Sep 4, 2015

I got Published!

The title says it all.

Wait, what?!? Published? Not self-published, I got published published. If memory serves me correctly, not long ago, I was struggling to complete those writing skill questions back in 12th standard. It's been a long journey since then!

It all started one evening back in my third year, after I had failed to secure a research interns (I was never a fan of mass mailing). My blog was two years old, and with some nagging from you know who, I applied to content writer positions. Eight months and about fifty freelance articles later, I found myself applying to an open position at SitePoint (BTW, they always have openings for potential writers).

SitePoint was offering over 10 times what I was earning then, and with only a little experience in the field, I half heartedly sent a mail about why I would be suitable for the position. Surprisingly, I received a reply asking me for potential articles and there was no looking back.

A year and half a century of articles later, I was approached to write a book on Git. If you look at my articles on SitePoint since that cold January evening in Roorkee, you would notice that most of them relate to Git. SitePoint's sister website, Learnable (now renamed SitePoint Premium), a collection of courses, books and videos on web development, needed a book on Git and I should thank Louis Lazaris, the HTML and CSS channel editor for SitePoint, for referring my name for the book.

The contract was signed in early April. I was about to finish my undergraduate degree at IIT Roorkee, I had almost completed my dissertation, and I was waiting for the results of the IIM interviews. I thought about the book — what more could it be than a long article? Combine my fifty odd articles for SitePoint, and we have a book that was twice the length of the proposed book. It wouldn't be that hard.

Meanwhile, I got into IIM Lucknow and with some extra effort, completed the first draft of the book before I joined. Although I knew that life at a B-School was going to be tough, completing the second draft would hardly take time...

It took another two months to complete the second draft. It's finally live on SitePoint and the hard copies should be available on Amazon shortly.

What did I learn from the book? Here are my thoughts.

Don't treat it as a long article

When I write an article on SitePoint, I try to solve a particular problem. People searching for that problem search it on Google and land on the article. If they don't like it, they check the other link.

A book, on the other hand, contains a ton of details about a topic. And what's more? People PAY for the book. You have an obligation to justify the money your reader spent on the book.

Books can't be updated...

... in the short run, at least (Thank you, Economics!)

The day my book was released on SitePoint, I received a tweet pointing out an error in the book. As I read through the message, I wondered how could such careful proof reading by three editors, in addition to my razor sharp sight, could escape the error.

What I mean to say is an addition to the previous observation. If there is an error in an article, you can simply go and edit it. However, if you find an error in a book that has already gone for print (or has a few thousand copies already), there is no way you can correct it. You just have to live with that. 

Writing a book requires patience

Writing a book on such a topic not just requires you to frame your words well, but includes a lot of screenshots and codes. In addition to that, you must already have guessed that you need to go through your work a million times before it gets published. By the end of the project, I had read the book so many times that I had grown blind towards the words that I had written. Had it not been for the editors, many errors would have crept through unnoticed.

You will overestimate your capabilities

Normally, you can write a well planned chapter in a day. Does that mean that you can complete the book in two weeks if your book contains only a dozen chapters?

Definitely not. As I mentioned, writing a book is more stressful than an article, primarily because of the risks associated with it. Ideally, I kept weekends for the book, and did the reviews in the weekdays. But, as I have now come to accept, there are always going to be unprecedented delays and you are going to miss your deadlines! Having a cool project manager like Simon does help ;)

I am bad at goodbyes

After writing 150 pages, here's how I abruptly end it.
With this, we come to the end of the book. Although the book is ending, it’s just the start of your journey. Get out there and do some amazing things with version control! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the book as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
You may argue that it's short and crisp, but I have seen writers do wonderful stuff with endings. I guess, I am just not good at this.

Happiness is ...

... the end.

"Patience is bitterbut its fruit is sweet." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Yes, writing a book is hard work. But, when you finally see the final result and people start congratulating you, somewhere deep down, you know that it was totally worth it.

P.S. Keeping with the tradition, this blog post comes during my end term exams. Reminds me of those Roorkee days (with the cranky dude telling me to stop with the writing!)

P.P.S. I wonder why the cranky dude didn't discourage me during the course of the book. Were you so busy, man?

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