Writing a technical book is a perfect way to prove your knowledge, improve your skills, and gain more reputation and popularity in your expertise. After writing 3 technical books, I have decided to share my experience so that those who are planning to get in front of a word processor can have a head start.
I will tell you 7 ways to fail in your book project. Reaching the light at the end of the tunnel and having your book published depends on not falling into these traps.
1. Tell everybody that you are writing a book
This is one of the biggest mistakes that many beginners make. Starting a book project is elating; I agree. However, I recommend you to keep it quiet. Even if you are carried away by this project, do not tell anybody until you send the first draft to your publisher.
You may ask why? Isn’t it good to create some excitement among friends and colleagues so that sales go well once it is published? Writing a book is a long process, and the most important thing is motivation. The moment you start bragging about your book project, the moment people will start criticizing you. Things especially skeptic people may say that affects your motivation negatively include:
- “You won’t make enough money by writing a technical book.”
- “The topic you choose is not popular” or “It will lose popularity.”
- “Spend your time with your family. It’s more important.”
- “You don’t have enough knowledge to write a book about that topic.”
In order to avoid these and many other possible critics, keep your book project as a secret. The only exception to this is that a friend to review your book as it builds up. It’s very helpful to have somebody with a similar knowledge to review what you have written so far. Make sure that he/she doesn’t tell anybody about your book project.
2. Directly jump into writing the first page
Break down the topic into small pieces. Build the draft index, document the titles and subtitles. Know the road map before starting the first page. Even though writing the first page is the hardest part of the project, you should have a big picture before it. Otherwise, you will end up wasting time by repeating yourself in different sections.
3. Give weeks of break
Don’t! Technical subjects get obsolete very fast. The faster you finish your book, the more people you help and the more sales you get.
The key to finishing your book is to work on it relentlessly. It’s really hard to continue writing your book after coming back a few weeks of break. It requires a lot of motivation to warm up again and write new pages. Don’t stop until you finish it even though it takes 3–5 months of continuous hard work. Put yourself in a virtual camp. It will worth it.
4. Do it for money
Do it for helping people and improving your skills, not for money. If money is your main motivator, you will fail in your project once you realize that you won’t make much money out of it (unless you are Dan Brown).
5. Dream about being a New York Times best-seller
You won’t be. Be honest with yourself. I haven’t seen any purely technical book that gets a spot in best-sellers list. Setting your expectations realistically will help you in keeping your motivation and avoiding perfectionism which is one of your enemies in your book project.
6. Do not start a new section if the previous one is not finely honed
Do not hesitate to start a new section even though you have some missing points in the previous one. You will have plenty of time to review your sections after having a first draft. Your publisher will also go through them. Try to finish about 90% of the sections and try to finish all sections quickly. You can later come back and fill the small gaps.
7. Find a publisher after finishing the book
Find a publisher before starting your book; it will give you a peace of mind. Even though publishers rarely take the first-timer authors seriously, it’s best to try.