Friday, March 26, 2010

Erlang Factory: Martin Logan, Eric Merritt, Richard Carlson: Writing a Technical Book

Where to start

Writing a technical book is at least as hard as you think it is, porbably even more. The main prerequisite is believing you have something important and worth saying. After that the next thing to do is to choose a medium. In this case a publisher. They chose manning.

The first step is writing a proposal. It is 9 pages long. Involves having a competitive analysis to prove book will do well. Also, propose a table of contents.

Gathering co-authors is good, especially to establish credibility. Then begin writing. Focus more on the writing than on the tools you will use to write the book. Make sure to follow publishers guidelines. Getting the ideas on paper is most important, then continue to do revisions and refactoring.

1/3 Review

This is where you meet your readers and get feedback. Make sure to incorporate it and rewrite sections that need to be fixed. At this time you need to start to solidify the overall structure and ideology of the book. You need to have an overall story, so the chapters flow well together.

This is the time where your social life becomes a distant reality.


It is important to keep productivity up and avoid obstructions. Treat the book as if it were a job. Schedule milestones and stick to the deadlines. Try to be consistent about writing often. Used dropbox as a way of sharing the book which was a binary blob.

2/3 Review

Still had lots of negative reviews. Main complaints were inconsistent voice and loose terminology. Needed to choose an audience(chose intermediates) and began another major rewrite.

Final Review

Finally had some positive response. Main responses were good raw material, nice story line, well targeted, and easier to follow. But, you are not done, not even anywhere close.

Next Steps

Need to start polishing book. Did cross-editing where they edited each others chapters instead of their own. Even at this point, don't be afraid to rewrite.


This where you start indexing, final edits, technical editing, production editing, and printing. With Manning, they were required to create index on their own manually.

OTP Challenges

Terminology is ambiguous and in some cases non-existant. There are implicit standards and conventions. The documentation was incomplete.


Hoping to launch book in Summer 2010.

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