Whew, I’m not doing *that* again!

When I met Sara Ford at the 2008 PDC, I got to talk to her author-a-author. I asked her how the book-writing experience was.

"I'm never doing that again!" she replied.

Yeah, that's pretty much how I feel about it, too. Steve Makofsky agrees. (Though, to be fair, what Sara was not going to do was write a book in three months, as opposed to swearing off writing books entirely.)

By the way, my book is now available in Chinese. I don't get any royalties when people buy a translated copy, so buy it or not, I don't care. Actually, I make barely any money from the book at all. During one six-month period, I sold a net of two copies in the United States. Enough to maybe buy a cup of tea. Seeing as most of the book content is available for free on this Web site, I'm not entirely convinced that giving away your book for free increases sales. (Or maybe the conclusion is that my book's sales would have been even worse if it weren't available here online. Perhaps it would have sold only one copy.)

Comments (39)
  1. I bought your book! Within the last couple of months, too.

    Didn’t get very far into it — it’s in a drawer in my nightstand — I’d already read most of it here.

  2. bramster says:

    I bought it, read it, and am waiting for the sequel.

  3. John says:

    I bought the book when it first came out and read it cover to cover (including the two additional online chapters).  People can talk about blogs and ebooks and whatever else, but nothing beats the user interface of a physical book.

  4. Tom says:

    I did the same as John, but I went one further — I convinced other people to buy it, too!  And the book sits proudly on my reference shelf along with some other greats including Knuth, Aho, Hopcroft, Ullman and Sethi.

  5. Aaron says:

    I also bought your book within the last 6 months.  I did remember a lot of the articles, but I found the extra content to be really worthwhile.  I especially liked the little pictures illustrating some of the original Windows 95 UI elements which don’t seem to be on the blog.

  6. andrielle says:

    I purchased the book a few months ago, but haven’t got to finish it yet.

  7. James Schend says:

    It’s all about young adult fiction starring wizards. And/or dragons.

    Maybe you can have a wizard use the Win32 API to defend the kingdom against a dragon. You can call it Harry PottEragon. Or something.

  8. Stefan says:

    I bought your book a few weeks ago. I read it and I would buy further.

  9. ChrisMcB says:

    So are you saying Volume 2 won’t be done in three months?

  10. Rikard says:

    "…along with some other greats including Knuth, Aho, Hopcroft, Ullman and Sethi."

    "It’s all about young adult fiction starring wizards. And/or dragons."


  11. Nick says:

    You’ve probably answered this, but whenever you talk about your book I wonder why it wasn’t published by Microsoft Press.  Was it just because it’s not directly related to a Microsoft product?

    And on a semi-possibly-unrelated note, what is the picture on the front cover? Ever time I see it I think I’m looking down into a cup of coffee, but I presume that’s not what it is.

    [I offered the book to MS Press, but they took a pass because it didn’t fit with their roadmap. And the cover is supposed to be some sort of classical-looking ornate design. -Raymond]
  12. DWalker says:

    I agree with John: I like physical books.  I have about 550 books at home in various subjects (fiction, sci-fi, science, biography, etc.)  I have a $39 software program and a $25 handheld USB scanner to scan the ISBN of the books I have, to make sure I don’t buy something I already have… this has happened a couple of times when I saw a book described somewhere, decided I wanted it, ordered it, then before I read it, I saw it again and bought it again.  Silly me.

    Various family members have asked me if I want a Kindle or another e-book reader, and I always say NO.  I vastly prefer reading from a book.  I have held, and read a little bit, from these e-book readers.  I prefer books.

    It’s nice to know what the cover of Raymond’s book is supposed to represent!  I thought it was the ceiling of an ornate domed building from the inside…  

    It’s great to have Raymond’s book; if you haven’t read ALL of the older entries in this blog, it’s easier to read them from the book.  I highly recommend the book to any newer readers of the blog.

    [Ornate dome, sure, that works too. -Raymond]
  13. Steve D says:

    If you want to read the book and give others the chance to also, see if your local libray is willing to purchase a copy.  It doesn’t sound as though people reading a loaned copy from a library will have a huge impact on Raymond’s sales. :-)

    [Whatchoo talkin’ about? One library copy converted to a sale = 50% increase! I’m rich! -Raymond]
  14. ulric says:

    I don’t know how these work.  How do you know that you only sold 2 books during a period of 6 month?  Don’t the book stores buy a few copies and they’ll either be sold or stay on the shelves?

    Is it normal that you don’t get any royalties for the translated work?

    [I didn’t say that I sold two books. I netted two books. I.e., books purchased – books returned unsold = 2. As for translations: it’s all open to negotiation, but as a new author, I have little weight to throw around. -Raymond]
  15. Cheong says:

    > Is it normal that you don’t get any royalties for the translated work?

    I suppose not. Or J. K. Rowling won’t get that much money for selling books around the world.

    Or is she a special case here?

    [I bet if J. K. Rowling said she wanted royalties on toilet paper, she’d get it. -Raymond]
  16. AndyB says:

    I’m disappointed that MS press didn’t take the book from one of Microsoft’s most well-respected bloggers (if not developers). Its a sad day that all the good old stuff is discarded in favour of facilitating and leveraging .NET-related activities most effectively :(

    Books beat computers in 3 main places: sitting on the train, sitting on the toilet and lying in bed. Until they get a computer screen that can be used in those 3 places, books will still be used.

  17. presbyopia says:

    Lounging in a public place, waiting for your spouse to show.

    Also, with a certain level of complexity (Rowlings < level < Kant) one might wish to make notes on the book.

  18. Keith Combs says:

    You just convinced me not to write a book.

  19. hexatron says:

    Experienced (technical) author asked about writing books: "Oh, so you want to make dozens of dollars?"

  20. parkrrrr says:

    "I bet if J. K. Rowling said she wanted royalties on toilet paper, she’d get it."

    Well, yeah.  That was the contract for book 5.

  21. robert hir says:

    I bought your book, and read it while I was away on a vacation in Las Vegas between other activities..

  22. BK says:

    The full text of my second book, a textbook on scientific computing, is available online at the URL linked from my name there. Despite the availability of the PDF, sales of the paper copy are still consistent, and I am still of the opinion that the strategy of giving the book away for free was a net gain in sales.

    My first book, by the way, is about intellectual property law. The publisher did not want to have the book online, but it’s now available via BitTorrent anyway.

  23. Bill says:

    "I bet if J. K. Rowling said she wanted royalties on toilet paper, she’d get it."

    Well, yeah.  That was the contract for book 5.

    From someone who actually worked in the book bindery printing her books, I can tell you that the stuff they passed off as paper for that book wasn’t far off from toilet paper.  As her books got bigger (1,2 and 3 were better), the quality and strength of paper went way down.  For book 4 we were having to unjam the machines every 20 minutes to pull out another book that had shredded itself.

  24. Miles says:

    I bought your book, and read it even though I’d read everything on your blog, and enjoyed it.  As others have said, nothing beats having a real book to enjoy rather than some piece of electronics.  I’m surprised it didn’t sell very well.  Is that in comparison to similar books?  How does it work when you printed up a whole lot of books and they are returned unsold – are you liable for that cost?

  25. JamesNT says:

    Well, I bought one copy, gave it to a friend, and bought another.

    I’m still debating on sending to to MS to ask Raymond to sign it.


  26. Andrew Brehm says:

    I also bought it, read it, and am waiting for a sequel.

    I cannot imagine that it sells badly. I think it should be in the book shelf of every programmer and Windows system administrator.


  27. smakofsky says:

    Ya know, it was funny – I was actually contacted *yesterday* to write something new (albeit, it was a 30 page paper)..

    I had an instant flashback to all of these old feelings, and almost went into a panic… I still stick by it: I will never write professionally again. :)


  28. Luis Abreu says:

    I’ve also bought it and loved it…still waiting for part II :)

    btw, you’re raked at #24,069 amazon. It’s not that bad, right?

  29. Jeff Day says:

    It seems to me that to make the comparison you would have to have a book that has decent sales either way and then something to compare it to. No offense intended, I’m just saying that books which wouldn’t have sold well either way probably aren’t the types of books they’re studying giving away free online.

  30. msharp says:

    Bought it and read it. Great book! Great blog!

  31. Andrew says:

    I had it on my Safari – http://safari.oreilly.com/ –  bookshelf for a few months. How much does that net you compared to a physical sale? (The optimist in me wants to think more than zero).

  32. Fuenby says:

    @Jeff Day – Yes, that’s what Raymond said: giving away your book for free by no means guaranteed to increase sales, and might even decrease them. If Cory Doctorow et al. want to make a universal rule out of this, they’re very mistaken.

  33. Michael G says:

    When I was done reading it, I gave it away to a friend.

    If it makes you feel any better, at least I helped spread your memes.

  34. JM says:

    I like this post, having bought the book now makes me feel like a member of an exclusive club. And, of course, I’ll make a killing when it hits collector status.

  35. Когда я встретил Сару Форд на 2008 PDC, я поговорил с ней, как автор – с – автором . Я спросил ее, как

  36. abadidea says:

    I remember that the very first day I found your blog, my mother came into the room and said "What do you want for Christmas?" and there was a link to buy your book right there in the corner of the screen :)

    And yes, that’s what I got for Christmas.

  37. Justus says:

    I bought it and I’m also waiting for a sequel.

  38. mauvedeity says:

    I’m just delurking to confess that I bought a real, physical copy of the book from Amazon UK not long after it came out.  I’d been reading the site for ages, but the book’s well worth it.

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