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What It’s Like to Be an Author with Us

When you sign with us, you become part of a team that’s committed to making your book the best possible. We have the highest editing standards in the industry, and we work with you to craft a book we can all be proud of.

What You Get

  • A great deal! We pay 50% royalties for our books. You get more in your pocket. Period. We take what we receive for a book, subtract direct costs (printing, copy edit, artwork if any, that sort of thing) and split it with you. We have a thriving market for translations and international sales as well. Compare that with 10% from many other publishers. Oh, and we give you a royalty statement each month, and pay royalties quarterly (for more information, see this blog post). (Please note that royalty rates for screencasts are a little less than the rate for books).
  • The most agile editorial process in the industry. No one really writes a book chapter by chapter, so we don’t understand why other publishers insist authors deliver that way.
  • Editing professionals. Our editors have many years of technical editing and writing experience. You’ll work with your editor, not for him or her.

How It Works

Your development editor will work with you to guide your book from its initial outline through completion. You’ll get content, style, and organizational feedback from your editor throughout the process, and you’ll receive technical suggestions from reviewers experienced in the topic you’re writing on. You’ll write in a realistic timeframe without the artificial, rushed deadlines other publishers impose.

When your book is about 75% complete, we can offer it as a Beta Book: we make it available for purchase as an ebook while you’re writing it. That means you get continuous feedback from the best group of readers in the world, and you start receiving royalties even before your book is published.

You’re our partner in the publishing process, and we consult with you on all aspects of your book, from finessing your initial outline to working up a marketing and promotion plan. You’ll give us feedback on cover image ideas, your book title, and your book’s marketing copy. We’re always open to suggestions for improving our tools and processes as well.

As an author, we hope you’ll stay involved even after your book is completed. Your book will have a forum and dedicated web page through which you can interact with readers and review errata postings. In addition, you’ll have opportunities to review manuscripts by other authors and critique book proposals.

Our Tools

We’ve got a unique writing toolchain designed by techies for techies—none of this “write it in Word” crap. You’ll use programmer’s tools to write books for programmers:

  • When you sign up, the first thing you’ll do is check your book project out of our Subversion repository.
  • You send stuff to us by checking it in (just like a real project…)
  • Our continuous build system will let you see your book formatted as it will be printed.
  • And, if your book contains code, there’s no more cut and paste into the document. Keep your code in source code files, and our build system will include the extracts you want directly into the formatted book (and it’ll syntax highlight them along the way).

If you’re writing on a non-technical topic, we have special tools for you too! We’ll work with you to set you up with our tools and systems and guide you every step of the way.

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Why can’t I just self-publish?

You could, but you’d be missing out. When you publish with Pragmatic Bookshelf, here’s what you get:

  • Your book will be professionally edited, indexed, and laid out. This sounds mechanical, but it isn’t. Editing, in particular, is an organic process where someone who understands structure and the needs of the reader helps organize your expertise into something that’s effective and compelling.
  • You’ll get distribution through channels that would otherwise be unreachable.
  • Your book gets the marketing benefit of being available through us. This sounds a little vain, but the reality is that we have a large, loyal readership who appreciate the care we take creating books for them. In the past we have taken on books that had been previously self-published. In every case, their authors have made more distributing through us than they did directly on their own. We now offer distribution as a service as well.

Here’s what one of our authors says:

“I think the self-published thing is interesting, but if I compare what I wrote before working with the Prags (i.e. what I might have “self-published”) to what I ended up publishing, there’s obvious advantages to working with the professionals I worked with here. Other than the exposure, the quality of the book overall is markedly higher.”
—David Bryant Copeland, author of Build Awesome Command-Line Applications in Ruby

For a longer description of David’s first time author experience, check out his blog post.

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I’ve worked with a number of publishers in various capacities and the difference between Pragmatic Bookshelf and the rest can’t be overstated. I can’t imagine writing for another publisher again. When you work with Pragmatic Bookshelf, you have the support of a team that really understands the impact of the tools and technologies you write about. On top of the killer team, Pragmatic’s publishing technology (PDFs on demand!) makes the standard word processors look like the writing equivalent of sharpened stones and sticks.

Chad Fowler, author of Rails Recipes and The Passionate Programmer

One of the best things about working with the Pragmatic Bookshelf crew was that the process felt so familiar and comfortable. They have hit on a way to take the practices that make for great software development projects and apply those to book development. It is truly a team effort, where everyone contributes and is committed to a successful release.

Lyle Johson, author of FXRuby: Create Lean and Mean GUIs with Ruby

Writing is not easy, but the rewards can be sweet. I remember the thrill of seeing my book on the store shelves for the first time, and then at the top of its category at Amazon. It even helped me land a job as manager of an Android development team. After all, the boss was looking for an expert, and I had literally written the book on the subject.

Ed Burnette, author of Hello Android

For an author, it’s exciting to see your book listed on Amazon or sitting on the bookshelf at B&N. But it’s far more exciting to see a dog-eared copy in actual use in a software development team room. Knowing that you’ve produced something that will actually help people in their day-to-day work is extremely gratifying.

The biggest thing about publishing something is that it lends some level of instant credibility—when trying to land a contracting gig or full-time employment, there’s nothing better than having them know who you are before you walk in the door.

Jeff Langr, author of Modern C++ Programming with Test-Driven Development and coauthor of Agile in a Flash

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