Back in the summer of 2017, my book ‘Mastering Python Networking‘ by Packt Publishing was released, fulfilling a life-long goal of mine to become a published author (if you are interested in the background, content, and thoughts behind the book, you can check out Packet Pusher Priority Queue 135).
I’ll share five lessons I learned from the book experience. These are general, high-level lessons that hopefully can help you tackle your projects as well.
1. Inspiration Is For Dummies
Even though it has always been a goal of mine to write a book, it wasn’t until I signed the contract with Packt that it became ‘real’. I was assigned a content editor who helped me with the content as well as overseeing the progress. There were deadlines that needed to be met every 10 days in order to deliver the book on time.
Remember that saying about all projects costing twice as much and take twice as long? Yep, it was true for me. Why? Because not only did I need to produce the content, but I also needed to research some of the topics in-depth, verify the example code, and correct as much grammar and spelling error as possible. Also, based on the editorial feedback, some of the content required rewrites. They range from a few lines to trash a whole chapter and start from scratch. Ouch.
During the writing process, I developed a habit to wake up at 5 am to put in at least a few hundred words a day before the workday begins. In the beginning, there were many times that I was tired, grumpy, and generally questioned the reason behind putting myself through the mental torture.
However, over time, the act of simply sitting down and starting to write (even if it was crap) helped me developed the writing habit and consistency. Gradually the process became easier and I was able to delivered content ahead of schedule. The completed works served as positive reinforcements that helped me to keep going.
When someone asked the famous painter Chuck Close if he ever had painter’s block, he said: “Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
Well said, Chuck.
2 You Won’t Get Rich
Technically, I learned this prior to writing the book so it is more of a confirmation of hypothesis than a new lesson. Before writing the book, I did a bit of research on what would be considered a ‘fair’ royalty percentage for a first-time author. I also looked at what would be considered a ‘good’ sales figure for a technical book.
I estimated the number of copies the book had to be sold in order to recoup the royalty advancement for the publisher and set that as a minimum goal. I also decided that I would donate all of my proceeds to charity to show my appreciation for the great open source and Python community.
Even after setting the expectation, the amount I received from the book still surprised me after factoring in the effort that collectively went into publishing the book. This was after the book sales figure far exceeded my original expectation. If I hadn’t decided to donate the proceeds to charity, it would have been a nice side income, but nothing to support a family on.
In short, I have a new appreciation for professional writers who can makes enough money to feed themselves.
3. A Book Is A Fantastic Conversation Starter
I feel super uneasy at social events. As much as I enjoy going to meetups and conferences to learn about new ideas and technologies, I experience anxiety at happy hours or social gatherings. Sometimes I grab a beer just so I have something to hold on to.
After the book was published, I found that it was a great conversation starter in social settings. I could talk about either the technology or the experience, and people are generally interested in both.
It’s usually my ‘mic-drop moment’ to attend a Python or networking-related event and casually say, “Yeah, I have a book on the topic.” I usually have to be stop before my head gets so big that I started to float.
4. Your Mom Won’t Love You More, But Your Friends Might
If you think publishing a book is a good conversation starter with strangers, it is even a better one with friends. I really enjoyed discussing the topic with friends because I can pick and choose the right aspect to talk to them about.
Sometimes I can focus on the technology such as Python or network automation, other times we can discuss time management, motivation, or working with professional editors. The topic can also extend to how we learn about new topics and how we can improve the continuous learning for professionals.
The best part is I usually discovered new things about my friends. It can be their future inspirations, past experiences, or interesting ideas about new projects that I otherwise would not have known.
And who knows, maybe my Mom did love me more after I became an author.
5. You’re Never Done
Even after all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the writing and publishing process, the work only started. Sorry buddy, cue the depressing music.
But honestly, just think about the number of books published each month and the number of learning platforms competing for your potential reader’s attention. Unless you are satisfied with your book collecting digital cobweb on Amazon, you need to market your book, talk about it, create a buzz, and tell anybody who will stop and listen about the book.
After all, if you don’t do it, who will?
Do It Again?
Would I do it again? Absolutely. It is a labor of love and I enjoy writing about topics I feel passionate about. Is it for everybody? Probably not. But if you ever feel inspired to write a book and want to talk about it, feel free to drop me a line and I will be happy to share more of my experience with you.
Anything I did not cover and you are curious about? Feel free to leave me a comment below. Happy Python Networking!