Friday, July 31, 2015

SurviveJS - Webpack and React v1.5 is Out!

The book project keeps on progressing. It managed to attract an editor. You could say that sped things up considerably. It is very useful to have another pair of eyes to push you further and I think it shows in this release. We just reached an important milestone with v1.5 release. The book is structurally much better and easier to approach. Get started by checking out the introduction.

Monday, July 13, 2015

On The Economics of Ebook Publishing

Authoring SurviveJS - Webpack and React has taught me quite a few things. Being a first time author it mistakes have been inevitable. But in some ways I've gotten really lucky. For instance I've gained awesome contacts and received numerous external contributions that have helped to boost the quality of the book. On the flip side as the content is freely available it has been hard to capture value and actually make this financially viable for me. I go into more detail at a little post I wrote under title SurviveJS - The Story So Far. See also Balancing between open and closed publishing.

Publishing is Changing

The world is changing in sense that it's very easy to publish something now. You can even skip traditional publishers altogether. Publishers such as Leanpub provide a hefty royalty. For instance Leanpub takes 10% + $0.50 per transaction leaving the rest to you. With a big traditional publisher you may expect a 15% royalty. If you do the math you can see you would have to sell a lot of book using the traditional way to reach the same income.

The downside of doing it all by yourself is that you'll have to take are of marketing, sales and editing. Leanpub just takes care of the annoying VAT bit. Especially given due to the EU VAT changes made at the beginning of this year things just became more complicated if you want to sell yourself. In effect you'll have to figure out where the book was bought and apply VAT based on that. It's better to let someone else to handle the bureaucracy at least when you are a small player.

It is important to note that Leanpub allows you to publish through other channels. You could sell the book through Amazon or iBooks for instance. Leanpub should probably be thought as an experimentation platform. It will allow you to publish a work in progress book, gauge the interest and develop your book based on the feedback. There have been cases where a traditional publisher has picked up the finished book as it has been shown that there's significant demand for it. It is an excellent value proposition for them after all. Just pour money.

Closed vs. Open Content

One of the biggest questions when it comes to publishing is how to deal with the content and pricing. You could go the traditional way, keep it all closed and put it behind a paywall. This model has been proven to work. You will have to be strong at marketing and get the right message at the right people but it is doable.

Another way, which I chose for my book, is to keep the content freely available. I did this through GitHub. The surprising benefit of this has been the influx of external contributions. You can definitely receive errata in a closed model as well but it feels like an open model is more conducive to collaboration. At times I have felt more like a shepherd rather than a author but I suppose that's a good thing.

As the content is freely available it has enabled more people to get exposed to it. It is always heartwarming to see a positive mentions about the book. Unfortunately this hasn't translated into sales but at least I know I have made a difference for some.

To encourage people actually to buy the book I decided to play on laziness. The digital version available through Leanpub has a minimal price set. I am not giving it out for free. You can definitely compile a digital version of your own but it's always a hassle. I'm afraid having this little hurdle in place isn't quite enough, though. The sales have been mediocre at best and if things continue this way, it's simply not financially feasible to keep it up.

Setting the price of the Leanpub version to zero might not make much of a difference. Perhaps more people would get it through Leanpub then but I'm not seeing the point at the moment. I feel the minimum price of $15 feels fair for a solid book.

As a Finn I cannot ask for donations directly due to legislation so there has to be some intermediate in between. Leanpub allows me to avoid breaking the law.

Conclusion

Given the content is free to begin with the big question is why would you pay for something that's free? There are reasons why Kickstarter, Patreon and such work. Going the inverse way doesn't feel like a feasible approach at least based on the current experience.

This is something I have to find a good answer for. I could start developing commercial content on top of free one for instance or go completely closed. If you have any insight on the topic, I'm all ears. There are likely models that can work but now it's looking a little grim.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

SurviveJS - Webpack and React - Ebook Available

Just a quick heads up. The Webpack/React book I've been working on for a while is available now. Check out survivejs.com for more information and free online version. I hope you find the book useful.

So far it has been an interesting experience and some people have actually bought the book. I can only hope it's providing enough value to warrant that. Now the plan is to see how sales go and perhaps do some careful PR moves. This will determine how I will progress with possible further development.

I wouldn't mind continuing this sort of work as it has provided a refreshing break from the daily grind. But there are certain financial realities to keep in mind. Anyway, we'll know more in a few weeks I think.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Antwar 0.5.0 - Taking Static Site Generation to the Next Level

As you might remember based on my earlier posts I'm currently working on a book about Webpack and React. Knowing me you understand I like to do things the hard way. In this case it meant writing a static site generator for developing a site for said book.

Given the generator, Antwar, has been developed using these technologies it has been time well spent. The project just reached a major milestone, 0.5.0. It's halfway there so to speak. It's already showing signs of usefulness and it can only get better.

You should check out my post about the release and our plans for the tool. My next personal goal is to adapt the tool to allow me to develop nice looking sites for various projects of mine. Eventually I should get this blog over there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

SurviveJS - Site is Up!

I've been developing a static site generator known as Antwar for a while with Andreas Eldh. The project is based on Webpack and React. Two of my favorite technologies. We started from pioneering efforts of Brad Denver and have progressed quite far from that.

As I needed site for my upcoming book and I have to build some momentum behind the release, I decided to build a little site around the content. This was the perfect excuse to push Antwar further. The current development version is more than just a blogging engine. Now it supports multiple sections and uses versatile data mapping (ie. for book content). We'll fold the functionality I developed for the site in the next major release.

To see what can be achieved using the technology, check out survivejs.com. I know there are a lot of smaller issues to fix but sometimes you just have to get something out. Perfection can be attained later. I hope you enjoy the online version of the book. There are some interesting times ahead.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

SurviveJS - Webpack and React - Featured at Leanpub

I've made some solid progress since my previous post about my upcoming the Webpack and React book. Even though I haven't started promoting it yet Leanpub decided to feature it! So if you head there now, you'll see something familiar at their front page. If you haven't picked a copy yet and want to support the project, this is a good chance to pick up a copy at a reduced price.

Despite initial rejection by publisher perhaps going forward with this little project wasn't that bad an idea after all. I've received a lot of positive feedback and it feels there's some serious momentum behind the project. The book is literally being drawn out of me. It has been very encouraging to get direct feedback from readers! I hope to keep it up and get the best book I can out there.

To keep the scope manageable I decided to split the content into "core" and "extra" chapters. The initial version will contain core chapters. The completion of extra chapters depends on whether it will make sense financially. You can get a better idea of the plan by checking out my progress tables.

If the book sells and there's demand, I have no problem turning this into something serious! I have a feeling a lot of good could come out of that. So far working on the book has been a fun experience. I might do a few things differently now but you live and learn.