Writing MongoDB: The Definitive Guide

Me, with the finished product

MongoDB: The Definitive Guide is now available in bookstores everywhere! (Or at least on Amazon.) Please pick up a copy!

Some interesting things I learned about the process of publishing:

There are professional indexers who write the index.
This amazes me, because we had to proofread our index and I’ve never been so bored in my life. These people must have the exact opposite personality I do. And, in our case, they spelled “Ruby gems” as “Ruby germs.”
Blog posts are a better length
In 500 words, I can edit and polish something until it’s a shimmering jewel of a, uh, blog post. It’s really hard to make a hundred thousand words even have a reasonable flow, never mind be “perfect.”
Illustrations will be assimilated.
When we submitted the manuscript, I had (the night before) whipped up the illustrations in Photoshop that looked like this:

Every document is a beautiful snowflake (because they're all unique)

At the final stage of the editing process, these all got replaced by O’Reilly illustrations, which looked a lot more professional.

Well la-dee-da.

I’m pretty impressed by how well they matched what I was going for, but wish I hadn’t spent so long making those damn snowflakes.

An advance is an advance on sales.

In retrospect, I should have realized this, but I never really thought about it before. If O’Reilly advanced us $100,000 (they didn’t), that just means we wouldn’t get any royalty checks until people bought enough books to give us $100k in royalties. So, essentially, authors write books for free. This kind of amazes me.

All and all, it was really fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In the future, I wouldn’t stick to the schedule quite as rigorously. At the beginning, O’Reilly gave us the following timeline:

  • 3 months = 2 chapters
  • 6 months = first half
  • 9 months = whole book

I write best when I splorch down everything that comes to me as fast as possible and then edit it fifty times. So next time I’d do:

  • 3 months = book of crap
  • 6 months = semi-literate book
  • 9 months = great American (technical) novel.

Andrew suggested we do the National Novel Writing Month, so now I’m trying to think of another thing to write about. I’ll probably do a MongoDB book, but not sure what yet…

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