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    Is writing/publishing your main source of income?

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      Unfortunately no, but I’ve treated it as a hobby up until this year. You know how people keep saying: “I want to be a writer” but never take it seriously? Well, that was me. I did write six books, and participated in two fiction anthologies, and it was the most fun experience for me. It is what I actually enjoy doing. Still, I’ve kept being a software developer for the past twenty years. I’m still working with software development as my main source of income, but I’m slowly ramping my book publishing with the goal to eventually becoming just a writer. There is a long road ahead of me.

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      I write technical documents in sphinx. What would you are the relative benefits of using Scrivener instead?

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        Not OP, but I have used Scrivener for years, though for fiction. Here’s what I like about it, which may or may not actually be things you care about:

        1. Long documents are broken up into smaller chunks (called scrivenings), with essentially arbitrary levels of nesting. You can select multiple of these and then have the main document area show all of those chunks together.
        2. It has a powerful “compile” feature that can take your book and produce ready-to-go ebook and print formats (or Word, if you need to get the doc into someone else’s hands)
        3. If you’re working on the kind of thing where you’d want to change the flow of the document, there’s a corkboard view that lets you move the individual scrivenings around
        4. Store notes that are not part of the final doc in the same Scrivener doc, just in a separate folder within it. All neatly accessible in the UI.
        5. Each scrivening can have its own metadata, tracking its status (first draft, second draft, final draft, etc.), or with notes specific to it.
        6. Can sync with iOS for writing/updating on the go (I sometimes prefer to use my iPad for this)
        7. Word count targets are nice when you’re trying to get a project done

        I’m sure I’m leaving a lot of features out. This is one of those tools that I think will suit some people’s brains and not others. Kind of like todo list apps.

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          I never used sphinx so I can’t comment on it, but @dangoor comment is spot on. I think that Scrivener is beneficial for those who are writing longer works as they can keep research, notes, links, and the content all in one place. It feels like a companion or an assistant, always ready to help you write your book.

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          I’ll be keeping an eye on this thread. Feel welcome to ask me anything.

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            Hey, nice post. I skimmed through it and I liked what I read. Appreciate the various resources you mentioned.

            Here’s a couple possible typos:

            CON: You need to do everything yourself, or hire people to do it.

            This is mentioned under both Self and Traditional publishing. I think it is copy-paste typo under Traditional.

            Leanpub used to be free but some people were not playing fair and now the service requires payement.

            First 100 books/courses are free now. I use Gumroad as well, mainly because payout terms are much better than Leanpub.


            I have a question as well. Have you used affiliate marketing? If so, any suggestions on how to go about it?

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              Thanks for the kind words and feedback. Yes that was a copy & paste mistake indeed, I’ve fixed it and also updates the comment on Leanpub to reflect the current pricing. I remember they going full commercial for a while. Glad they managed to keep a free plan floating around.

              Instead of Gumroad, I use PayHip (after being a SendOwl user for years). What I like about PayHip is that it can deal with EU VAT automatically and it has some special features for books. The payout terms are much better than Leanpub with all three of them.

              As for affiliate marketing, I never used it but I plan to use some affiliate links in the future. It is very hard to derive all your income from being an independent author. You kinda need multiple revenue streams, and as your platform grows, using such links might keep some extra money dripping into your account. I know that many people are suspicious of them, believing that the content producer will write anything to convince you to buy through the affiliate link, but in my own personal experience as a reader and consumer of many podcasts that use such links, I never felt like that.

              Other forms of affiliate marketing such as guest posts are OK with me, specially if they are exchange posts between authors. What I don’t like are paid posts which are presented as original content. Those are just sneaky ads for me.

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                What I like about PayHip is that it can deal with EU VAT automatically

                Gumroad also deals with EU VAT automatically for digital products: https://help.gumroad.com/article/10-dealing-with-vat. Haven’t heard of PayHip/SendOwl before, so I’ll keep those in mind if I need alternatives, thanks.

                in my own personal experience as a reader and consumer of many podcasts that use such links, I never felt like that

                Good to know. And agree about multiple revenue streams, in my experience it is difficult to bet on author income alone as it keep fluctuating.

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            Your Roguelike Development with JavaScript book sounds like a lot of fun! Congrats on the release.

            This blog post, and others like it that I’ve seen, are what have driven me to work on a book about publishing for technical poeple. I’m guessing that I’m about 75% through the first draft.

            As a self-published fiction author, I see self-published tech authors leaving a lot of opportunity on the table and making things harder on themselves because they don’t know about some of the great stuff that has been developed for indie authors. Things like Scrivener, Vellum, and Reedsy are what I’m talking about… you’ve clearly explored the indie publishing space a lot more than most. Thanks for sharing!

            Edit to add: Oh, and I just noticed you’re using Draft2Digital’s Universal Book Links for the links in your post. You’ve definitely come across the wonderful indiepub tools out there :)

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              Thanks for the kind words :-)

              I try to keep up to date with all that wide and indie publishers are using. I’m writing fiction as well (not yet ready to publish though) and these tools have been invaluable for me.

              Great idea on the book about publishing for technical people, I think there are a lot of technical people who can benefit from it. Keep pushing!

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                Thanks! Good luck with your fiction! It’s definitely a very different market.

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              Nice post! I’ve always been tempted to write a book, but never done it, partly because I know what a time-suck it would be.

              I have to say that copy-editing has really gone down the tubes, even in commercially-published books. I usually notice grammar errors on every page of recent books, and in many cases could probably guess the author’s nationality within a few pages, especially if they’re Russian/Slavic or Indian.

              (Academic presses are the worst. I remember a multi-author anthology on P2P from Springer that cost something like $300, where it was obvious they’d done zero copy-editing and some chapters were almost unreadable.)

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                In terms of copy-editing, you kinda get what you pay for. Indie publishers usually don’t have much money to spend on professionals, so they’ll often have no copy editing (that is my case) or maybe they’ll get some basic copy editing done. I’m fully aware that I’m part of the problem here, I just didn’t had the money to hire someone for an honest price. As someone who is not a native speaker, I’m sure that lots of my phrases sound strange and sometimes they fell like you’re reading Portuguese instead of English.

                The book I’m working on now is a fiction book, and for that one I’m saving enough to get developmental editing, copy-editing, and cover designer, the full package, right? :-)

                Regarding slopy copy-editing and typesetting in traditional publishing, I have some opinions that ring true to me but that I have no evidence for. Many of these publishers are putting multiple books out per month. The development ecosystem, specially the Web, moves too fast and publishers can’t produce books fast enough to benefit from being at the market at the right time, so in the end everything is kinda rushed. Publishing fast and getting into the market reduces their production cost and increases the chance of people buying the book before the topic at hand becomes boring or deviate too much from the book’s content.

                For example, about a decade ago I worked with a major publisher in a book that ended up being cancelled due to external reasons. They had the editor communicating with me almost weekly, revising and commenting my drafts as I saved them. It felt great and I learned a ton even if the book never saw the light of the day. On a recent book with another publisher, the editing period felt rushed and in my subjective opinion it was too short for the kind of editing my non-native speaker text needs before it is ready. I voiced this to some beta readers, but they were fine with the content, so I guess it might just have been my own insecurities.

                In the end, it is a bit of a trade-off: you can have more books or fewer books with better quality. You can’t really have quality and large output unless people start paying more for books so that the authors have funding to pay decent prices for the professionals they need. A similar problem plagues Journalism as well, the fetish of speed doesn’t give Journalists enough time to do deep investigations and research. It is all about breaking news and working the wire, publishing a gazilion small articles with no depth. Speed is a deceitful master.

                With all the tools and services available for indie publishing, it is no wonder that many writers focused on tech content will prefer to go with the self-publishing route instead of traditional publishing. I think that I’m OK with having books that don’t have perfect copy-editing and typesetting, if that gets more content out there. I’d be deeply sad if the other option for these authors would be simply to not publish. Maybe, the real culprit of these problems is that indie tech writers are not really aware that they need to hire these professionals at all. Many don’t have any training regarding publishing and are doing it by the seat of their pants. Blog posts and books about it might help spread the awareness of such needs.

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                  For what it’s worth, I would not have guessed you aren’t a native English speaker if you hadn’t brought it up. You write it better than many Americans I know :)

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                    Thanks a lot, this warms my heart. I always think my English sounds kinda broken :-)

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                    It can’t completely replace a human editor, but ProWritingAid can help clean up a manuscript before it reaches others and is not terribly expensive. It’s also able to open Scrivener files directly.

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                      I’m a happy customer of proWritingAid as well :-) I really recommend it for everyone.

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                    I have to say that copy-editing has really gone down the tubes

                    And so did the typesetting. Orphans and widows are the new normal in print. Why even bother to buy a printed book if its quality barely exceeds the result of printing a plaintext file?

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                      Which is weird, since InDesign, Pages, and (IIRC) Word all have widow/orphan prevention. Not sure if it’s enabled by default, but you’d think whomever designs the stylesheets for a book publisher would know to turn it on.

                      TBH I don’t mind them that much. My pet peeves, typographically, are typewriter quotation marks and awful line stretching due to a missing hyphenation. Oh, and Helvetica/Arial/Verdana as body text.

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                        Unfortunately the quality of ebooks is really bad too, I’ve tried various readers and unless you just put a PDF on an eInk display it looks like you’re reading a Word document without the window chrome :(

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                          Well, ebooks in non-paged formats can’t be good. PDFs can, and I agree many authors/publishers neglecting it. Hell, I keep telling people to stop neglecting the basic quality of life features of PDFs that I even made a reusable guide to it. ;)

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                            ebooks in non-paged formats can’t be good

                            They could, if the currently-visible text were rendered into the desired rectangle with the TeX box-and-glue algorithm rather than whatever Blink/WebKit/khtml fork the industry has settled on.

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                        I’m not saying professional copy-editors are useless, but for some books you ask yourself if the author didn’t let any single person proof read it.

                        Which kinda blows my mind, but maybe I’m the weird one for having offered to proofread several thesises for friends.

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                          I guess that for many self-published tech authors, the time some third-party sees the book is at the publication date. Many will be writing in a vacuum, without consulting anyone, not even their friends, regarding the book. I’ve been like that too. Sometimes you don’t show it to others with fear of imposing some obligation on them. You are afraid they’d rather not read or check your book, but are doing it because it would look bad if they didn’t. In the end it is just insecurity, people are afraid to impose on their friends, and sometimes unaware that there are highly skilled freelancers available for those tasks.

                          Another important aspect, which plays a more important role than people realise, is the need for speed. This is more observable in traditional publishers. They’re kinda terrified of some other publisher pushing a competing title just before their own title reaches the market. I don’t feel this fear is really warranted, but hey they are the hundred-years old companies who know how this works, they are probably right. I do know the fear that creeps on you as you’ve been working for a long time in some title and then competing titles start popping out on the market, and you calculate how many more will pop before you can reach it. To be honest, I don’t see other authors as competitors, we’re all in this together, but if you’re writing a book about a new fancy web framework, and some weeks before you launch, eight titles arrive in the market with the exact same topic and start making a splash, you worry if there will still be a demand for it by the time your book arrives in the market.

                          This fear tends to make publishers cut corners in an attempt to arrive in the market earlier. Good copy-editing is one of the victims of this frenzy.