One of the best books I’ve read in the last while was this book by Roger Sanders that is about how to write and publish articles and books. Roger has done very well in his career by writing technical books and articles and this book is his crowning achievement that teaches others how to do what he does. Well…. I should say… to try to do what he does. I wish everyone was able to write like Roger, including myself!
You can purchase the full book from many bookstores, including amazon: From Idea to Print: How to Write a Technical Book or Article and Get It Published.
To make it more convenient for you to benefit from this book, the publisher MC Press has decided to sell each chapter individually, in electronic format. Although I enjoyed the entire book, there are individual chapters I’d recommend to specific people. Here are the chapters along with descriptions as to why you’d want to read it.
Chapter 1, "Before You Begin," provides some opening thoughts of the task of writing and discusses tips and techniques you can use to stay on task once you decide to embark on the journey to become a published author. Learn how Roger got into writing and know that you don’t have to have a degree in writing. You just need to write, revise, and write more!
Chapter 2, "First Steps – Technical Articles," introduces the process for writing a technical article -- how to find a publication that might be interested your work, how to construct a query letter, how and when to follow up, and advice on what to do if your article idea is rejected. I’m now managing the intake of IM articles for developerWorks. Great advice here if you want your article published!
Chapter 3, "First Steps – Technical Books," introduces you to the initial steps that get you to the point at which a publisher extends you an offer to print and sell your book. It covers how to locate a publisher, how to write a book proposal, how to compose a query letter, how to respond to requests for your proposal, when and how to follow up, how to handle rejection, and what to take into consideration if you decide to use a literary agent.
Chapter 4, "The Publishing Agreement, the Author Questionnaire, and Working with an Editor," is designed to help you understand the terminology s found in most publishing agreements, to show you the questions you're likely to encounter on an author questionnaire, and to provide some basic guidelines to help you build a strong working relationship with an editor.
The chapter examines the basic structure of a typical publishing agreement and introduces the terms and conditions commonly found in this important document. It describes the author questionnaire and shows you the types of information you might be expected to provide if you're asked to complete and return one to your publisher. The chapter concludes with a discussion on things you can do when working with an editor to ensure that, together, the two of you will create an article or book that's the best that it can possibly be.
Chapter 5, "Developing the First Draft," introduce you to the process of writing a first draft and provides tips that will make the writing effort easier. It shows you how to develop a working outline, how to create a strong opening, and how use headings and subheadings appropriately. The chapter also provides recommendations on how to develop a clear and concise manuscript, how to find your voice and set the proper tone, how to use transitions effectively, and how to craft a strong closing. It concludes with a brief discussion on using publisher templates.
Chapter 6, "Using Tables, Artwork, and Sidebars," provides guidelines for creating and using tables, artwork, and sidebars. It begins by telling you what tables are and how they should be created and referenced. Then, it introduces the types of artwork often found in technical articles and books. It shows you how to create line drawings, screenshots, photographs, and text figures that can be easily reproduced without sacrificing quality. It continues with an overview of sidebars and concludes by describing how and when sidebars are typically employed.
Chapter 7, "Staying Out of Trouble," provides tips on how to avoid trouble whenever you write anything for publication. It explains how to write bias-free text and how to avoid making libelous statements, plagiarizing others, and infringing on copyright.
The chapter begins by explaining what bias-free text is and continues by providing some guidelines you can follow to ensure your writing treats all of your readers equally. Then it provides definitions for terms like defamation, libel, and slander, and it shows you how to avoid making statements in your writing that could be considered libelous. This is followed by a discussion of plagiarism and how to avoid it. Then, in-depth information on copyrights, copyright law, the public domain, the “fair use” doctrine, and how to acquire permission to use copyrighted material is provided. Some tips on how to avoid copyright infringement are offered. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion on self-plagiarism and when it is appropriate to reuse your material.
Chapter 8, "Revising for Perfection," is designed to help you understand what revision actually is and to provide some basic guidelines on how to revise a manuscript and polish your writing. It begins by telling you why revision is important and continues with some suggestions on how to turn a first draft into a second draft, a second draft into a third, a third into a fourth, and so on until you have a near-final draft that you are satisfied with. Then, it shows you how to polish your prose so that every sentence is written in the most powerful way possible. It continues by offering recommendations on how to develop and analyze the final draft, and it concludes with a discussion on revising as you write and on finding a way to revise that works best for you.
This is a very important chapter and something that will distinguish a good author from a not-so-good author. Rule of thumb: read and revise your writing so much that you are completely sick of it. If you’re not sick of it yet, you haven’t reviewed and revised enough yet!
Chapter 9, "Soliciting Feedback," shows you how to solicit feedback from others and provides suggestions on how to incorporate reviewer feedback into your work. It begins by telling you why feedback is important and continues with suggestions on how to find reviewers who will carefully critique your work and make recommendations on ways you can improve it. Then, it offers advice on when and how to ask others for feedback, and it provides suggestions on what to do with any feedback you receive Finally, it discusses how to deal with your feelings if you receive feedback that's less than favorable, and it concludes with some recommendations on how to reward those who offered their services to help you improve your writing.
Chapter 10, "Last Steps," introduces the elements that most publishers will expect you to supply as part of your “completed manuscript,” provides guidelines for reviewing your material as it moves through the publication process, and gives you some ideas on how to promote your work after it is published.
The chapter begins by showing you how to prepare a byline and a credit line for an article, as well as the elements that make up the front matter and back matter of a book. Then, it offers some suggestions on how to obtain endorsements and testimonials—important items that can convince others to read your work. It continues by providing some basic guidelines for manuscript submission and recommendations for reviewing copy edits and page proofs. It concludes with a discussion on how to handle mistakes found after printing and offers suggestions on how to promote your finished article or book.
See also my blog entry Interested in Writing