David Heinemeier Hansson, on the deals authors get from the
traditional tech book publishing industry:
It seems that the industry standard is something akin to 10% of
the profits (which easily take 4-5-6 months to arrive), being
forced to write in Word, and finally a production cycle that’s
at least a good 3 months from final book to delivery. That’s
And what do you get in return? Usually not all that much.
There’s rarely a big marketing push to be had and you’re
expected to do lots of the editing yourself. So you get some
editing, a cover/layout, and the distribution done for you. Is
that worth 90% of the profits and the torture of writing a book
in Word and then bouncing versioned documents back and forth?
My back-of-the-envelope math says that the guys at 37signals have
already made ten times more money from their second book,
which they self-published as a PDF, than they did from their first
book, which they published traditionally through New Riders.
Update: There’s no way to link to individual comments on
Hansson’s weblog, but be sure to check out the lengthy comment from
★ Saturday, 25 March 2006