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Do You Really Want to Write that Book?

It’s amazing how interesting questions come in batches: within 24 hours two friends asked me what I think about writing books. Here’s a summary of my replies (as always, full of opinions and heavily biased), and if you’re a fellow book author with strong opinions, please leave them in the comments.

It’s not about money

Why would you want to write a book? If you think you’ll earn a lot of money, think twice… unless you plan to write a science fiction bestseller, Swift-for-Dummies, or 50 Shades of Something.

First, you have no idea how long it takes to write a technical book unless you already wrote one. I probably invested months of my time into writing each one of my books

Next, technical books focused on niche markets don’t sell well, and your royalties are based on book sales. Obviously the revenues depend on the topic - the more popular a topic is, the more copies sold, the more revenues you get.

To make matters worse, core networking is not exactly a popular topic (compared to Swift Programming or Introduction to IPv6), but you’ll probably invest more time and effort into writing a book about it.

Short summary: If you’re in it for the money, you can probably find a better use of your time (or maybe it’s time to switch jobs).

Other reasons

So maybe you want to do it for exposure? Well, do you really need additional exposure, and are there better ways of getting it?

For example, when you’re a guest star of a reasonably-popular podcast, you get thousands of downloads for a few hours of work. If you start blogging, it’s not that hard to get to hundreds of views per blog post (or more if you join an established platform), yet again for a few hours (at most) of work per blog post.

Or maybe you want to help fellow engineers? Is the time spent writing a formal book worth it or would you make a bigger impact by talking at Interop, RIPE or NANOG, writing blog posts…

Finally, is writing a book on your bucket list? In that case, go for it ;)… and I have to admit seeing your name on a (printed) book cover does feel nice.

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