3.1. The Author

category: Chapter Section
by Alexis Leon

The author of the book is the most important person in the creation of the book. But becoming an author is not easy. In fact, it is one of the very difficult tasks. It is tougher than getting a job; it is more difficult than teaching kids; it is tougher than selling a product; it is harder than making a presentation.

You will become an author only after you get your book published. For getting your book published, first you will have to convince a publisher or an acquisitions editor at some publishing house that your idea is worth their time, effort, and money. You will have to make them believe that your manuscript or idea, once published will at least recover the money they have invested in the project.

If you can convince the publisher or acquisitions editor that your idea will make a bestseller, then you have more options. If you are a published author with a list of bestsellers, your job is easier and you have got more bargaining power.

In this aspect, in convincing that you have a bestseller, the author of a technical book has an advantage over the author of a fictional work (for example, a novel). In your case, you can leverage your claim with your knowledge and standing in the technical community. You can find out the competing books and do a comparison and explain how your book is different and superior. Your educational qualifications, your knowledge, your work experience, and your professional affiliations will help you in winning your case.

But for a writer who has completed his first novel, neither his educational qualifications nor his work experience is going to help him. He has to persuade the publisher by his manuscript. He cannot compare his work with competing books as in the case of fiction each book is unique. Good books get rejected while mediocre ones get accepted. Getting you fictional work published involves a lot of luck, timing and meeting the right people. But the rewards are also significantly better. Once the novel makes into the bestseller list, then the money he earns and the publicity he gets is overwhelming.

Coming back to technical books, the money is not bad if not great, you will get publicity, but not in the scale of a fiction writer. Doug Lowe has written more than 45 books on various computer-related topics. Jerry Weinberg has written more than 22 exceptional books on computer programming, programmer productivity, quality assurance and consulting. But none of them come anywhere near Elizabeth Gilbert [1] who must have made more money and who is definitively more famous with just 5 books among which only one is a major bestseller. Steig Larsson [2] who has published just 3 books (all after his untimely death) is more popular and his books have made more money than either Lowe or Weinberg.

Why is this? Why are writers of fiction more famous? The answer lies in the size of the target audience. If you compare the number of people who read legal thrillers with the number of people who read books on software quality you will realize why. Writers of fiction and non-fiction (memoirs, travelogues, etc.) enjoy have massive markets, while technical writers have a limited audience.

But only a fraction of the thousands of fiction writers becomes successful and famous. Many fail to even publish one book. And of those who have succeeded publishing their first not many publishes more, especially if the first one failed. So the life of the non-technical writer is more challenging, adventurous and risky. So it is only fair that the successful ones get rewarded handsomely and become world famous.

So, what is there for the technical author or writer of technical books? Is he wasting his time? Of course not; he also gets paid; he also becomes famous. But his earnings are far less and his fame is limited to his area of specialization. But he still have a well-paying job; he will get promoted; he will become a subject expert; he will gain the respect of his peers; he will get invitations for presentations and speeches at various seminars and exhibitions; he can go on a lecture tour where he can meet people and dine and stay in style. This too is exciting and the bonus is that you still get to keep your privacy!

You have seen the advantages and benefits of becoming an author. So if you have expertise in a technical subject and you feel that you can contribute to the existing body of knowledge, then you should seriously think about writing a book. If you love your subject, like writing, and can explain the highly technical subjects with real-world examples, anecdotes, and figures, then do give a shot at writing the book.

To all the non-technical writers: we are aware of your struggle, the effort you make, the nights you stay awake to bring us stories, memoirs, travelogues and so on, to entertain and enthrall us; we certainly appreciate your effort and wish you the success and fame that you rightly deserve.


[1] Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir EAT PRAY LOVE, published in 2006, chronicled her journey alone around the world, looking for solace after a difficult divorce. The book was an international bestseller, translated into over thirty languages, with over 7 million copies sold worldwide, and a movie version in the making, starring Julia Roberts. The book became so popular that, in 2008, Time Magazine named Elizabeth as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

[2] Prior to his sudden death of a heart attack in November 2004 he finished three detective novels in his trilogy “The Millennium-series” which were published posthumously. Altogether, his trilogy has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide (summer of 2009), and he was the second bestselling author in the world 2008.

[Note: This is the first draft of the book. I would require your comments, suggestions and feedback to make the book more useful, interesting, and as error free as possible. Please send your comments, suggestions and feedback to me.]



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