Uploading the Head First C# samples yesterday together with some of the blog posts I’ve read recently confirmed that there are more than one way to put out a book and get it to sell. Now Chris Sells got it right yesterday when pointed out that if you want a book to do really well it either has to be first to the market or the best of the bunch, but if your book is neither there are some things to think about.
Format #1: Printed Matter
Who is publishing it? An established publisher, a print on demand publisher, or are you self publishing? Each has its own pros and cons but here are the key ones. House style: will their house style clash with your prose? Equally, can the publisher deal with the layout you want and can you deal with theirs? Return vs risk. Self-publishing brings the greatest profit but has the greatest risk. Working with a publisher reverses that.
Format #2: e-Books
e-Books don’t incur the costs of printed matter but are harder to quantify and simply to find without a good publicist as well. Some believe this format will die. Nevertheless some have found that e-Books work as good forward press for the printed version. Cory Doctorow for example has made a CC-licensed version of his two novels available in advance of the printed thing. There’s no reason to suspect his sales have been hurt either. Wil Wheaton has essentially used his blog as the basis of one of his books and they have gained in popularity.
Format #3 : Wiki
Putting an live and editable version of your book online may seem counterintuitive but in the world of technology techniques evolve on a regular basis. Why let your work outdate itself if it doesn't have to. A second edition may evolve before you eyes with a good enough will from those who read it. Keith Brown has put his new security book up as a wiki. it shall be interesting to see how it evolves.
As one final note, these formats are neither exclusive nor exhaustive. Perhaps HTML Help is more your style, or something else? Just bear in mind that however you choose to release your book, writing in a flexible format such as docbook, MAML or your own XML grammar could be useful. A word processor is not the be all and end all of your writing requirements.