This awesome article over on had me reflecting on the 2 book offers I’ve had. Notice I’m not saying that I wrote 2 books for large publishing houses.

For those of you who haven’t yet contributed to a technical book or magazine – or even some commercial blogs – what you might not realize is that publishers have a tendency to enforce surprisingly strict guidelines upon writers.


Consider a magazine with a finite number of pages available for a particular piece of content – say, five pages. If this were the only restriction, it would still prove difficult for the writer. Teaching code is, in many ways, an art. It requires both an understanding of the technology, as well as the ability to explain it in such a way so that everyone can comprehend it. How do you place an arbitrary word count on art and explanation

Now the process of editing is awesome. The article I wrote for Web Designer magazine, was made better when I cut words to meet their word limit. But the 2 books I started looking at had all of the crappy requirements Jeffery Way refers to. Editing is one of the things that large organizations get right, but notice that Jeffery is not talking about editing. He’s talking about the process of getting text to the editors.

Skipping out on writing books because your scared of the editorial process is stupid. You should have your writing refined.

Why I Turned Them Down

First, Word is not a good tool for writing long form detailed stuff. That’s what Scrivener is for. Second, I don’t even own a copy of Word and I don’t plan on getting one. To be part of their process I had to use a tool that did not help me write easily. Sure I could have done my first draft in Scrivener and then transferred to Word, but I’d be stuck in Word after that.

I look at the WordPress book I’ve got almost done, and the content changed a fair bit as I wrote it. I finished a few chapters only to realize that they were not chapters but topics of another chapter. If I had to stick with my original outline people that purchase the book would have been provided with a product of lesser quality. Readers would loose out.

Another blocker was the money they were offering. All told I’d get $5000 to write the book. That would be paid upfront, but would come out of any royalties earned later. When I asked around, most authors got few cheques in the future. The simple fact is that I can earn way more than that doing development. I still get much of my content out writing WordPress tutorials and those bring me work. Off some of the same content, I’ve invoiced $15k this year.

Yes being a ‘published’ author of a book could lead to more opportunities. And who knows, they could be bigger opportunities.

My exit path was the 3rd one from the article. I saw the schedule and the requirements and the money and then took a look at reality. Reality in no way matched what they wanted, so I said no thanks.

Funny enough, both books I was approached to write have not been published. Yup, as far as I can tell 1 and 2 years after (respectively) the books are not written.

Sucks for the users that would have benefitted since the content is still scattered around the web. But it would seem that no one is interested in dealing with the publishers.

2 responses to “I Turned Down 2 Book Deals”

  1. Edward Caissie Avatar

    I agree with the idea of being wary of the publisher … not afraid, but definitely make sure you are able to write what you want in the style you want to write it.

    It was mostly for that reason, I eventually turned down an offer from a publisher to write a “micro-book”; and, I wonder now if it will ever be written, too.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      As others pointed out in Twitter, there is a large bit of social validation in writing a book for a proper publisher. At least clients think that. Other programmers see your code and conduct and judge you on that basis. Writing a book from a major publisher is just another thing you do. I can think of a few ‘awesome’ programmers that are published that write terrible code.