On Friday I dropped into a bank to deposit a royalty cheque. The bank teller was quite interested to hear that I am an author and that I help others publish books. Even though I told her that I have a very narrow field: technical books about DB2, she still wanted my card and has followed up with a few questions about how to get started.
She's from Croatia and would like to write a travel book for those traveling there. I have no idea as to where to start for this type of book, but I gave her the same advice that I would give to anyone writing any book. Here is what I would say for someone wanting to write a technical book:
1) Search on amazon to see what books are available. Read the TOC or Index if you can and see if it would be different than the book you have in mind. For technical books, also check to see if there a redbook that covers the topic.
2) Read the comments from the readers to see what people like or dislike about the various books. Use this information to help you decide on what you want to focus on.
3) Look into buying a book about writing a book. I found several on amazon for writing travel books, but here's what I'd suggest for technical books:
Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook for Writers and Editors (2nd Edition)
4) Consider checking out blogs on the topic you are interested in. Do the blogs exist? Are you considered an expert or knowledgeable in the area? Would you start your own blog? Apparently some people are putting their draft chapters in blogs to be reviewed and critiqued before the material is finalized and published.
5) Consider writing an article to be published in a magazine or online. Quite often you will be paid for the content. This will help you make a name for yourself in the topic area.
6) Answer the following questions, as these are likely the questions a publisher will ask you to determine if they want to take the risk on your book:
1. Working Title:
2. Brief Description: In one or two paragraphs, describe the work, its purpose, rationale, and approach.
3. Outstanding Features: Briefly list what you consider to be the three (or more) outstanding, distinctive or unique features of the work and why.
a. Identify the intended target audience.
b. At what level is the book targeted (beginner, intermediate, advanced)?
c. Is it primarily descriptive or qualitative, elementary or rigorous, etc.?
d. Estimate the size of the target audience and ways to verify the estimate.
e. Identify some of the obstacles faced by this target audience when it comes to mastering the proposed topic.
5. Status of the Book:
a. What portion of the material is now complete?
b. When do you expect to have a complete manuscript?
c. If chapters are not available now for review, when will they be ready to submit?
d. How many and what type of figures (e.g. drawings, half-tones, charts, photos, etc.) do you plan?
e. If producing the material electronically, what hardware, operating system, software, macros, etc. will you be using?
6. Competition: Consider the existing books in this field and discuss their strengths and weaknesses individually and specifically. This material is written for reviewers and not for publication, so please be as frank as possible.
a. Identify competing titles currently available, noting the author, title, publisher, price, page count, and year. Compare each to your proposed work, noting the similarities as well as the differences.
b. Indicate why the work you propose to deliver is unique. Compare and contrast your credentials to the credentials of the authors of the other books.
c. If there are no books on this subject, explain why you believe there still is market interest.
Also visit http://www.ibm.com/ibmpress for a proposal template that you can download as well as answers to frequently asked questions.
Don't get scared off by the number of steps listed above! Writing a book is very possible and the thing you need most is passion for the topic!