Frequently Asked Questions
You betcha! I've published almost all my books with them and waited a bit to publish this one. I have contracts, have been assigned a great editor who understands dynamic languages, and I'm set up in the continuous publishing system. The cover art you see was produced by the O'Reilly artists for this Kickstarter.Last updated:
It's a Hamadryas butterfly, also known as the "Cracker" butterfly for the sounds it makes. This is a mock-up cover provided by O'Reilly for this campaign.Last updated:
I will get royalties for the books that sell, but book sales aren't what they used to be. Not only that, the market is much more fragmented in the past because people have so many choices of technologies (that's a good thing!). The kickstarter reduces the publishers risk. I get to work with O'Reilly Media and their great process and quality control without them potentially losing a bunch of money.
Also, I'm offering lots of real services at a discount. This is a book I want to write, and I'm sacrificing high-priced work at normal rates to do it. If I know I have some initial money to get going, I can focus on the book instead of finding new business.Last updated:
I strongly prefer to work within the Kickstarter system because they have tools to track the delivery of all of the rewards. If that absolutely does not work for you, contact me directly to tell me how you'd like to pay and which reward you'd like. I'll try to accommodate anything reasonable. But, if you can work through Kickstarter, I'd have fewer distractions for the writing!Last updated:
I once heard a podcast from a movie actor in a big Hollywood production. She said that everyone thinks she's rolling in money because she was in a movie. Just ain't so. And, it's the same way with books.
My advice to prospective authors is "You can't make money writing a book, but you can make money writing ten books." If you only ever want to write one book, plan on doing it completely free. You might be the one-and-done sort who can give up a couple years like that. I'm doing this as a career though. You might like the Quora question "How rich is the average author of an O'Reilly book?": https://www.quora.com/How-rich-is-the-average-author-of-an-OReilly-book. Jennifer Laughran has a good breakdown in the nontechnical book discussion in "REAL TALK: $ix Figure Book Deal$" http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2015/02/real-talk-ix-figure-book-deal.html
I've never taken an advance on a book. That's really just shifting future royalties into the present. It's also risky for the publisher, so they would think about the risk and adjust the advance amount. Were I to take an advance, O'Reilly would most likely not offer me enough to cover a month of living expenses. Remember, the government takes a huge chunk of that. It's not that they are cheap, but they need their money to work on all of the other great books too.
From the time I start writing, my first royalty check is probably a year or more away. I write the book and when I'm done I give it to the publisher. The publisher turns it into something pretty, indexes it, arranges to have it printed and distributed, and all that good stuff. That takes about three more months. Then, once it's out there, the money doesn't start following for a couple of months. And you thought 90-day invoicing was cruel!
So, publishers don't really pay for books. They give you future royalties that you then have to "earn out". That means the actual royalties you are due first pay down the advance. It's only after the author "pays back" the advance that more money starts coming in. For many authors, they never see any more money.
This doesn't mean the publisher lost money. Authors tend to get between 7 and 15% of the revenue of a book (and, likely, the higher your percentage the less sales. They need the higher percentage to get you to work with them). That percentage is against actual money, not the fake price that we all pretend people pay when they actually buy it at "30% off" on Amazon. The rest of the money pays the publisher's expenses. They might make enough off the other 90% that they come out ahead even if the book doesn't earn out. I have no problem with O'Reilly making money. I paid about $50 for Perl books in the middle 90s (they books were pink!) and I've made a living off Perl ever since.
I suggested this funding method to O'Reilly. Part of the proposal to a publisher (O'Reilly's Work with Us page: http://www.oreilly.com/work-with-us.html) is a cursory analysis of the market, the competition, and the author promotion of the book. I wanted to try something different, because hey, aren't programmers like that? I'm sure O'Reilly would have put me under contract for this book without this, but then I'd have to work some months with no new income to make it happen.Last updated:
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