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  • Stephanie Morillo

3 Tips for Developers Writing their First Book

Software developer reading a Java book
Photo: #WOCinTech Chat

So you want to write a book? Or maybe you don't — but you've certainly seen more and more developers in the community publishing their own books, right? Since I published my first eBook last winter, I've seen the number of self-published books boom. Let's talk more about this format!

Books are a great vehicle for diving deep on a topic and having a very clear outcome for the reader. You have to map out clearly where you're taking the reader and why, and you have to articulate what they'll be able to do or learn at the very end of it. Here are some tips I have for anyone who is thinking of writing a book.

Tip #1: Conduct market research

The purpose of market research isn't to dissuade you from writing your book. You'll discover if there are books similar to yours in the market and will help you figure out what makes yours different. When we go into a grocery store, we may find ten brands of milk for sale. But each one uses something distinct to make it stand out from the pack. See if there is a gap in what's available that you can use to your advantage, either as an angle to explore with your book or as a talking point when promoting it.

How to do this: Search engines, browsing the catalogs of tech publishers, searching sites like Gumroad, Product Hunt, and other eCommerce places. Look for topics that are similar to yours and read the descriptions of those books, check out their table of contents, and read reviews. Understand where the similarities are and what is different between those books and yours.

Tip #2 Decide whether or not to self-publish

People who choose to self-publish versus those who decide to go the traditional publishing route want different things. Self-publishing is great for anyone who wants to build and sell digital products, promote their business, and control pricing. Traditional publishing is a great fit for anyone who wants the backing of a reputable publisher supporting their work, anyone who wants to write without the hassle of handling book editing and production, and to get their book in front of audiences unfamiliar with their work. Get clear about what your goals are and don't feel pressured to go one way or another because other people are doing it.

Bonus points: set up a casual conversation with peers who have self-published and peers who have published. Ask them what their goals were, why they went with the route they chose, what the pros and cons are of each track, and how they promoted their book. (Don't know anyone? All good! I talk more about each publishing track in-depth in The Developer's Guide to Book Publishing.)

Tip #3: If you self-publish, hire an editor or two

An editor or two is an absolute must if you're self-publishing. You're creating a product that is meant to be read by others, and the quality needs to reflect the work you put in and the experience users expect to receive after they pay. An editor can do more than fix typos; they can help you with structure and formatting, spot inconsistencies, and make recommendations for things to add and improve. I like hiring two editors and having at least one peer review of my eBooks to ensure the edits and feedback are comprehensive.

How to do this: Ask your network for referrals, or look at freelance marketplaces like Fiverr (affiliate link), Wordy, and Upwork. Read reviews, read what services each platform offers, and look at pricing. Determine your budget ahead of time and filter for editors who meet your budgetary requirements and editing needs.

If you like these tips, pick up your copy of The Developer's Guide to Book Publishing. You'll find advice for finding editors, promoting your book, and conducting market research, and templates to use for each of these and more!


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