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.
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.
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.
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.
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.