Re: Discuss: Third party manuals?

Subject: Re: Discuss: Third party manuals?
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 15 Apr 1995 08:24:04 PDT

> For discussion: Do the third party books merely rehash the info. in
> the reference manuals, providing nothing more than another look at the
> same material? Or, are these books significant (superior?)
> contributions that should have been shipped with the software instead
> of the reference manuals?

They run the gamut from incompetent rehashings of equally incompetent
manufacturers' manuals to brilliant new work. This is publishing; the
contracts are signed before the books are written, so the publisher
never knows what he's going to get.

The third-party book industry will remain alive and well. After all,
documentation is the profit center in the book business, and it's,
at best, an afterthought at most software companies.

The nonfiction book business definitely counts as shark-infested waters.
One person I know wrote a book for a joint Intel/McGraw-Hill program,
where Intel subsidized the publication of technical books. But no Intel
program stays in political favor long enough to get a book written and
published, and, if the book doesn't hew to both the strategic and the
tactical party line from start to finish, Intel will nix the subisdy,
and McGraw-Hill will pull out. Bang, thud, crash.

(All it took in this case was an Intel P.R. person saying, "We still
support this product, and will continue manufacturing it for years, but
we're not PROMOTING it any more.")

The publishers themselves are just as fickle, but their ulterior motives
are simpler.

So, don't depend on royalties, and write FAST once you get the contract.
Also, it's best to write about things that publishers believe are
becoming trendy. It's a little later for yet another book about the
Internet, but "Creating Web Pages on Your PC" is probably a hot title.
It's best to write something they want to fling onto the presses and
print a jillion copies of.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon * Writer * robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (408) 321-8771
4271 North First Street, #106 * San Jose * California * 95134-1215
"Writing is like plumbing -- even people who know how to do it will
pay top dollar to keep their hands clean."

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