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Aug272012

The Next Book

Note: The Next Book was cross-posted at Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows.

Every time I complete writing a book like “Windows 8 Secrets,” I vow that I will never write a book again. And then I do.

This time around, however, I knew I’d write another book. I just realized I wouldn’t be doing it the way I’ve always done: With a publisher using a condensed and hectic schedule that results in an end product that can’t easily be updated and thus never is.

So I’m writing another book. It’s just going to be a different kind of book.

Why

Book writing is not a romantic, fun, or financially lucrative venture. It’s at the extreme end of the lots of work vs. little payoff ratio, the bad end. I smile sadly anytime someone suggests that I’m in this game for the money or, in the case of my most recent book explicitly, “promoting” Windows 8 to sell my book. Folks, wake up. There are individual months this year where the ad revenue on my web site outperformed what I expect to make over the entire lifetime of “Windows 8 Secrets.” I’m not in this for the money. If I was, I’d be broke.

(For whatever its worth, I’m sure some people have done pretty well for themselves writing technology books. I’m not one of them. I have never come out ahead financially, not once, and I never expect to going forward.)

So why write a book?

I’m a writer. And I think I do it well, I think, if only from the standpoint of being able to churn out tons of words fairly effortlessly. Like many of you, probably, I certainly complain enough about my job. But the truth is, I like it. And I’m good at it. (Whether the quality of the writing is any good is of course a matter of some debate. I’ll leave decision that as an exercise for the reader.)  

I’ve also come to understand after almost 20 years of doing this that type of thing I like to write the most is the explanatory, informational stuff: Feature focus articles, tips, and the like. (And not the quickie, me-too blog posts that exemplify the modern web.) And I feel like some of this stuff, wrapped together with some transitionary language, could make a decent book in its own right. My Windows 8 Tips series, for example, or the Outlook.com Tips.

And maybe that will happen. Maybe part of the experimentation that leads to this new book involves binding some previous material together and making it available in various downloadable formats. But while that’s happening, I’d also like to plot out the next book.

What

So what’s the topic?

After a lot of deliberation, I’ve decided to write about Windows Phone 8, creating a sequel of sorts to my 2010 book, Windows Phone Secrets. I say “of sorts” because it’s not a direct sequel—I can’t/won’t use any of the material from that book or my SuperSite articles for the book—but is rather a spiritual sequel, one that covers Windows Phone 8 to the same level of detail as that previous book did for the original version and in roughly the same length.

For now, I think of this book generically as Windows Phone Book, or Windows Phone 8 Book, but I suppose part of the process will involve giving it a name. And that’s where you come in.

How

The big change for this book is going to be the process.

In the past, I’d contact the publishing company, or they’d contact me, and we’d agree that a book would happen. A schedule would occur and be missed, and then would occur a few more times until the actual writing of the book happened at a feverish pace late in the development of the product I was writing about. Money would exchange hands, in small amounts, and at odd times. And then the book would be released—i.e. printed—and after a brief spurt of promotional activity, I wouldn’t hear from the publishing company until the next book.

I’ve had conversations with this company about doing things differently, about adapting to the times and making a book that was dynamic, updatable, and interactive. They mean well, I know they do. But like so many other companies that have been successful doing the same thing, it’s hard for them to adapt. They make eBook versions of the title in various formats. But that’s about it.

I want to do something different.

For this book, I’ll write it as before. I will come up with a vague schedule of sorts that I know I will miss. But this time, I’m going to publish the book as I write it and invite readers to submit feedback. I will incorporate that feedback into the book as it’s written. As Windows Phone 8 changes, potentially, over the course of its development period, I will update the book accordingly. Not just the text itself, but the basic layout or structure of the material as well. I’d like to revisit the way this is done too. Instead of sections and chapters, maybe we have smaller pieces about features or scenarios. Maybe we don’t. I’m sort of making this up as it happens. That is in fact the point.

There will be a broad and public discussion about this book and how it evolves. This will happen at a new web site, Windows Phone Book, where I will begin posting a preliminary table of contents for the book and then individual chapters.

The book will always be free for anyone that wants it. You will be able to download it at any time in its development in whatever state it’s in at that time. I intend to make it available in PDF at least, but over time there will be various eBook formats (Kindle, Nook, Apple, whatever), and native app versions for both Windows Phone and Windows 8. Maybe those versions gets interactive, with videos and so on. We’ll see. Again, I’m making this up.

How will I make money on this book, you ask?

I won’t, at least not directly. I’m giving it away if you want that. In the future, I suspect you’ll be able to buy a printed version through Amazon or whatever at some charge, and I suspect the eBook versions can’t be free, though I’ll see what I can do. But I will be writing about the topics in Windows Phone book here on the SuperSite as the book is written, so I will probably end up doing just fine. What I write for the book will feed into my stuff here.

When

So when will the silliness ensue? I’m reposting this article on Windows Phone Book and see what the initial feedback looks like. Over the next few days, I’ll begin posting some rough ideas about how I see the book structure, and see if that passes muster with folks. And then I’ll being writing it, in a very haphazard way, probably on a sort of feature-by-feature or topic-by-topic basis. I suspect I’ll need to use the Windows Phone 8 emulator in the SDK in the beginning, since I don’t have a device. And that will limit what I can write in the beginning. But I’ll contact Microsoft and see what I can do about getting a device as quickly as possible.

My goal is to come up with something that will excite and satisfy Windows Phone users and enthusiasts. I’d like to engage more with the community and make this more a conversation than a one-way dictation. I would like to reward people for contributing, though I honestly don’t know how or even if that is possible. But I have to start somewhere.

I love Windows Phone. I look forward to writing an awesome book about Windows Phone 8. And this time, I hope to do it with your help.

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Reader Comments (89)

Are you a nutter?

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRafael Rivera

LOL. :)

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Thurrott

Congrats Paul! I think this will be a GREAT exercise and I can't wait to participate.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTravis Lowdermilk

I think it's a great idea Paul, if the world of technology "books" are going to work in the future people are going to have to go this route. Has to be dynamic or it's pointless.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJerry

Hello Paul!

Nothing else to say than "this is brilliant"! Sometimes I wonder if the book industry will adapt to the internet quicker than the music industry. We had a lot of improvements, but this is exactly what we are still missing, Ideas like yours, Charles Petzold and some others.
I really love books, paper, Reading my magazines, but the tablets changed the way we consume information and I just love not having to carry 5000 pages on each trip.
Also, the velocity of updates and information in our área makes a book sometimes a pain for the author and for the reader, who is Always spending good Money on something outdated.

I will be following this Project closely and maybe trying to replicate parts of it in here. Maybe you and other good authors can pavê the way for a new future.

Thank you and , again, amazing idea!!
Welcome, windows phone 8!!

It's a bold plan. Are you betting the farm on it? :)

Great idea, and I look forward to seeing how this plays out...

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy McCliment

This is a a great idea, hope it takes off. Maybe you could enlist some help from Patricia Harkins-Bradley. <>

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGregory House

1st off I'd like to say you have one reader lined up. Will you incorporate some kind of way for people to get notifications when the next piece is ready? Also will Rafeal be contributing? His nutter remark seems to indicate he won't but that's a kneejerk reaction maybe <grin>

Anyhow looking forward and best of luck with the schedule ;)

Regards

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRalf Hermsen

I think this is a great idea. I found your site when I was doing WP7 research and I've been visiting it everyday, multiple times a day since then. I enjoy your podcasts as well and can't help but be excited about the prospect of your new idea. It's odd that you mention WP8 now because I was just starting to look for WP8 info (as my contract is almost up) and I see you tweeting about the new book. Looks like I got a new site to pin in Windows 8 ;)

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThundr

Sign me up! More than happy to contribute from the "noob" perspective.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoel

Seems like a great idea to me. I look forward to reading it.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob Keiser

Good Luck. Looking forward to reading about Win Phone 8

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbarry

I applaud your experiment, and look forward to participating! Publishing HAS to change.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Gant

Looking forward to this, I hope to make the switch to windows phone in November.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFred

I would be more than happy to help with the book.
BTW: this site captcha proved that I'm not human :) I could read 1 of 5

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPetr

Really exciting news for Windows Phone fans. I would be glad to offer any kind of help, especially with making Windows 8/Windows Phone apps for the book.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonas

Paul,
I applaud you for doing this again and a thumbs up for getting everyone involved. I look for to it and my future windows phone 8

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSKBorders

I was hoping that you might do just this. I'm looking forward to the process and the information that will be shared. The very best of Luck!!

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Paul,

Thank you in advance for all the hard work that will go into the new book. I look forward to being part of the process.

Take Care,
Leo

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeo Conway

This is very interesting Paul and I look forward to helping with feedback and such.

If you went with Amazon can the book be updated on the fly and updates are sent to the readers like an app on Windows Phone? Or it doesn't work that way? I ask because it would be interesting if as you write (or re-write) a chapter or two, if you can upload it to Amazon and then the reader when he/she opens the book will see new chapters that have appeared or have been tweaked. A live book in a way. I'm not sure how ebooks work though, I never heard of an ebook getting constant updates and revisions.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHellcatM

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