RE: [midatlanticretro] Eliza and Evan?
It’s all different, actually. For all three of my books that were given contracts, I had to write a proposal, which was then pitched by my literary agent. I/we were able to get away with not having ANY of it written and still sell the idea(s). So the three to four months development time given on the last two books (Vintage Games and Wii Fitness for Dummies) required 100% of everything – writing, research, images, etc. – to be completed within that window. There was no head start. In fact, I’d say these days it’s almost a disadvantage to write much of anything in advance outside of a sample chapter, and even that you’d want a backup plan to use it (e.g., sell it as an article) if you never sell the larger concept. The only way I’d ever write anything in advance is with the idea that if outside of the extraordinarily lucky chance I was able to sell it as-is, I’d then pursue self publishing, which is both more practical and less of a stigma today than it’s ever been before. Of course the primary goal is typically to go the traditional publishing route, but as I’ve said, from first-hand experience it’s getter more and more difficult because the market for tech books is weaker than ever, and it’s very difficult to find someone on the publisher side to champion a niche product that may sell 3,000 or so copies unless you’re very, very lucky.
I also agree that it’s super rare that something pitched will be accepted as-is, so that’s another good reason not to write in advance unless you have a backup plan. On the publisher side they have their own ideas of what will and will not sell and you often have to bend your own vision to accommodate them, sometimes dramatically. Again, speaking from direct experience here dealing with three different publishers (O’Reilly, Elsevier, Wiley)…
It’s also a good point that you can’t count on the publisher for much of anything in regards to error catching or the fixing of grammar or what have you. There have been situations even where errors will be introduced. Heck, there was even one book (Wii Fitness for Dummies), where we didn’t even get to see a final proof. You’re also at the mercy of how good your tech reviewer is, which is often why publishers will ask the author to recommend someone. The more experienced you get, the more you come to rely on your own resources to make sure everything is as good as it can be. It’s impossible to make something completely error free, but it’s certainly up to the author to take a lot of the burden. Finally, you can’t even count on them to effectively promote your book. So, yeah, those are additional reasons why self publishing is not such a bad idea these days.
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
Authored Books: http://www.armchairarcade.com/books
I'll agree with Bill on this one; in the end, you really need to have a finished product (or almost finished) before you approach a publisher. I was incredibly lucky with my book; 1) I was approached by the publisher to write it (not the other way around) and 2) they accepted just an outline as a proposal. The downside was that it had to be peer reviewed by five people on three continents! (thank goodness one of my referees moved to Australia!). In the end, I was really under the gun to finish it, making the final manuscript far more sloppy than I should have allowed.
Having learned my lesson for the first go-around, I'm now getting *far* more detailed notes and sample texts done before I respond to their current request. I promised to respond by Christmas - a month later is more likely. Evan, you're doing the right thing by getting the bulk of the work done ahead of time. You'll always be doing updates and tweaking the text - I guess that's life. One of the nice things about publishing it yourself (if you take that route) is that you can make those changes rather easily. I'm going to have a heck of a time getting Springer to make changes to fix typos and such. In the end, they will agree, but at the real cost of loosing a bit of credibility.....
Just my USD $0.02.
All the best,