Writing a book for programmers?

Subject: Writing a book for programmers?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2001 11:09:59 -0500

Abdur Rahman Goldman wonders: <<I have found a potential collaborator for a
book project which will use different, and hopefully more effective,
methodologies to teach programming languages... Are there any thoughts on
the marketability of yet another book for beginning programmers?>>

"Different and hopefully more effective" raises a large red flag for me.
Existing methods may not be perfect, but they exist for a reason, and have
been proven to work reasonably well--at least to various degrees. If you're
proposing a change, you'll need to prove that your change is actually
effective; failing to do so will make most publishers question whether
you've done your homework and undermine their confidence in you. So the
first thing you'll want to do (before you invest much time in the project)
is to corner a few programmers, explain your method to them, and ask them
whether it makes sense. If you can't persuade them, you're unlikely to
persuade many readers to buy your book; if they sneer at your explanation,
you're probably wisest to seek another project. If, on the other hand, your
message is so compelling that they immediately abandon the old ways and
start implementing your approach, you have an ace up your sleeve when you
write to the publisher: "Microsoft is now using our methodology exclusively,
and saving 50% on their development costs! Call Fred at xxx-xxx-xxxx if
you'd like a testimonial." Most likely, you'll get comments that express
polite interest, point out a few problems (none insoluble if you're lucky),
and point you on your way to a successful project.

<<how does one go about finding a publisher for programming books?>>

For a start, hit the bookstore and check out their programming section:
record the names of all the publishers you find there. Then hit the writing
section and buy a copy of the Writer's Digest guide to markets. That will
give you reasonably up to date contact information and how the publisher
wants you to make a proposal: some require that you submit your proposal
through an agent, others want a proposal letter, others still want only a
finished manuscript. You'll also discover some markets that aren't in the
bookstore, and vice versa. A Web search could follow, but start this way

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"How are SF writers like technical writers? Well, we both write about the
things we imagine will happen in the future!"--Sue Gallagher


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