Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Tale of Two Books

I'm finally getting around to pulling my thoughts on publishing back toward Ruby. I've got a pair of short case studies about publishers dealing with Ruby books that I'd like to share with you. I think it helps clarify some of the differences that I see between the kinds of publishers I've been describing.

The following is a true story, names have been changed or withheld to protect the participants.

My friend, Tom, and I have been approached by two different publishers to look at or work on books. In both cases, the publishers knew that the books were flawed, but thought that they were recoverable (given enough work).

The first publisher is a Mom & Pop Publisher. They came to us and were pretty up front about their concerns, they asked us to read the existing draft and get back to them. Both Tom and I encouraged them to either drop or rewrite the book, there were too many problems to overcome (it was unfocused, repetitive, and got any number of facts wrong). I don't know that publisher number one has followed our advice, but it seems like they might have.

The second publisher was a Big-Box Publisher, they approached me to become the technical editor on the book. I knew I wouldn't have time to do a good job at it, so I recommended they talk to Tom. He took on the job, and began to see problems very quickly. The author was getting basic stuff wrong. The further Tom got, the more concerned he was but on raising his concerns to the editors at publisher number two, he found them more interested in finishing the book quickly than addressing the deep flaws (or killing the book).

Now, I'm not trying to say that Tom and I have all the right answers, but I think these two scenarios illustrate the difference between the Big-Box and Mom & Pop publishers. The big guys think of themselves as providers to the community, they know better. The Mom & Pops recognize that they need to listen to the community, especially when the community is complaining.

I hope both these publishers succeed in getting into the Ruby community, but I hope that it's not on the backs of these two books. I think these books would hurt them much more than being in the community will help them.

This post is part of a collection of articles about Publishing, Growing Markets, and Books.

1 comment:

R. said...

Just found your blog. Went through the archive and am reading all of the ruby posts. Good stuff. I'm just learning ruby (my first language). More or less as a hobby, though I do have some business ideas I'd like to put it to.

Anyhow. Curious if either of these got published and what you think of the results.