Self publishing “Secrets of Analysis"

After many years, Ila and I have finally published “Secrets of Analysis”. In the end, we decided to go the self publishing route, and publish the book (at least initially) on the Apple iBook Store for iPad. In fact, the book is designed specifically to be read on an iPad (although it also works just fine on a Mac), and it looks great!

The whole process of publishing this book has left us quite disillusioned with conventional publishers. We originally had a contract with Wiley, and we delivered a first draft on time. Then they asked for a very significant change  that pushed the publishing back by a year. When we delivered the text, our commissioning editor told us that Wiley had undergone a reorganisation and was no longer interested in publishing this sort of book. Telling us sooner, rather than just waiting until we submitted, seemed to be entirely beyond him. So we wrote for an extra year, for at least 6 months of which, completely unbeknown to us, we had no contract. Ironically, Ila and I ultimately decided that the change was detrimental, so a lot of that work went into the wastebasket.

We tried a few other publishers, but because the book is very difficult to categorise, none would publish it despite the fact that several thought it was important. Finding a commissioning editor with vision and imagination is very hard when the general consensus is that the professional publishing market is moribund. 

Because we tend to write the books we need, or that we want to read, we tend to finish a text, and then try to find a publisher for it. Publishers simply don’t want to work like this. They want an idea, a proposal, a sample chapter etc. etc. You would think that a finished text that just needed a review, some editorial changes and polishing would be a gift to them, but they are not interested. It just doesn’t fit into their workflows and they are not agile enough to accommodate a different approach.

So here we are, publishing it ourselves on iBooks. In many ways, this is actually the optimum outcome for us, because we keep control of all of our intellectual property, and because we can publish a book that is exactly as radical and iconoclastic as we desire, without any ”watering down” by an editor who (often but not always) knows very little of what we are actually trying to achieve.

We have had quite a lot of success with self publishing with Introduction to BPMN2, which is (as far as we know) the first interactive modeling book, and with Interactive Computational Geometry”, which is live Mathematica (sorry - I should really say, “Wolfram Language”) code published as a CDF (Computational Document Format). 

Publishing isn’t a problem for us. Getting paid for our work is. Secrets took several man-years to write, and we put everything we know (well - almost everything) into it. We are unlikely to ever get any reasonable recompense for this work even at minimum wage levels. Do we care? Yes - we care a bit - because we both believe that if authors like us can’t get a reasonable return, then fewer and fewer books like “Secrets" will ever be published. For us, the time consuming business of earning a living means that we will probably never be able to write another Secrets.

The big problem Ila and I face is marketing. Neither of us have any training in, or inclination towards, this darkest of dark arts. As such we sell very few copies of our self published books. To give you some idea, our “Introduction to BPMN2” training course has had well over 100,000 views on Slideshare (putting us in Slideshares top 5%), but the book itself has only sold in the hundreds. Most of our books have associated training courses, and we give these away free to over a hundred Universities world-wide as our way of contributing something back to the software development community. This has been advantageous to us because these courses have driven sales of our print books very well, but of our eBooks - not so much. We’re not sure why this is. 

Nowadays, everyone wants, “free”, and the thought of actually paying someone for the hard work they have put into a book seems very far from many peoples thoughts (our readers excepted). This is a shame.

© Clear View Training 2012