We wrote a book! Practical experience publishing a book on programming
At the end of May 2012, the book " Application Development for Windows Phone 7.5 " was published, one of the authors of which I, Sergei Pugachev . For me, this book is the first experience of this kind, both of my co-authors Stas Pavlov ( stasus ) and Dmitry Soshnikov ( shwars ) are the authors of other books.
Since after the publication of the book I am periodically asked questions about how the writing process looked, how much time it took, about working with the publishing house and other details, I decided that it would be better to write an article about it and just give a link to everyone who asked that kind of questions. In general, all, of course, from laziness.
This article is an attempt to comprehend the work done for me, and I hope that it helps someone decide to write their own book, as the feeling of euphoria that arises when you hold in your hands a book just published with your name on the cover, not with than incomparable!
This article consists of three sections, reflecting the three stages of the process of writing a book, namely:
- The idea of the book, negotiations with the publisher
- Writing text book
- Work with the editor and publication
But before moving on to the first point of the plan, I would like to dwell on one aspect directly related to the subject of the book.
Microsoft has recently announced a new version of the Windows Phone operating system - Windows Phone 8 (WP8) .
Our book is about Windows Phone 7.5. At the same time, Windows Phone 8 brings significant changes, both hardware and software platform. Is the book out of date? My answer is probably not. All applications written for Windows Phone 7.5 will work on Windows Phone 8. The knowledge obtained from the book is applicable to the new version of the platform, of course there are differences, but in general the book will remain relevant for quite some time.
1. The idea of the book, negotiations with the publisher
But let's start again. Frankly, I have long had a ripe idea to write a book sometime, but this idea did not receive a concrete embodiment and I did not take any action for this. This thought lived its own life in the “Maybe someday” section of my plans for the future.
I had the experience of writing texts and public speeches at the time I started working on the book. I have been writing articles, speaking at conferences, and have been Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for 4 years now. Therefore, often, a lot, and with pleasure I talk about development on the Microsoft platform, both in written and in oral form. In addition, I conducted training on application development on the infamously forgotten Silverlight platform.
Naturally, I did not write anything comparable in volume to the book. The diplomas defended at the university do not count, since the form rather than the content is more important there, and looking ahead, I’ll say that I did not spend writing each diploma (bachelor and master) 10% of the time that was spent on writing a book.
But back to the beginning of the story. I was fascinated by the Windows Phone 7 platform from its very first announcement at the MIX conference in March 2010, where I attended in person (by the way, Internet Explorer 9 was also announced at this conference, which changed everything for Silverlight developers, but then I still haven't knew). This conference was held in the USA in the glorious city of Las Vegas, and this was my first visit to the United States. I remember how, right after the planar report of the conference, I went through countless slot machines to my room, which was located somewhere on the 30th floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, from which a beautiful view of the runway of McCarran International Airport opened. From the room, looking at the taking off planes, I began to download tools for developing applications for Windows Phone over the slow channel via Wi-Fi. Then to install the downloaded SDK (Software Development Kit) on your modest Samsung NC10 netbook. The first version of the SDK worked terribly slowly (in which a fair amount of blame lies on the netbook), but despite this, I fell in love with the platform from the first click, although I had never developed it for phones before.
At the MIX conference, everyone was just discussing Windows Phone, although they didn’t let anyone touch real devices to almost anyone except especially arrogant people, due to their natural modesty. I got my own phone later, in the fall of 2010 in rainy Seattle at the PDC 2010 conference. Microsoft gave out telephones to the participants for free, and after standing in a long line I got a beautiful Samsung Taylor. This phone was a prototype for developers and was never officially sold. Probably, I became the first owner of a phone running the Windows Phone 7 operating system in Russia, not counting Microsoft employees.
I remember how in the evening in front of the PDC I sat in some Mexican eatery with Mikhail Chernomordikov ( mixen), who worked at Microsoft at that time in the USA, and he asked what nomination I would translate into as MVP: Silverlight or Windows Phone. I replied that in Silverlight, as this is a more general technology, and this was a huge mistake. The next day, Microsoft Vice President Bob Muglia announced that the strategy had changed and Silverlight was no longer a priority for Microsoft ( Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted ), although we all refused to believe it for a long time. Probably, if I became MVP on Windows Phone, the book would be published much earlier.
Shortly before PDC 2012, I began to publish a series of articles on the development of applications for Windows Phone on my blog. This cycle turned out to be incredibly popular, although, for various reasons, I abandoned its writing somewhere in the middle. The main problem was the lack of motivation, since it took a lot of time to write articles, and in connection with the new work he was sorely lacking. My next attempt to get a job at Microsoft at FTE (Full Time Employee) position crashed, and as a result, in the spring of 2011, I decided that I wouldn’t post a blog about Windows Phone anymore.
Closer to the summer of 2011, it's time to defend a master's degree. On June 17, exactly one week before the defense of my diploma, when I was sitting with my supervisor, a deputy wrote to me. chief editor of the publishing house BHV-Petersburg with a proposal to write a book on development for Windows Phone. Apparently, he saw my blog and decided that I could write such a book.
I discussed this with Microsoft evangelists and Vladimir Kolesnikovsuggested adding a game development part to the book. Since I myself could not write such a part, we invited Dmitry Soshnikov to become a co-author. He agreed, for which many thanks to him! As a result, by August 2011, I had written two chapters, but we did not come to a final agreement with the publishing house and decided to postpone writing the book for a while.
At this point, in addition to two chapters, a book plan based on the beta version of Windows Phone 7.5 was ready, since the final version was released later. The publishing house needed the plan, and you shouldn’t start writing a book without a plan anyway.
Drawing up a plan is a rather long process, it took me about a week or two. I looked through many English-language books on Windows Phone, studied materials, pondered ... In the future, the plan changed, but not very significantly. The plan presented a list of chapters with a fairly detailed description of what these chapters will cover.
In addition to the plan, I provided the publisher with a description of the book and texts such as “why the book will be interesting to the reader”, as well as an estimate of the total number of pages (which in the end turned out to be fairly close to the truth). I rated the book 350-400 pages and 20 chapters. The published book contains 384 pages and 21 chapters. Although the overall estimate of the number of pages was relatively correct, the estimate of the number of pages for each of the chapters was not completely justified.
The publisher, in turn, sent a template for Word, according to which the text should be made. In addition, it was necessary to read the 26 page “manuscript requirements” that described the rules for design, naming, and other aspects of the requirements. There was nothing complicated in these requirements, and although I wrote the first chapters without taking them into account, it took about 15 minutes to complete each chapter in accordance with the template. Again, returning to the topic of diplomas, the requirements for them were much more complicated.
In September 2011, we suspended work on the book. As mentioned above, by that time two chapters had been written. At the end of December 2011, we reached an agreement on the book and agreed with Microsoft to purchase a certain number of copies that were to be distributed to the conference participants.DevCon 12 in May 2012. In this regard, a very tight deadline arose - the book should have been completely written by mid-March, so that by mid-April to complete editing and layout, send to print and distribute to participants at the DevCon conference on May 24, 2012.
Since I planned to write the book (as it later happened) exclusively in my free time, it became clear that I couldn’t manage to meet the deadline. I approximately imagined the time required to write the chapter, so it was obvious that I did not have so much free time, and the chance to publish a book by May was practically zero.
The already mentioned Vladimir Kolesnikov, for which many thanks to him, suggested Stas Pavlov as a co-author. Stas agreed, and thanks to this, the book eventually saw the light of day.
I must say right away that we did not write the book for money. And it’s impossible to write a technical book for money. We wanted the book to be as cheap as possible and as many people as possible could buy it. Therefore, neither Dmitry nor Stas received a dime from this. Due to the difficult financial situation, I chose a cash fee, the size of which is approximately equal to my salary for 2 working days.
So, we came to an agreement with the publisher, an agreement with Microsoft on the purchase of the book, we had 3 co-authors and 2 written chapters. The year 2012 has come, before the book was published, 3 and a half months remained.
2. Writing the text of a book
The main question that I am asked in connection with the book is something like this: "How much time did it take to write?" I'll try to count.
Book 21 has a chapter and an appendix. In fact, these are 22 chapters. I wrote 11 chapters and an app, i.e. 12 chapters. Of these, 10 from January 1, 2012 to March 10. Thus, 10 chapters took about 2 months. I must say that not all chapters are the same size, there are very short chapters, there are long ones. The heads of Stas and Dmitry, for example, are all long, but I have a few short ones.
I wrote for almost all the New Year holidays, from January 3 to 9. Somewhere around 4 (maybe a little more) hours a day. I would like to note an interesting fact that the keyboard on which I wrote almost half of the book does not have Russian letters. But this is so, by the way. In addition, I wrote almost every weekend for about 3 hours a day, and also spent about an hour on weekdays.
In total, writing about 10 chapters took about 120 hours. This is a month of work if I were writing a book from Monday to Friday from 9 to 6. I must say that it is rather slow. Experienced authors say that you can write a technical book about twice as fast. But let us take their word for it.
In the process of writing the book, I often found myself thinking that I would never get involved in such an adventure again. There was a feeling that the book would never be written, and indeed, given my tendency to depression, often the mood was simply terrible. But now, over time, the negative colors have faded, and I sometimes wonder: why not write another book? Although so far it has been possible to successfully drive these thoughts from myself.
The hardest part of writing anything is to get started. It happens that you walk for several days and you can’t write a single line, and then you sit down and write a whole chapter. If there is a first sentence, at least a few words, then writing is much easier. And sitting in front of an empty document in Word can be infinite. There were times when I opened and closed an empty Word document several times.
In addition, it is difficult to start again after long (several days, a week) breaks. The ideal scenario is to write a little, but every day. In this mode, working on a book becomes much easier. But do not set unrealistic goals, for example, to write a chapter in a day. This only leads to disappointment. Set a goal to write at least a couple of pages per day. As a result, often, it turns out, more, and this leads to a good mood.
When writing a book, I had a big problem - perfectionism. I really wanted to do everything perfectly. Therefore, I could re-read the chapter 10 times, change individual words, etc. But it really slowed down the work. As a result, I set a restriction - not to re-read the written material during the writing process more than two times. And this significantly accelerated the work. And in the end, the editor pointed out the bad and incomprehensible places.
3. Work with the editor and publication
After I wrote my chapters, another important task arose. The book has three authors, all write in a different style, using slightly different terminology and speech turnovers. For example, the word "Notifications" in one chapter was translated as "Alerts" and in the other as "Notifications." And there were many such examples. The style of writing code examples also differed significantly between the authors. In addition, occasionally there were repetitions between the chapters of different authors, when in two chapters it was actually about the same thing.
The reader needs a holistic product. The book should be written in one style and period. There can be no compromise. Therefore, I had to edit both my own and the chapters of other authors.
After writing each chapter, I sent it to various Windows Phone developers who were familiar with their opinions. The greatest help was provided by Kirill Orlov ( DiverOfDark ) and Sheriev Ahmed ( Atreides07 ), who pointed out a number of factual errors.
In the process of writing, we at some stage began to send chapters to the editor from the publisher. The editor is the most important person, perhaps even as important as the authors of the book. The editor made the language more literary, and also fixed many errors, including factual as well as terminological, and even several errors in the source code.
The work with the editor looked like this: I sent the chapter to the editor, she returned it with her edits and with questions. I commented on the changes and answered questions, possibly correcting the text of the chapter itself. After that, I again sent the chapter to the editor, and the cycle repeated. Usually enough once, but some chapters walked back and forth 2-3 times.
It took about 2 hours for a chapter to pre-edit and work with the editor. Total, actually one more full working week.
Also, it took some time to design an archive of source code examples. But I designed the source code in parallel with the writing of chapters, so a lot of time was spent on code examples.
April came, I successfully and the first time passed the exam in the traffic police, and the book was almost ready. When all the chapters were edited, the text was sent for layout, and a month later I was holding a freshly printed copy of the book.
When I arrived at the DevCon 12 conference, I went into the office, unpacked one of the boxes with books and picked up a copy - then there came real happiness and a sense of joy from the work done.
The next day, a copy of the book was distributed to all participants in the conference, and I signed an autograph many times. People came up and asked to sign, and it was really great!
So in the Noginsky district of Moscow region, where the DevCon 12 conference was held, the story ended, which began in distant Las Vegas in April 2010.
We have not discussed this yet, but perhaps we will adapt the book to the new version of Windows Phone - Windows Phone 8. Therefore, the story does not really end there.
Thanks to everyone who helped write this book!