Friday, 26 April 2013

Book writing ~~ lessons learned

In little over than one year, two books were compiled by the author of this blog and published by Drenth Publishing.As the two books are on the same subject, half-pay officers, this post will compare both efforts and look into lessons learned and differences between the two projects.

Lessons learned:

  •  Never underestimate your audience. However, don't assume your audience is that well informed into the subject you are writing on as you are. So, it is better to write a bit more on some intricate detail, than leave it out (and: you can always remove it afterwards).
  • Who are the people that will buy your book? Or, putting it a bit differently, know about your target audience. This helps in formulating the scope of the project, and finding additional scope to be covered.
  • If I were a potential customer, what would I want to see in such a book.
  • Be critical to yourself. Re-read what you have written, and question yourself: what is the scope, what is the level of detail, what would a reader expect.
  • So, accept that requirements can change!
  • (Unless you have agreed to someone deliver before a certain time, don't set a hard deadline when there are still things to be sorted out.)
  • (So, communicate the fruits of your labour only when the completion is feasible.)
  • Make a print of the document to see what it looks like on paper, or at least view the document in a two-page modus. This will avoid silly mistakes that makes the project look like a rubbish.


  • The second project on the reduced officers for 1699 greatly benefited from technicalities solved in the first project on the half-pay officers for 1714.
  • This meant layout issues: how to present the lists of officers, how to format tables.
  • But it also meant that the design of the cover could be done much quicker.
  • Contact with a printing company was already established.
  • The first project had the benefit of being, partially, based on an existing document. This meant more research time was needed for the second project, even though the information was readily available: the first project run between January and April 2012 (three months), the second between April 2012 and March 2013 (one full year!). 
  • So, where does this extra time from given the 'newby' issues with the first and 'documentation' issues with the second:
    • the second project has an index of officers (should have been done for the first too ...)
    • the introduction in the second project has a more detailed and quantitative approach
    • one appendix was almost a project in itself

When the second project was started, it seemed to be an easy walk-over: the information was present and had 'only' to be arranged and edited. However, during the process the requirements changed a bit by the inclusion of 600+ Huguenot officers, and addition of an index. This explains for a large part the extra time needed.

Now, on to the next project!


Benjamin of Wight said...

This reminded me to order a copy of the new one!

John Deny said...

Absolutely! the best solution rather than doing nothing and losing it at all. All your tips mentioned above is a great help though nice........Sgt. Hack Blog