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Comment Re:the good and the meh (Score 2, Interesting) 271

I've been publishing technical books since 1991. In my experience, and according to reports form the authors we've worked with, there doesn't seem to be a company that consistently edits every title as deeply as we do. Of course I may be wrong and this information is based only on my experience with other publishers and reports from other authors.

The reports that I get from authors are either that their work is left basically unedited (or it's left to a copyeditor to clean up), or, as was the case with one large publisher that I worked with in the 1990s, a couple of chapters are edited and then the authors are left on their own.

On all of our titles, one of our in-house editors does a developmental edit first. This edit may involve rewriting/reorganizing chapters; extensive queries; reworking paragraphs and sentences; and so on. Or, if the book needs minimal editing, chapters may move on to technical review, once our editor has approved them.

Once chapters are returned by the technical reviewer and cleaned up (by author and editor), they move onto copyedit. Once through copyedit they move onto proofreading. Our authors see every stage of the process.

If you've been receiving this level of editing that's great news. Every publisher in the tech book business should be doing a similar level of editing, as necessary. I wish they all would because the business would be better for it.


Comment Re:So if you've got a book you want to write (Score 1) 271

You can certainly contact more than one publisher with your proposal. If you do, it's best to let publishers know that this is a simultaneous submission. Not only will that often get you a faster response but everyone will be happier in the end.

You could, of course, approach only the publisher that you really want to work with first, if you have a definite preference. If you don't have a preference you may as well talk to the few that you'd consider as potential publishers.

Bill Pollock, Founder
No Starch Press

Comment Re:Pragmatic Programmers (Score 1) 271

Yes, that's profit sharing. Nothing against Pragmatic Programmers but that's not how royalties are understood in the book business. That's not comparing apples to apples.

When calculating royalties we take the royalty percentage (10, 12, or 15 percent) and multiply it by the net cash that we receive from sales of the book (less returns), *without* deductions for printing, copyedit, artwork, or whatever those few other things are.

That's not to say that a profit-sharing arrangement can't be attractive if your book is very profitable but most books aren't hugely profitable.

Bill Pollock, Founder
No Starch Press

Comment Choosing a publisher -- from No Starch Press (Score 4, Interesting) 271

Here are my (biased I'm sure) thoughts on selecting a publisher. (I founded No Starch Press.)

First of all, remember that a publisher is not a printer. If all you want is to see your book in print or to "get your book out there," you don't necessarily need a publisher to do that. You can use any of several print-on-demand printers; buy a run of books from an offset printer; sell your book as a PDF; post it as HTML; or other. And there's nothing wrong with doing that at all -- your choice depends on your goals.

Publishing is, or should be, a service business. A publisher should work with you to develop, craft, and market your book. They should help you to make the writing clear and understandable. They should be your harshest critics (because if they're not, the reviewers will be). They should involve you in the process and you should get to know their staff. You should feel free to ask them questions and they should provide you with clear and direct answers. Unfortunately, publishers are becoming more like printers everyday. We're resisting that trend.

If you're not getting editorial services from a publisher you might think of using a printer instead and trying distribution though Amazon directly or through your website if you've got a popular one. After all, if you're not getting service from a service business, what are you getting?

At No Starch Press, we read and edit everything. That's what our editors do in addition to bringing in new authors. Throughout our publishing process our emphasis is on producing quality books, not more books. We release a title when we think that we've done our part to make that book the best that it can be and if we think that the book isn't ready we delay it. That's true of all of our titles whether they're our Manga Guides or our hacking, sys admin, or programming titles. That doesn't mean that every book we publish is a winner but we've worked hard on every book to make it great.

When contacting publishers, ask the hard questions before signing a publishing agreement. How does your publisher market and sell books? How will they sell your book? Who will work on it? How will the editing process work? How involved will you be as author and how much can you be involved? What if you have concerns about the editorial work? How will you be paid? How does the agreement work?

We're a pretty editorially-driven publisher. But by the same token, thanks to our distribution relationship with O'Reilly and our agreements with various international partners, we've got great reach into the world marketplace. We've had books translated into over 20 different languages and we sell our books around the world.

One thing that makes No Starch Press unique though is that we are very picky. We don't publish a lot of books because our goal is not to have 10% of our list carry the rest; I'd rather see 90% of our list carry the remaining 10%.

OK, enough said. Time for a blog post.

Bill Pollock, Founder
No Starch Press

Comment Re:the good and the meh (Score 2, Informative) 271

As far as I know, most every publisher in the U.S. pays based on net cash received -- or net selling price. For the few publishers who pay a share of profits one has to ask how those profits are calculated and what happens when there is no profit? These are all varying degrees of risk.

For those who are down on book publishers, have you looked at the statistics on how many book publishers (and bookstores) are going out of business? Do you think that would be happening if these companies were sitting on piles of money? We're not software publishers. Books are expensive to print and you can't just print a few hundred to sell into bookstores while still making a decent profit. You have to print a few thousand. And printers expect to be paid before you sell even one copy.

Never mind the overhead involved in editorial, marketing, design, production, and sales. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. If you were looking to make money, it would be much better to go into banking and take some TARP funds.

This is a very low margin business and it can be very high risk when companies publish too many books. Sure, there's money to be made if you can pump up your sales into the millions and sell to a larger company who has the cash. But those companies aren't buying because your margins are so great -- they're buying because they want the list and they typically axe the company's staff. And there aren't that many companies left who can buy.

Bill Pollock, Founder
No Starch Press

Comment Re:the good and the meh (Score 5, Informative) 271

Actually, we offer from 10-15% royalties, on a sort of cafeteria plan. Our authors have the choice of three royalty options -- 10%, 12%, or 15% -- with advances ranging from $0 to $8,000.

Our royalties are flat which means that we don't cut them for different types of sales. The only royalty that varies is the royalty on electronic sales; currently 1 1/2 times the chosen royalty rate.

And unlike most publishing companies today, we edit everything. Sometimes we rewrite everything. I've personally rewritten many books over the years at no additional cost to the author. There's a lot of overhead in this business when your publishing actually acts as a publishing company, as opposed to a printer.

Also, we're distributed in the U.S. by O'Reilly -- a business relationship that has really been great for us. We remain independent, we control the business 100%, but we have great reach into the marketplace.

Bill Pollock, Founder
No Starch Press

Comment Re:Why not open source your book? (Score 2, Interesting) 271

Thank you. We really do try to do right by our authors. We also read and edit everything that comes in, which is why we're usually not the first ones out with a book on any topic unless we somehow invented the market.

I've always considered the relationship between author and publisher to be a partnership. Sometimes that partnership sours, as in any business arrangement, but many times our authors have become my good friends.

Bill Pollock, Founder
No Starch Press

Comment Re:You don't get to choose your publisher (Score 2, Informative) 271

Most No Starch Press authors are actually first-time authors. At the same time, most are also experts in their fields.

Because we only publish around 20 books each year (we keep trying to increase that number but we always seem to fall back), our goal is to publish the best books we can find by the people best qualified to write them. Our watchwords are always quality over quantity, which is why you don't see 50 books on obscure aspects of programming. I'd be happy with one great book on learning Python that we could sell the hell out of.

Bill Pollock, Founder
No Starch Press

Comment Re:Pragmatic Programmers (Score 1) 271

I'm curious about the 50% royalty rate you refer to. I know we could never pay 50% royalty on our book sales and keep the doors open. My understanding was that the Pragmatic Programmers are paying 50% of profit -- which is a very different thing.

As for workflow, we have several alternatives though I prefer either OOo or Word over something like LaTeX or similar. Why? Because we edit everything and it's a lot more time-intensive to edit in a tool like TeX or XML.

Bill Pollock, Founder
No Starch Press

Comment Re:Typeset but not printed (Score 2, Insightful) 271

This is the sort of thing we work hard to avoid at No Starch Press, and one of the main reasons that we try to focus on publishing new classics rather than what are referred to in the business as "day-and-date" books. We're usually not first out on any topic and our marketing plans don't assume that we'll be first. Given the choice between being first and being best, I'll choose best every time. Of course, our ideal is to be first and best.

Bill Pollock, Founder
No Starch Press

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