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33 posts from August 2007

Tech Writers Are the Future?

QuillDid you write a book on Windows Vista, Office 2007 or some other technology topic but can't seem to get your friends/relatives to consider you a "real" author?  Do they feel that "anyone can write a 'tech manual' but it requires creativity and real writing skills to produce a novel," for example?

If so, be sure to read this post on the Writer's Blog about how tech writers might be the future of American literature.  I wonder who the Hemingway is in our current list from WROX and Sybex...

How To Write a Book, by Scott Berkun

LightbulbScott Berkun is the author of The Art of Project Management and The Myths of Innovation.  I haven't read the project management book but I did read his innovation book and my review can be found here.

Scott also has a great blog, but it was a recent post called "How to write a book -- the short, honest truth" that caught my eye today.  What a great summary of the authoring world, warts and all!  Regardless of whether you're a published author or just an author wannabe, you owe it to yourself to read the excellent wisdom he offers in this post.

VP Book Club: Don't Try This at Home..or Anywhere Else

BooksIt probably seemed like a good idea at the design stage, but the implementation is, well...go see for yourself, but try to remain patient while the main page loads.  I'm talking about the new VP Book Club, a new joint website offering from Viking and Penguin.

Tim Spalding does an excellent job dissecting the VP site on his LibraryThing blog.  He refers to it as "a gorgeous mistake."  He makes some excellent points about the use of Flash, PDFs and several unnecessary features.  The desktop customization option seems frivolous at best.  With the depth of titles offered by both Viking and Penguin a site like this has a lot of potential.  Here's to hoping they rethink their strategy and focus more on usability and less on implementing shiny objects.

edgeio's Paid Content Widget

EdgeioI'm always looking for new developments in the world of widgets.  I use a few on my own blog and I enjoy tinkering with ones I come across on other blogs.

edgeio is a company I hadn't heard of before, but this post about them on got my attention.  In a nutshell, edgeio is offering a widget that anyone can use to monetize their content.  The content can be straight text, downloadable files or streaming media.  The beauty is that you can leverage all the blogs and other websites that feature your widget. What's in it for those bloggers and website owners?  The edgeio widget includes an affiliate program so that bloggers and website owners can share in the revenue generated by the widget.  You'll find more details in this edgeio blog post.  Very cool.

Publishing Guarantees

HandshakeAre there any guarantees in publishing?  Probably no more or less than in many other businesses.  The book publishing agreement itself is about as close as one gets to a guarantee, but even that document generally doesn't promise things like minimum distribution requirements or specific channels where a book will be placed.  For the most part, a publisher pitches a book to each account buyer and it's up to that buyer to determine whether the book will be carried and how many copies will be in each location.  There are exceptions, of course; Amazon carries just about everything, for example.

Why can't these things be stated more clearly with guarantees in place for the author?  Kim Dushinski covers that question quite thoroughly in this post on the Beneath the Cover blog.  (This is a great blog, sure to grab their RSS feed.)  The simple answer is that the publisher doesn't control the channels and therefore shouldn't make a promise they can't keep.  In Kim's example, an author wanted a guarantee that their book would appear in airport stores.  Good luck with that.  Even if a publisher has a strong track record of airport store placement, there's no guarantee their next book will appear there.  Even if you can miraculously get something like this in writing from a publisher/distributor, see whether there's any teeth to the language.  What happens if the placement doesn't materialize?  Is the publisher/distributor on the hook financially, for example?