I wanted to repeat some of the things he said in that post with my own commentary, coming from the perspective of someone who has self-published technical books rather than going through a traditional publisher. I've used CreateSpace.com to publish all three of my books, and I haven't had any problems with them. A special thanks to John for giving me permission to use his article here.
A summary of my points:
- Publishers don't do all that much to promote your book, and don't offer an advantage over self-publishing here.
- Writing interesting blog posts is a much more effective way to get publicity than buying advertising.
- Christmas will effortlessly triple your sales, but have your book out there well before the holidays.
- I use CreateSpace.com as my self-publisher, and haven't had problems with them. The books only sell through Amazon, and directing readers from my book's site to the Amazon page using the Amazon affiliate program gets a little extra cash per sale.
When you negotiate a contract with a publisher, and you receive an advance, that’s an advance of your future profits. I had no idea why I never realized this until after I received my first statement and saw -$3000 listed as my payout. It makes a lot of sense, in retrospect – but it was just a silly thing that never quite clicked with me.
Advances are usually pretty low (I think Apress’ typical one was $5000 for a first-time author). In talking with authors at other publishers you can usually expect something in that range – maybe slightly higher.
One thing about self-publishing is that there is absolutely no advance. 100% of the work needs to be done upfront before you see a dime. I wrote my books as a side project while I kept my day job. I don't currently have any plans to drop my job to write full time.
I've made my books freely downloadable under a Creative Commons license, which I credit entirely with the commercial success of the books. Had I simply made them available for purchase on Amazon, I don't think anybody would have taken a chance with them. Piracy of the books by readers is not a concern for me, so much as piracy of other people selling my books (I've sent one copyright infringement notice to Amazon when someone posted the rough draft of "Hacking Secret Ciphers" for sale as an ebook.)