Writing a book ????

Every since XNA was released my visibility in the community has meant I get the occasional email or phone all about authoring a book. I've resisted for several reasons.

  1. Its a BIG time commitment and I don't have much of that
  2. The $$ return is terrible

When I mention #2 to the publishers they always tell me that "many authors do it for the increased visibility and not for the profit". I usually point out that they are calling me because I already have the visibility which rarely goes down well.

So how little money do authors make? Its hard to get all the details of course but you can find general information out there. I have a good book on self publishing that might be a little out of date now.

Lets take 7 XNA 3.1 books (I ignored Dan's book as it seems to be on super sale). The average 'list price' is $38.55 and the average actual price is $25.23 so pretty much every book is sold at a 35% discount.

As an author you will negotiate your pay usually in 2 ways. An advance and a per book percentage. Obviously both vary but O'Reilly are very up front about their 10% rate and 5% on translated copies on publisher NET sales. If Amazon is selling our imaginary XNA book for $25.23 you know they paid less than this so lets assume the publisher sold the book to amazon for $20. So from the $38.55 'list' price the author is going to see about $2 a copy.

That's not too bad if you are Stephen King but technical books have a rather limited audience. I've seen several places that talk about 10,000 copies in the 1st year being considered a 'best seller' in the technical book space. Lets say the average book sells 5000. That's a grand total of $10,000 before any taxes for your hard work. I've seen advances around the $10,000 mark so its no surprise that common advice is to negotiate as big advance as possible because most books will never pay beyond that.

So how long does it take to write a book? I asked a few folk some years ago and though it was a pretty wide range the estimates were between 500 and 700 hours by the time you have got everything done, edited, proof read and produced the code samples, supporting web site etc.

That gives us a pay range of $13-$20 an hour assuming your book. I've mentioned this figure to some authors and been told thats 'if you get lucky'.

So back to the publishers - how many of them pay their staff $20 or less an hour? It just seems wrong to me that the person who puts in the effort gets the lowest wage? When you buy that XNA book does it cross your mind who is getting rich off it?

So last time I was asked to write I suggested a $25,000 advance to make it worth my time and you can imagine how well that went down.

So why do authors continue to write books? Well there are many intangible rewards. Some folk do it for the increased visibility which can get you jobs, MVP awards, speaker gigs at conferences, some folk do it because seeing your name on a book is just plain cool. Others do it as a challenge - its something that they have always wanted to do. Others think that $20 an hour is worth their time as a second/side job. I can totally understand all of these reasons and heck I need to thank many of the authors for doing it - I own hundreds of your books. For some folk its just a hobby that they would do for free so the money is a nice bonus - heck I've probably put in more free hours on the xna.com forums over the years and rarely felt exploited.

However I just can't get over the feeling of being shafted. I can bill much more than $20 an hour for regular work and as my blog readers know I have plenty of other hobbies that take up my time.

But.... with George and Chris writing a Windows Phone book the topic has come up once again in my circle of twitter friends and I've got to admit it would be nice to see my name on a book in a book store.  

So given there is no way I'm working for $20 an hour (max) I've dug out the self publishing book and taking a look at the options there.

Here's some questions I posted on twitter and I'd appreciate feedback in comments or email.

  • How much does the publisher of the book vs the author name affect your buying decision?
  • How do you find your books? Brick and Mortar browsing? Online browsing? Other?
  • Do you still buy paper or are you all buying eBooks now? Do you care about DRM? Can I trust you not to upload the eBook as soon as you get a copy?
  • How big do you expect a book that costs $25? I understand you care about content but if you are in a book store and you grab a thin book you are less likely to buy it. The 7 XNA 3 books range from 336 to 792 pages. Average is 496. The bigger the book the more 'value' in terms of pages per $. That ranges from 25 pages per dollar down to 12 pages per dollar.
  • I also asked about color as I see it starting to appear in technical books. I see its use in game books and in reading VS code but after a quick look I realised that its just not economical for self publishing yet.
  • What do the big publishers get wrong? What drives you nuts that would make you buy MY book instead?
  • What is missing in the XNA books? What do they do wrong? What do they do right?

No this doesn't mean I'm going to write one for sure... all of the time constraints about still apply and it seems like the successful authors have some amazing ability to sleep less than 4 hours a night and let me tell you - I love my bed!

 

Published 21 June 2010 09:36 AM by zman
Filed under: ,

Comments

# Craig Andera said on 21 June, 2010 03:12 PM

Back in the day I talked Keith Brown into rewriting his security book as a series of wiki articles. Honestly, putting a book on paper without a publisher to back you seems fraught. I'd love to see you use your considerable knowledge to produce a tangible work, but in this day and age it seems like there are far better ways to do it. By using some sort of electronic media, you escape all sorts of constraints - e.g. whether or not you need to use color. Better still, people wouldn't have to wait for you to finish to read parts of it. And when you were done if you wanted to put it in print, you still could, especially if you had that in mind from the beginning.

Just my (considerably less than) two cents worth.

# Roy Triesscheijn said on 21 June, 2010 03:41 PM

How much does the publisher of the book vs the author name affect your buying decision?

->It's more about 'series' then publisher I think. I love all the books from Apress that start with "PRO". But I dont know many other publishers by name, so I would say "only slightly".

How do you find your books? Brick and Mortar browsing? Online browsing? Other?

->Browsing and book stores

Do you still buy paper or are you all buying eBooks now? Do you care about DRM? Can I trust you not to upload the eBook as soon as you get a copy?

->I love paper books, I've never bought eBooks. I wouldnt upload an ebook, but I would maybe share it with friends on request.

How big do you expect a book that costs $25? I understand you care about content but if you are in a book store and you grab a thin book you are less likely to buy it.

->300~500 pages is the sweet spot. As is $25,-.

I also asked about color as I see it starting to appear in technical books. I see its use in game books and in reading VS code but after a quick look I realised that its just not economical for self publishing yet.

->Just colours on the cover, everywhere else it's unnecessary.

What do the big publishers get wrong? What drives you nuts that would make you buy MY book instead?

-> Tbh they are doing it quite right, from a customers' point of view. The only thing I can name is that usually the supporting websites suck, please just give me a cd or usb-dongle with the source code. I also like it when I get the eBook for free when I buy the normal book, handy for looking things up quickly.

What is missing in the XNA books? What do they do wrong? What do they do right?

->Missing: DEPTH!

->Right: not much tbh, some of the books are filled with errors and unclear code. Most books are aimed at true beginners at both programming and XNA, but skip basic programming concepts. Hell please don't aim the books at people who can't program yet. A first chapter gentle introduction to C# is great, but there is to much to tell about XNA to also learn people programming. Quality suffers from this.

# Bunkerbewohner said on 21 June, 2010 04:50 PM

Hi! I just found this blog because I read your messages on twitter (I read your messages on twitter because of your presence in the XNA creators club forums).

I actually own 3 XNA books myself:

- Learning XNA 3.0

- XNA 3.0 Game Programming Recipes

- XNA Game Studio 3.0 Unleashed

The latter of the two books have a rather bad structure, imho. Also there are some of topics I wouldn't care for in such a book, like AI and physics, which barely can fit into a small chapter (I would rather buy a book on its own for these topics).

I guess a book I would have wanted should simply teach how to use XNA properly and efficiently, especially considering XBox 360. It should not only teach to use the most important bits of the XNA Framework but also some good design principles . The three books above all have these features scattered among them. The first talks about GameComponents, for example, but leaves out any performance considerations for XBox 360. The second one is horribly structured and the code is not written with reusability in mind.

But to answer your questions in general:

1. I don't care about the publisher or the author in general. I simply look out for other people's opinion about the book. If there are none the author surely is more important.

2. Online (search engines)

3. I buy paper only. DRM is annoying.

4. Depends on the content really. I suppose around 400 pages. But I don't really consider the number of pages when buying a book.

5. In my opinion color is not neccessary at all.

6. I can't think of anything particular that big publishers are doing "wrong". Often I see errors and not working code samples, though. You could try to avaoid that.

7. I think the books lack good software architecture. As mentioned above most of the classes that are presented are not easy reusable or extendible. Most of the times the code is very specific.

"Learning XNA 3.0" has the best teaching style for beginners of the three books, imho. Even though there is lot's of typewriting involved. But I suppose this can hardly be avoided. But for more advanced readers with a bit experience in OOP and design patterns it is too "progressive" (the implementation is presented step by step to show some mistakes and later on correct them or show better solutions).

Finally, I think 3D games for PC and Xbox 360 need more focus in XNA books. Both "Learning XNA 3.0" and "XNA Game Studio 3.0 Unleashed" cover 3D only to a small extend. Riemer's Game Programming Recipes has a lot more to offer when it comes to 3D but also has some drawbacks which I already mentioned above. If I ought to buy a new XNA book I would look for a book that cuts the 2D stuff and concentrates on the real deal of 3D games.

# Martin said on 21 June, 2010 05:01 PM

All things being equal, I'd much prefer the _shortest_ good book on a subject. Any tech book weighing in at 1200 pages is just full of filler that already exists online, say the MSDN pages. It's more than a waste of space, it makes the book worth less; it's not worth using.

Here's what I think the world needs in an XNA book:

First, an extremely brief overview of the latest version of the system and framework, the bare essentials one would need to start navigating public online documentation meaningfully. Beyond this, there is no need to try and cover every aspect of the SDK equally, rather its time to focus on what matters most.

Second, a very practical and experience-driven approach on how to take a non-trivial (read: larger) size XNA project and succesfully decompose it into smart, testable, reasonably decoupled units. Do this without just spewing out some homebrew framework you have available online.

Finally, a couple very narrow and deep looks at a few particular advanced aspects a good programmer needs to think about. How to work with, not against, the GC; same thing with the content pipeline; thread pools and other resources.

I guess this would come off like "Professional Grade Software Engineering on the XNA Platform".

Enjoy!

# Andrew said on 21 June, 2010 08:08 PM

   * How much does the publisher of the book vs the author name affect your buying decision?

70% publisher vs 30% author, in general. For a very few select authors, like Petzold and Peter van der Linden, it's 100% based on author name. For better or worse, a publisher guarantees a basic level of quality, a self-published title is much more of a gamble.

   * How do you find your books? Brick and Mortar browsing? Online browsing? Other?

50% physical bookstore, 50% Amazon.

   * Do you still buy paper or are you all buying eBooks now?

100% paper. Screen real estate is precious, so having a physical book is like having an additional screen.

* Do you care about DRM? Can I trust you not to upload the eBook as soon as you get a copy?

N/A

   * How big do you expect a book that costs $25? I understand you care about content but if you are in a book store and you grab a thin book you are less likely to buy it.

I rate books by how much information that they can get into my head in the shortest amount of time. Length does not matter. I evaluate that by reading a sample chapter.

   * I also asked about color as I see it starting to appear in technical books. I see its use in game books and in reading VS code but after a quick look I realised that its just not economical for self publishing yet.

I prefer B&W.

   * What do the big publishers get wrong? What drives you nuts that would make you buy MY book instead?

Write in a narrative style. Look at Petzold's books or Expert C Programming by Peter van der Linden for great examples. I can get reference information on the web for free. To be successful you need to teach me something and humans learn most efficiently through stories.

# Pete said on 21 June, 2010 09:37 PM

I'll have to echo a few of the comments above me.  There needs to be more of a focus on 3d, and it needs to be less of a "beginner level" book.  I think your book (should you write it) should target the intermediate-to-advanced user.  

Now to answer your specific questions:

-  I usually don't recognize an author's name, and I could care less about the publisher, as long as I recognized them.  However, people in the XNA community (such as myself) will recognize you and be more inclined to buy YOUR book instead of a different one (as long as the cover says "ZMAN").

-  ~70% of the time I find books through Amazon, and ~30% of the time when I browse the selection at a local bookstore.

-  I stick with buying paper, but a free ebook copy with the purchase of the paper copy is *highly* preferable.  BTW you can trust me ;)

-  <450 pages is ideal.   I'll gladly pay ~$30 for a book that's well written, to-the-point, and well organized.

-  There's no need for color except for on the cover (unless it's a really cool black-and-white design), but some pretty flowcharts and tables are nice.

-  There's usually a big project that the entire book leads up to, and the chapters that get you there are often too specific to that project.  I often want to skip around to do different things at different times, and maybe even using different methods than the ones presented, and the structures of books now tend to restrict that freedom.  Don't get me wrong -- big projects are sweet to work on and are much preferred over a bunch of small projects.  Everything should just be concise and general enough so if I want to jump in midway through, I don't have to read everything previous just to know what the author is talking about.

-  They need to provide more opportunities/examples at the end of the chapters for different ways to do whatever they just covered.

If you do decide to write a book, you already have a customer!

# Dustin Tigner said on 21 June, 2010 10:29 PM

Despite whether or not you choose to write a book, I hold a lot of respect for the Ruby on Rails team (or more specifically, 37signals), and the book they released: Getting Real. You can find the book at gettingreal.37signals.com. The idea is to offer the book for free, though also allow people to buy it in its tangible and electronic forms. I see this as a way for you to gain visibility and money.

The main idea here is to give away something that is very useful and, if people like it, they will buy it (or donate for your efforts). I just dropped over $1,000 today in things I feel I could use to build better games without giving it a whole lot of thought--well, 24 hours--so if I found your online pdf-book useful, I wouldn't mind paying $20 for it; that's 99% pure profit, minus hosting costs, which are quite cheap these days.

Anyway, it's something to think about. Whatever decision you make, ensure it's for yourself and not for any of us. :)

~Dustin Tigner

# IvatrixGames said on 22 June, 2010 03:19 AM

Two things:

1:Personaly I think writing a book would be a BAD idea.The community would much prefer if you just made a few online tutorials covering the BASICS.

2:In your XBLIG community tag you spelt should wrong:)

# Philippe Da Silva said on 22 June, 2010 04:01 AM

How much does the publisher of the book vs the author name affect your buying decision?

-> I only use publisher reputation and the author's name as an additional clue for the book's quality but they are really low in my buying decision.

How do you find your books? Brick and Mortar browsing? Online browsing? Other?

-> When I am looking for a technical book, I usually browse for them on Amazon.com to find out the one that gives the more details and the more code samples.

Do you still buy paper or are you all buying eBooks now? Do you care about DRM? Can I trust you not to upload the eBook as soon as you get a copy?

-> I hate reading technical books electronically because I usually read them first during my journey to the office using public transports and in the evening. Then, I use them as a support for my developments so having them in the corner of my desk is way more practical than alt-tabbing on my Windows box ;)

How big do you expect a book that costs $25? I understand you care about content but if you are in a book store and you grab a thin book you are less likely to buy it. The 7 XNA 3 books range from 336 to 792 pages. Average is 496. The bigger the book the more 'value' in terms of pages per $. That ranges from 25 pages per dollar down to 12 pages per dollar.

-> I really don't care how many pages I'm paying for a book. I rather look for a set of initial technology introduction points that let me in and some illustration that I can't find on the web. :)

I also asked about color as I see it starting to appear in technical books. I see its use in game books and in reading VS code but after a quick look I realised that its just not economical for self publishing yet.

-> As you stated, I like reading colored VS code but it doesn't require a quadricolor expensive printing. 2 or even 3 printed colors are enough to colorize the code in the book.

What do the big publishers get wrong? What drives you nuts that would make you buy MY book instead?

-> They jump in any technology with books that just gets into the technologies for a wide audience so that anyone can get the introduction to it that generally ends up as a easy reading translation of the technology documentation. If you came up with a really small introduction, but a deeper and real use case of the technology usage, I would surelly by your book instead. For instance, I bought Real World .Net Applications book just because it was composed of explained applications code explained in details for different applications. That was very helpful understanding many parts of .Net and wanting to dig more on subparts ;)

What is missing in the XNA books? What do they do wrong? What do they do right?

-> XNA is a Games framework for an audience looking to create games: give a game example from scratch to publishing and issues related; from the inner game design (how to bring the ideas together and avoid common initial mistakes) to creating the final package and understanding how it was advertised while not forgetting the different tips, code and the like ;)

There you would get a buyer ;)

# Martin Caine said on 22 June, 2010 11:37 AM

Personally, I think we need to work on the current online resources for XNA developers. Sgt. Conker is growing into a nice little resource and our dear departed ZiggyWare was by far one of the best XNA resources before it disappeared.

We need some of the more experienced devs to post samples on these sites and share their knowledge. I plan to submit some things myself in the near future and help out some of the devs who are new to XNA make the most of the platform.

One thing I find annoying about technical books is that they're soon out of date. I own a few XNA books, Riemers and Learning XNA 3.0. Both are decent books (especiall Riemers) but are already out-dated to some extent. Atleast with samples on the net many devs will keep them up to date with the latest framework changes or update them over time.

# Crwth said on 22 June, 2010 11:48 AM

Publisher name definitely matters for me; I've never gone wrong with an O'Reilly book, but other publishers have definitely done me wrong. I revisit them every so often to see if they're improved their lot (New Riders is a good example of one that went from poor to good). A recognized author is definitely a plus, but I don't have any "minus" authors that I avoid.

I usually find books via online mention (forums, tweets, blogs) or title searches on Amazon. Brick-and-mortar browsing, at least in my area, isn't effective. I still buy on paper, though, finding online reading only useful for reference materials (MSDN, for instance) but not for learning new subjects. If I was hep enough to buy eBooks, I'd be completely accepting of DRM.

I'm currently reading Learning XNA 3.0 (I'm late to the game), at about 475 pages for $35 cover price. I think that's reasonable, so however many pages that maps to for $25... 340 pages? If a book is smaller and I can flip through it, I try to get a feel for whether it's just filled with diagrams and sourcecode listings, or if there's solid content in the reduced pagecount.

I'm sure colour would look nice, but is definitely not a requirement -- let the readers' XNA productions be colourful from what they learn from the book.

I'm not sure if it falls under the publisher, the author, or a mix of both, but depending on how the book is titled or promoted, introductory content may not be expected or appropriate - a book on XNA 4.0 on Windows Phone 7, for instance, might "waste" time talking about how to use the phone instead of requiring/assuming that basic knowledge for its target audience. One other thing that feels wrong in previous books is mention of other publications that just happen to be by the same publisher, presented as recommendations of the author for further study in branch areas.  Sometimes they might indeed be the book that the author would recommend, but at times it reeks of product placement. Not knowing the industry, I don't know if that's influenced at all by the publisher.

As I'm on my first XNA book, I can't answer your last question.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do, but I will say I have respect for anyone who goes through the process of writing a book, regardless of their motivation.

# Bruno Evangelista said on 22 June, 2010 01:03 PM

When I worked on the Beginning XNA book it took us lot's of time to finish it (even with 3 authors). We needed to create the samples, write the text, and work on the revisions. And it gets boring when you have to work over the same chapter many times.

Sometimes I would like to be able to buy and sell books by chapter. That way, if I'm writing a book people will be able to start reading it before I finish the whole thing. Also, I would be able to listen to the opinion of the real audience, while still working on the book.

>> Do you still buy paper or are you all buying eBooks now? Do you care about DRM? Can I trust you not to upload the eBook as soon as you get a copy?

I like to read on paper, so even if I buy an eBook I will print it before reading. And I don't think it is bad if people share your book, some of them never payed for a book, and what is the purpose of having your name in a book that only few people read?

# Bruno Evangelista said on 22 June, 2010 01:04 PM

When I worked on the Beginning XNA book it took us lot's of time to finish it (even with 3 authors). We needed to create the samples, write the text, and work on the revisions. And it gets boring when you have to work over the same chapter many times.

Sometimes I would like to be able to buy and sell books by chapter. That way, if I'm writing a book people will be able to start reading it before I finish the whole thing. Also, I would be able to listen to the opinion of the real audience, while still working on the book.

>> Do you still buy paper or are you all buying eBooks now? Do you care about DRM? Can I trust you not to upload the eBook as soon as you get a copy?

I like to read on paper, so even if I buy an eBook I will print it before reading. And I don't think it is bad if people share your book, some of them never payed for a book, and what is the purpose of having your name in a book that only few people read?

# Kiveryn said on 23 June, 2010 11:07 PM

What would you write about? I honestly don't think we need any more "Beginning XNA" books, there is enough help and tutorials around for these things

# Kagadome said on 24 June, 2010 02:10 AM

No. You should not write a book. You should write several.

I would not buy an ebook. I'd rather have a paperback, register my book, and be able to download code examples.

I like to spend < $25 for a book. That means I will wait for a used copy to appear most of the time. The exception was Jim's RPG book. I bought it new because he showed respect for Gygax on his blog after he passed.

It would be nice to see you submit a few C# / XNA tips / tutorials to Sgt. Conker or post them on your blog. I'm up for some "Return to the Basics" myself.

Please, write a book or two. The community needs it.

# Stewie22112 said on 25 June, 2010 01:23 AM

Quick Answers to your Q's

1.   Book Publisher is irrelevant to me when purchasing books becaus of my answer to question 2.

2.   I only purchase technical books where I know and trust the work of the author, or it has been recommended to me by someone I know or trust. There's too much choad out there.

3.   If I'm buying, I'm buying paper. I'm to old to grok eBooks. I don't particularly care about DRM, but I would never upload anyone's book. There has been times where I've 'found' an eBook, liked it and then purchased the paper version.

4.   For generalist technical books, I would expect 1" to 2" thick at the quoted price point. Thinner and I question content and therefore value. Thicker and I'll never get through it. Caveat is unless it's obviously a tightly defined topic. Think "Programming Games with XNA" versus "Using custom shaders for awesome explosions in XNA".

5.    I like colour for code samples and screenshots, especially in a gaming context. But that's probably because I'm lazy and too used to VS.

6.    I hate when the examples are just a bunch of 'Hello World"ish type things. I really like when the examples build upon a theme / central app. One of the recent .NET MVC books did that and you ended up with a decent sized app, using some good OO priniples & patterns. THE most useful thing for me when I first started XNA was Nick's Alien Aggressors tutorial. It was essentially a small eBook that you could print & read offline, but it built upon a theme giving you the basics, gradually building to a nifty little game, again introducing OO concepts, refactoring, deeper XNA concepts, etc.

7.   I've not purchased any XNA books as I've been able to glean all the info I've needed from the forums and other online resources, and I'm probably past the level of Intro books now in 2D.

Final Word:

I might be a bit out of the target demographic, but I've largely stopped purchasing books telling me 'how' do do something, as 'how' becomes dated very quickly. Most books I'm buying tend to be more about 'why' which tends to be more timeless I think, which relates to better value. Think "Code Complete" instead of "C# programming for .NET 3.5". Also, I find I can get better, targeted, timely 'how' information from the web more effectively.

Lastly, I would purchase your book in this field as I have an interest in what you have to say on this topic. I will probably buy George / Chris's for the same reason. I should have bought Jim's at the time, but I think it's now a couple of versions old. (how again).

Cheers

# UberGeekGames said on 25 June, 2010 10:15 AM

   * How much does the publisher of the book vs the author name affect your buying decision?

Not at all, except maybe a large part of my decision of buying Jame's book was because he's James. :) APress books always seem to be good, but it's definitely not a critical deciding factor.

   * How do you find your books? Brick and Mortar browsing? Online browsing? Other?

I typically find books through a combination of brick-and-mortar browsing and from recommendations / searches online. I always like to flip through it in a bookstore first if at all possible to make sure that'd it actually be useful and not another "here's how to make OOP Pong!".

* Do you still buy paper or are you all buying eBooks now? Do you care about DRM? Can I trust you not to upload the eBook as soon as you get a copy?

I don't buy ebooks, but have been considering getting a Nook. It's not so much preference of having a physical copy as it is lack of e-reading hardware, since if I'm at my computer or laptop I'm almost always coding, not reading. I'd never upload an ebook or send it away to someone. I absolutely despise DRM but would probably tolerate it.

* How big do you expect a book that costs $25?

It depends on the content. If it's "Complete XNA Guide to Everything" then I'd want it to be fairly large since there's likely to be a lot of filler that I already know. If it's "Practical Artificial Intelligence" or "Advanced HLSL" then I'd be happy with just 100 pages if it's all high quality information.

* Color

It's nice if it's there but it's not critical for a technical book. If you're doing complex HLSL or something similar then I can see color being important, but even so I'd just download the examples and run them.

* What do the big publishers get wrong? What drives you nuts that would make you buy MY book instead?

* What is missing in the XNA books? What do they do wrong? What do they do right?

Nearly every book seems to be targeted to newbies. I want books that assume a decent level of competence and get to the good stuff that there's little information on (eg, HLSL, physics, AI, etc) instead of wasting several chapters on "here's how to make a class" and "make your first Breakout clone". :)

So to sum up, I'd be extremely interested in an XNA book for advanced users, which there seem to be a dearth of.

# Steve Hazen said on 25 June, 2010 10:08 PM

• How much does the publisher of the book vs the author name affect your buying decision?

o Hm.. For some reason, I favor the  ‘Morgan Kaufmann’ series so I guess the publisher gets a point there.  I place value in this publisher knowing they choose authors like Eberly, Ericson, Van Verth. It makes me trust that if they’re going to pursue a topic, they’ll choose one of the reputable experts in that field.

• How do you find your books? Brick and Mortar browsing? Online browsing? Other?

o Online.. 95% amazon.  I study  the table of contents & read the reviews.

• Do you still buy paper or are you all buying eBooks now? Do you care about DRM? Can I trust you not to upload the eBook as soon as you get a copy?

o Paper so far but I have no qualms about transitioning to e-books. I travel a lot and e-books would favor that.

• How big do you expect a book that costs $25? I understand you care about content but if you are in a book store and you grab a thin book you are less likely to buy it. The 7 XNA 3 books range from 336 to 792 pages. Average is 496. The bigger the book the more 'value' in terms of pages per $. That ranges from 25 pages per dollar down to 12 pages per dollar.

o It’s not the size that counts… I have many 1000+ page reference books that I’ve only utilized 100 or so pages of and they are just as valuable to me as the 300 - 500 page books that I went through front to back.

• I also asked about color as I see it starting to appear in technical books. I see its use in game books and in reading VS code but after a quick look I realised that its just not economical for self publishing yet.

o I don’t need color. I just want the concepts conveyed… I can manage the syntax.

• What do the big publishers get wrong? What drives you nuts that would make you buy MY book instead?

• What is missing in the XNA books? What do they do wrong? What do they do right?

o Intermediate & advance works. The market is much smaller there so the publishers tend to stay at the beginner level where the high volume is. The intermediate/advanced niche can be yours Zman! That would make me buy YOUR book. ;)

# Martin said on 28 June, 2010 12:21 PM

     How much does the publisher of the book vs the author name affect your buying decision?

-I don't look at the publisher that much.  If I read a book that I thought the author had a strong writing style in previously, I do look for other books from that author.  I always sample the book first though, some authors are very strong in one area and very weak in others.  I've maybe bought 1 book from a previous author I liked.  The rest you could tell the first book I read was the authors passion or specialty and the second not so much.

     How do you find your books? Brick and Mortar browsing? Online browsing? Other?

-Online, I read reviews on Amazon to get an idea if I should even bother with a book.

Do you still buy paper or are you all buying eBooks now? Do you care about DRM? Can I trust you not to upload the eBook as soon as you get a copy?

-Pretty much exclusively ebooks, unless I'm traveling

How big do you expect a book that costs $25? I understand you care about content but if you are in a book store and you grab a thin book you are less likely to buy it. The 7 XNA 3 books range from 336 to 792 pages. Average is 496. The bigger the book the more 'value' in terms of pages per $. That ranges from 25 pages per dollar down to 12 pages per dollar.

-I would equate thinner with less content to equal less value as an immediate impression.

-Color is really nice, especially in ebooks.

     What do the big publishers get wrong? What drives you nuts that would make you buy MY book instead?

-I like end-to-end projects where you follow along and you build a complete project start to finish.  Since you've made a game and released it on XBLIG, seeing how it all unfolds is nice.  I hate books that tell you best practices and never follow them in their own code.

What is missing in the XNA books? What do they do wrong? What do they do right?

-I've only purchased a couple.  I really liked Learning XNA because it seemed to flow nicely.  I believe the author was a teacher so he/she seemed to draw on that experience.

-Generally what is done wrong is there are weak explanations on why you are doing something.  You find those books where obviously the author has a strong understanding of part of the subject and is weak in other parts.  So you read chapter 2-3 and you are like this book is awesome, but later when the author discusses maybe networking they completely skipped all the explanation and I always believe it is because the author doesn't understand that topic.

-I'd like to see more publishing information.  I've never submitted a game so I don't know the process.  I'd like to see how a developer can run through the Evil and Not So Evil checklist on their own to reduce the possibility of rejection.

# Michael Hansen said on 28 June, 2010 03:12 PM

use this zman

www.bod.com/publish-a-book.html

your book will be on sale on amazon

you only have tp pay for the isbn number , and you control it all your self

# Chad Carter said on 29 June, 2010 04:17 PM

Andy,

Boils down to you don't write a book for the money.  You write it to help people.  If it bugs you just making $20/hour (and that is being liberal) then just do it to scratch the itch and help out all of the folks that want to learn about XNA (or whatever topic you end up writing on).

Good luck in trying to determine how you want to spend your time.  I believe it would definitely hamper your forum time if you decided to write the book regardless of the pay.  So it is a labor of love much like your forum moderation. :)

# Deejay said on 04 July, 2010 10:32 AM

I'd be inclined to consider writing the content for the web, and having a micro-donation solution.

If I'd donated a quid every time Shawn Hargreaves' blog had saved me from development doom, he'd have... Well, about a fiver by now.

# Greg Quinn said on 08 July, 2010 07:50 AM

Hey Zman,

Have you thought about writing a PDF book?

Then you just setup a cart on your site, and people can buy the 'book' online, and then download it.

Maybe you can do it using Adobe's Digital Editions to avoid people copying it illegally.

Doing it this route, you cut out the publisher, printing and all those other old school costs, which maximise your return on time investment as an author.

Your name precedes you in the XNA community, if you put a book up for sale, I'd be one of the first in line to buy it.

Good luck!

# Veovis Muad'dib said on 21 July, 2010 10:28 PM

   *      How much does the publisher of the book vs the author name affect your buying decision?

It depends, honestly...  I know I would read a book that you wrote though...

   *      How do you find your books? Brick and Mortar browsing? Online browsing? Other?

I find most of my books in bookstores, but few technical books come from anywhere but the internet.  Amazon usually.

   *      Do you still buy paper or are you all buying eBooks now? Do you care about DRM? Can I trust you not to upload the eBook as soon as you get a copy?

You will NOT EVER avoid piracy.  No amount of DRM will help, nothing like that.  About the only two things that I have ever seen help curb it are being in an obscure area (Which this is) or not having an ebook.

If piracy is something you honestly can't deal with, then don't put out an ebook.  But on the other hand, they help buyers immensely.  I just purchased an ebook on programming (In an unrelated field) and for my generation (Born in '91) ebooks are far easier to read.   If I got a physical copy of the book, I'd have to have the lights on, which makes it much harder for me to concentrate, and consequentially, would make it much harder for me to learn.

My recommendation is this: Make CD with source and an ebook on it (With no DRM and in a format that is easy to convert to others; since people have Kindles and Nooks and iPads and phones and computers to read them on, all of which expect a different formatting.) don't worry about the piracy, and bundle the CD with the book.  People who can't stand ebooks get a physical copy, people who can't stand physical copies could maybe buy the ebook online, or get it with the book, people who don't care get both, etc.

If you do not want it pirated, only put source on the CD, and don't sell an ebook anywhere, DRM or no.  It just doesn't work, and I'd hate to see you waste your time on it, or inconvenience people who paid.

   *      How big do you expect a book that costs $25? I understand you care about content but if you are in a book store and you grab a thin book you are less likely to buy it. The 7 XNA 3 books range from 336 to 792 pages. Average is 496. The bigger the book the more 'value' in terms of pages per $. That ranges from 25 pages per dollar down to 12 pages per dollar.

A previous commenter stated 1" to 2", I'd agree, but if I thought that I could just jump in wherever I needed help, bigger is perfectly fine.  If it's a single project type of book, keep it thin enough for people to get through from cover to cover.

   *      I also asked about color as I see it starting to appear in technical books. I see its use in game books and in reading VS code but after a quick look I realised that its just not economical for self publishing yet.

I see a lot of technical books appearing in black and white and a single other color.  This appears to cut costs while still adding legibility.  Anything more than that seems unnecessary, and black and white can be done well too.

   *      What do the big publishers get wrong? What drives you nuts that would make you buy MY book instead?

   *      What is missing in the XNA books? What do they do wrong? What do they do right?

I'm combining these points.  I haven't bought any XNA books, because every one I've seen is not only aimed at beginners, they also seem to want to teach them C# and programming fundamentals.  There are plenty of books on the latter subjects, and the three topics, while very related, should not be taught in the same book.  My science teachers never taught me any mathematics, however integral math might be to their subject.

Personally, I would rather see a wealth of online content, but as an 18 year old, I am more comfortable with computer screens than paper.

# nightwind said on 01 August, 2010 01:35 PM

Yes, you should write an XNA book.  The books available now are not too easy to understand or comprehend.  Since XNA is changing so fast (3.0, 3.1, and 4) a properly laid out and indepth textbook would be helpful to a lot of people.

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