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Learning About Kindle Publishing

I'm learning a lot from this excursion into Kindle publishing.

Technical books are higher-value products, so that's good. They don't have a big audience, which is bad.

Giving away the CSS book got 100 takes. I'm giving away a short WordPress book, and it only got 65 takes on the first day, probably due to stiffer competition.

Cookbooks are lower-value products, but take little time to write, and have a much larger audience. The Super Simple Japanese Food cookbook giveaway got 250 takers.

Yet, I have no reviews, so I must be doing something wrong here.

(I should add that I wasn't paying attention to the day of the week. I ran the better promo early in the week, and the worse one on a Thursday rolling into the weekend. The internet is dead on the weekend, and is busy on weekdays, peaking on Wednesday. What an error.)

Having three cookbooks out there at once was a smart move. The free items sell the cheap sibling books, and the cheap books also help to create sales for the expensive book. Other publishers agree with this.

I think that if I were a more serious cook, with a cooking website, it would be much easier to sell books. A popular blog could drive a lot of traffic, and also sell ads. However, I'm not a serious cook. My main edge over others is that I've been cooking since I was around eight years old, so it's second nature to me. (The other edge is living within ethnic communities.)

The technical books, aside from having a limited audience, also have a few other serious problems.

Beginner Bias

Beginner books have the broadest audience. I read a very good, advanced book on AWS, but it's probably not going to do well in the mass market. It's a specialty book, and should cost a lot.

Crappy Market

There are a lot of garbage books out there on Kindle Unlimited. There are translations of non-English books. There are copy-paste crap books. It seems like 2/3 are really bad scams to get page-turns. Most of the rest aren't that great, and a small fraction are good to very good.

Wrong Medium

Books are for reading. Websites are for reference. Blogs and videos are for tutorials. So what kind of books should be on Kindle? I don't know. I like fast page-turners where you get a lot of information brain-dumped on you. You read through 50 pages or so and stop. You do it again the next day. Then you feel ready to rush through a tutorial or two, and code.

Despite these problems, I'm going to crank out a few more titles. Mainly, what I discovered is that "writing" is mostly research, and writing the CSS book forced me to dig into the standards docs, and a lot of blogs, to see what was going on.

Because I wasn't deep in the CSS world, and not really a front-end designer person, I had to read more carefully, and I think that helped a lot. Also, writing late in the lifecycle is interesting -- early books tend to be dry references, often with some lame ideas.

These later books are going to be tempered with hindsight, and a little messy because the technology is becoming obsolete, and people are fixing it as best they can. These details are interesting reading.

I learned a lot, and it made me a better coder.

Publishing Technology

The best thing I learned was to use Pandoc and Kindlegen to format and produce the book files. The build system is just a shell script that runs pandoc and another utility to do inclusions of source code. The output is really good and feels professional.

The best thing is that you can write the books in Markdown, store the code in GitHub, and the tools produce books, with tables of contents.


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