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Re^4: Perl books I'd like to have

by merlyn (Sage)
on May 17, 2005 at 13:05 UTC ( #457781=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Re^3: Perl books I'd like to have
in thread Perl books I'd like to have.

Ahh, I'm actually thinking of a book like that for a typical 10-page web-based application, using CGI::Prototype, Template::Toolkit, and Class::DBI. Well, not exactly thinking of it... more like being encouraged strongly by my clients to write such a book to give a broader overview than all the details that are out there so far.

The problem with books is that unless your book is wildly successful, you end up getting paid roughly minimum wage to write it. And no, I'm not kidding. I could make more money flinging hamburgers than writing some of the books I've written. {grin}

So, the purpose of writing a book is to act as a credential, or to be done as a labor of love, or to support a class as a textbook. I already spend time here (and everywhere else) as a labor of love, so I'm sort of labored out there. And I really don't need another credential.

The third option is intriguing, but I'm not sure what the classroom sales would be of a course that covers the "small web app" market. The problem isn't that there aren't a lot of people doing it: there are! The problem is getting 10 to 20 of them in the same room for a week. Ugh.

-- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker
Be sure to read my standard disclaimer if this is a reply.

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Re^5: Perl books I'd like to have
by tlm (Prior) on May 18, 2005 at 02:09 UTC

    And no, I'm not kidding. I could make more money flinging hamburgers than writing some of the books I've written. {grin}

    Why not self-publish? I know of one person who makes a good bit of money by selling his own books online as PDF files. Certainly, he sells much fewer copies than even a weak O'Reilly title, but his profit margin is almost 100%. And yes, the final product isn't as polished as an O'Reilly book, but who cares? Your audience is used to slogging through man pages and source code. They won't miss the fancy graphics and the cutesy bear-trap icons.

    the lowliest monk

      Why not self-publish? I know of one person who makes a good bit of money by selling his own books online as PDF files.
      Well, let's do the math on that.

      I'd have to put in the same amount of work. In fact, I'd probably have to put in more, and almost certainly hire professional illustrators and copy editors to do the work that O'Reilly is providing for me. So, my sunk cost is higher, not lower.

      Next, because I'm self publishing, I'm not going to sell anywhere near as many copies as I would get because O'Reilly isn't out there pimping it for me. In fact, I'd say the figure goes down to about 10% of being published by O'Reilly. But, just for grins, let's call it 20%, because I'm a hell of a self marketer (let's say).

      Now, in the current scheme, I'm already getting about $2.50 a book from O'Reilly. So, let's just say I charge $3 per PDF instead, so that minus the overhead of setting up websites and credit card fulfillment systems, I'm still getting the same per book. But oops, I've just cut the number of sales by 80%.

      Do the math. I've just made 1/5th of what i did before. If it was minimum wage before, and now I'm putting in even more time, and getting far less back, that's like subminimum wage.

      OK, so let's charge more per PDF copy: say $10. At that point, many people will start saying "screw it... I'll pirate a copy from my friends... I know he got one last week". So my sales go back down. $5 is probably a sweet spot there, for a softcopy.

      And if we go back to hardcopy using an on-demand printer, then they're likely to pay $15, of which I get about $5 again at best.

      The math doesn't add up. People really underestimate the value of having a good publisher to pimp and clean up your book and legitimize your offering. Self-publishing is a nightmare. Just ask my friend Wil Wheaton about the difference between his self-published Dancing Barefoot vs having had O'Reilly pick it up. And he has a huge built-in marketing channel.

      Ask your friend about how many hours he really put in to the book, and what his true rate of return is. I think you'll find that he'll agree here.

      We write technical books as a labor of love, or for a credential, or for classroom support. But never as a way to make a living (except indirectly in support of consulting or training practices).

      To make a living writing books, you've got to end up on the NYT best seller's list at least once or twice. {grin}

      -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker
      Be sure to read my standard disclaimer if this is a reply.

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