Publishing the MDE book – My frustrations 18 months later

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Our Model-Driven Software Engineering in Practice book was published in September 2012. 18 months later I´d like to share with you some personal reflections on the publication (and marketing) process for the book. I belive that Marco and Manuel share most of these opinions but I´m just talking on my own behalf here.

I´ll skip the obivous (no, don’t even think about writing a book to make money, and yes, it takes much more time than what you ever thought) but focus on some details regarding the writing, publication and marketing process for the book that I found surprising (and to be honest, disappointing). I´ll try to be syntectic (if somebody wants more info on any specific topic just let me know). In fact, the main conclusion is simple. Going with a established publisher is just not worth it. Not surprised by this, we already clarified that we decided against self-publishing the book mainly because an “official” book would look better in our reserach CV (a longer explanation here). Clearly, now that I have already one, if I write another one ever again, I´ll self-publish it.

So, what I learnt in the process (of course, I talk based on the experience of writing one single book and interacting with one single publisher but I don’t believe things would be very different with others):

  • Established publishers won’t take any risk with your book. Unless they know you’re going to be a bets-seller, they will not take the pay for shelf-space for your book. Your book will only be sold online and following a print-on-demand model.
  • You can write in LaTeX. I would put this one in the win-win category. This is good for the publisher because they give you the template you should use and they basically forget about editing the book but, hey, we love LaTeX so this was also good for us. I do belive they should have been a little bit more helpful (e.g. we asked them to create an index of terms and they replied saying that if WE created it they would be happy to sell the book with it).
  • We don’t have the exact number of copies of the book we have sold (my approximation is around one per day since the day we published it). I’ve been using novelrank to follow at least somehow the sales on Amazon but until the first royalties check the editorial did not provide any sales information. And still now, I´m not sure I have the right number since the editorial not only sell the book separately but also as part of a collection and at that point things get fuzzy.
  • You get paid little and very late. One disadvantage of official publishers (not sure if I’ve found any advantage so far) is that they take 85% of the sales and you the remaining 15% (5% in my case since we are three authors). But even worse, in fact they 100% for one year and only after that period they pay you back your 15%. Just last month I got my first royalties check for the sales during 2012! If you’re curious the check was for 300 USD (after paying 30% of takes) which translates in a little more of 200 euros. So to be clear, one year after writing a book I’ve only made so far 200 euros!.
  • Understand that you and the publisher may have a different business model. You may think that you and your publisher are perfectly aligned, right? I mean you both want to sell as many copies of the book as possible. Well, this is not exaclty true. You want to sell your book but your publisher wants to sell its collection of books, which is a different story. Selling the full collection access to an institution, they make more money than selling individual books but you’ll make much less. They will put their marketing efforst in selling the collection not to help you sell your book. In fact, we had to put pressure on them to release a kindle version of the book. And they did it but they were not so keen on that for the simple reason that this is not a format on which they make a lot of money (price is fixed by Amazon) even if for the author this can make a significant difference
  • Forget about marketing. This was probably the biggest disappointment. I believed that by partnering with them we would have access to an audience that we could not reach directly (i.e. readers of this portal, fellow researchers and their institutions,…) which would be very good for the book since it’s especially targeted to people that are not already MDE believers. I know they did some basic mailing and printed some brochures they brought to some conferences (along with those of many other books) but the reality was that I’m convinced that more than 90% of the sales have come from our own efforst (the book web page, our own contacts, Marco’s participation at OMG meetings,…)

Of course, not everything is bad. We´re extremely excited that more than 50 organizations are using our book to introduce MDE to their students/employees but there is a bittersweet taste in my mouth. I do belive that with a little bit more of help we could have managed to have a greater impact for the book and for MDE.

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  1. Markus Voelter
  2. Richard Paige
  3. Jean-Jacques Dubray
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