of the titles in question, which represent a small selection of our technology list, are available through other outlets, both online and through the brick and mortar accounts. The lost sales are not significant in our overall financial picture, especially since they can be purchased elsewhere, but we do not want to inconvenience our customers and obviously, we are unhappy that this consequence adversely affected some of our bestselling tech authors.

Naba, we do indeed study the Bookscan data very closely. It’s hard to find any holes to cover from Tim’s post, but I’ll give it some thought going forward. I’ll also have to figure out how to post the info as a marketing/promotional vehicle since, as Tim points out, that’s a requirement if publishers want to share Bookscan data.

Naba Barkakati

Joe, Robert X. Cringley theorizes about the On the Apple-Wiley issue in a recent post (scroll down to the bottom of that post). By the way, he say that the publicity has been good for the Jobs biography that started all this- - it has shot up in Amazon ranking :-)

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