Shaking Up Tech Publishing

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 horrible!

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 Tim O’Reilly.

Saturday, 25 March 2006