The Birth of a Book: Part 15

I was finally granted permission to start telling the world that I was writing a book. It was time for Interaction 14, a perfect time to toot my horn. On February 2nd, I submitted my revisions of all 8 chapters and the final figures. Then I headed to Amsterdam. I got to discuss the publishing process with Jeff Gothelf, who forewarned me about the issues I might face during production. The book was a great conversation topic, but I’m not sure how much good the publicity did. I didn’t realize it would take another 6 months, as long as it took me to write the book, to get it printed and on store shelves.

It was during the conference that I was informed that I had to recreate all of the screenshots in chapter 7. It has to be obvious that they are screenshots to avoid copyright issues. This became a real hassle. Before I started writing the book, the authoring guidelines I was given told me not to include my figures in my document. Rather, I should just put in the figure numbers and captions. That wasn’t a problem while I was writing, but when I had to go back in and change the figures, be it adding, removing, or just moving, I created a lot of errors. It’s really easy to get a figure labeled incorrectly when you never see it in context. There were multiple instances in which I had to renumber half the figures in a chapter. I wouldn’t catch my mistakes until I received proofs back from the typesetter. If I ever do this again, I’m going to insert placeholder figures in my manuscript.

In the middle of February, my editor dropped the bomb.

We also received a page count estimate back  from our typesetter and the manuscript is coming in at 176 pages, which is a bit under what we had proposed.  This is cause for concern as a low page count can affect sales etc.  We have several options here, such as choosing a different interior template, with a slightly lower page count, that may increase the page number, or adding content, maybe even another chapter.

I had thought I was done writing. I was happy to be done writing. I was ready to enjoy a little free time again. Instead, I had to write another 25 pages.

To be continued…

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The Birth of a Book: Part 14

Over the Christmas holiday, I wrote the conclusion, acknowledgements, dedication, glossary, and references. I also got the GitHub repository up. It was time to finalize the cover. We also finalized the title of the book, going from the working title, “UX and Web Development: Better Results through Integration with Your Development Team,” to “Bridging UX and Web Development: Better Results through Team Integration.”

As I worked on the cover, I was also attempting to get somebody to write a foreword for the book. The point of a foreword, as far as I was concerned, was to lend credibility to my book by having a recognized member of the design community endorse it. And additional requirement was that it be somebody that I know personally and respect. The first person I asked never replied. The second person declined. My editor contacted a list of people that I had suggested might provide endorsements for the back cover, but none of them panned out either. That was a little disheartening, but I felt confident enough in the usefulness and quality of my writing that I wasn’t too concerned about it. Yes, I would have preferred to have the support of some “big name” UX professionals, but to tell the truth, I don’t mind not sharing the cover.

By the end of January, the cover design was done, front and back, and I had comments back from my technical reviewers on all the chapters. It was time to make revisions and learn some lessons… the hard way.

To be continued…

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The Birth of a Book: Part 13

The next three weekends were productive ones. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 were churned out in rapid succession. By the end of the Thanksgiving holiday, I had finished the last two chapters. That didn’t mean the book was done—far from it—but it was a major milestone, and only two weeks late of the contractual deadline. I get the feeling that the publisher was used to writers delivering late. Every time I gave my editor a status update, she thanked me  for trying so hard to stick to the schedule.

So, what was left to do? Well, a lot of the figures I included with my writing were placeholders. I wanted to create graphs that Tufte would approve of, and I wanted all of the screenshots to be sized appropriately. There was a diagram that I had only sketched out. Then there was the dedication and acknowledgements, the conclusion, a references section, a glossary, and the book cover. I was also required to provide abstracts and keywords for each of the chapters. And, of course, there were the reviews. I already had comments back on chapters 1-3 and 4 was being reviewed.

Now, one of the exercises uses the Amazon homepage as an example, so the book includes screenshots. These were the only figures that there was some question as to whether or not permission was needed. I was asked to contact Amazon about them. I contacted their customer service and was directed to send a draft to an Amazon Permissions email address. I did that and never received a response. Eventually, my editor told me that we could use them, but they would all have to include the web browser. I had cropped them all down to only show the content, so I was going to have to redo all of them from scratch.

Another exercise, which I pulled straight from my workshop, involves a layout for an address book, including contacts’ photos. For fun, I had used the fighter pilots from Star Wars: Biggs Darklighter, Jek Porkins, Dak Ralter, John “Dutch” Vander, Tiree, etc. I couldn’t have those copyrighted images in the book, of course, so I decided to acknowledge my coworkers—the developers and designers that have helped me to reach the point in my career at which I could write the book. I invited them to provide photos for my mock address book, which you’ll be able to work with in chapter 8. Those people are:

  • Rob Veltre
  • Jeff Christensen
  • Doug Fellner
  • Will Ross
  • Steven Schwab
  • Kelly Dolan
  • Joe D’Alessandro
  • Henry Burke

They’ve all been outstanding collaborators from whom I’ve learned much. Including them in the book is the least I can do to thank them for their contributions to it.

To be continued…

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You might be interested in…

Amazon’s suggestions leave a lot to be desired. The past couple weeks, we’ve had ants raiding our kitchen, so I ordered ant bait that has worked well in the past. Now I have an entire row of ant killer on my page. I don’t need anymore. This past winter, I ordered a new pair of leather driving gloves. For months, my Amazon homepage was displaying pictures of male models wearing leather gloves. Just this past weekend, I received email from Amazon:

No, I really don’t need to order my own book, thanks anyway. Actually, to be perfectly honest, it gave me a little thrill to see it there, but I realize it’s just because I’ve looked at it several times of late.

Speaking of which, I’m now the proud owner of my own author pages on Amazon and Good Reads.

The Birth of a Book: Part 12

I was behind on my writing, but my editor wanted me to think about the book cover. The first time she had mentioned it, I had floated the possibility of designing it myself. They liked the idea. Of course, that meant that I had to find time to design the cover in addition to writing the content. The cover design probably suffered due to that fact. I went with my first idea, which we all know you should almost never do—not without exploring other possibilities. I already had the title slide from my Working with Developers talk—a photo I had taken of the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia. It’s a not-so-subtle metaphor for building a bridge between your designers and developers. Remember, at this point, we only had a generic working title for the book—“bridging” wasn’t in it. The cover would later inspire the title that stuck.

Having sent them an idea for the cover, I finished chapter 3 mid-October. Then I received three samples of interior layouts from my editor. To be honest, I didn’t care much for any of the designs. I was tempted to ask if I could design the interior as well, but I knew I wouldn’t have the time. I picked the one that I felt was the strongest. On the 30th, I had a PDF of my first chapter using the template I selected. I was asked to review it and provide feedback. At the same time, I was given the notes from my two technical reviewers on the first two chapters. I was beginning to feel like I couldn’t write the book for all the other things I had to do for it.

I was in the middle of chapter 4 with two weeks until the entire book—8 chapters—was to be done, and I was seeing a lot of issues with the way that first chapter had been produced. I decided it was probably hastily thrown together as a mockup, not intended to be production quality. Little did I know that it was foreshadowing the editing process to come.

To be continued…

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The Birth of a Book: Part 11

According to my contract, I was to deliver half of the manuscript by October 1st. Instead, I sent my editor email explaining that I was behind. My time was being eaten up by the class I was teaching, my band’s shows and the rehearsals leading up to them, and business trips.

Actually, it was a business trip that finally got me started writing. I flew out to San Diego in August to train the crew of the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz class supercarrier. Normally, I read while flying, but I was determined to use this long flight to break down the wall that was the first chapter. I always find that starting a big project is the hardest part. I started writing the introduction in the Pittsburgh airport and finished the first chapter before landing in California. I even got a good start on the second, which I finished after arriving home. That was enough for the contractual submission of two chapters by the end of August, even though they were relatively short.

I had originally thought I would write a chapter from the first half of the book and then one from the second half to give my editor an idea of what the HTML exercises would be like. But when I started writing, I found that I had to start with the introduction. The beginning seemed like a very good place to start. I just couldn’t put myself in a mindset to write portions of the book out of order. Even though I had a detailed outline and knew what I would be saying in every chapter, I was locked into writing front to back like a train on a track. That probably says a lot about the way I think and process information.

But here it was October, and I was 3,599 words into chapter 3. I knew it would likely be the longest chapter in the book, but it wasn’t going to bring me to the half-way mark. A week later, I was around 9,000 words and still working.

This was the point at which my editor asked me about the cover of the book.

To be continued…

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The Birth of a Book: Part 10

The next task I had to accomplish—never mind actually writing the book—was to provide a list of potential technical reviewers. As you may recall from Part 7, the process by which they selected reviewers for the proposal was completely hidden and left me confused. I didn’t know why only three people reviewed the proposal. I thought they might not have realized that they were being asked to review my proposal specifically and therefore didn’t respond to the invitation.

This time, I decided to contact everyone I planned to recommend ahead of time and ask if they would be willing to do it. I contacted 9 people, and all of them agreed to review the book, assuming it fit into their schedules. It was during theses email exchanges that I learned that one of them, who had been at the top of my list for proposal reviewers, had never been contacted about it. I thought that quite odd.

I sent the list of nine to my editor and was told that they would be contacted and asked to sign a work for hire contract in exchange for a small honorarium. I assumed that meant all of them.

On October 9th, I was informed that they had secured three reviewers from my list. I asked why only three, since all nine had been willing. My editor then told me that they only had the budget to offer three of them an honorarium. Well, if I had know that, I would have started by getting verbal commitments from three of them.

I assumed at the time that all of them had been contacted and that those who were not selected had been notified with an explanation as to why. I now wonder if that is the case. I probably should have contacted all of them again to thank them for their willingness and to make sure they knew that they hadn’t been selected by the publisher.

Unfortunately, that third reviewer never did review any of the chapters. Fortunately, the two that did were excellent reviewers. Matt Nish-Lapidus and Brian Cavalier made my book a lot better than it would have been otherwise. I’m quite grateful.

To be continued…

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The Birth of a Book: Part 9

As far as I’m concerned, any book about design that includes screenshots should be in color. Any book that includes data visualizations should certainly be in color. Any book that includes code snippets will be better if the code is presented with some use of color.

It never occurred to me that my book would not be printed in color until my copy of Dan Saffer’s Microinteractions arrived. I was rather disappointed that all of the examples he included were presented in grayscale. Some of the examples were difficult to make out, and a couple relied on color. But here it was—a book about design for a design audience with low production values. The reality is that margins on small books like this are so small that the publishers need to keep the cost down. Printing black and white is one way to do that.

So I was very concerned when I read in the style guide my publisher sent that I should only submit grayscale images. I was planning to include visualizations of my survey results that would be really hard to make understandable without color. I expected to have a lot of screenshots that should be presented in color. I intended to have screenshots that showed step-by-step progress in the CSS exercises. And I was planning on using color in the code formatting. I expressed this concern to my editor, citing Dan’s book as an example, and she told me that they hadn’t planned for color printing when they worked out the budget for the book. However, she understood, and she thought it would be worth going back and having another look at the figures.

Fortunately, I decided to write the book front to back, and Chapter 1 presents the survey results. When I submitted the first three chapters, they included the visualizations and screenshots in color. On the morning of September 18th, Dan Saffer tweeted:

For those of you who (rightly) complained the Microinteractions book wasn’t in color: http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920032496.do #newbirds

I suspect Dan had been in the same situation I found myself in and had initially lost. Then, with good sales and many complaints, he convinced O’Reilly that they should print the next run in color. I was going to write my editor that night to make sure she heard about this. But, that afternoon, I received email from my editor letting me know that after running some numbers and reviewing the sample chapters, she agreed that the book should be printed in full color.

That was a huge relief! I sent an ecstatic reply, mentioning Dan’s tweet to reinforce the rightness of her decision. This was a major triumph in my mind and gave me confidence that the book would turn out the way I envisioned it.

To be continued…

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The Birth of a Book: Part 8

The contract, as originally written, had me writing two sample chapters by August 1st. Seeing as how it was already mid-July, and I had a week of vacation scheduled between, I wasn’t so keen on that deadline. My editor let me push it out a month, but the rest of the schedule remained unaltered.

  • The Author will deliver one-half of the manuscript on or before October 1, 2013.
  • The Author will deliver the draft manuscript to the Publisher on or before November 15, 2013.
  • The Author will deliver the final, complete manuscript on or before January 15, 2014.

The race was on. I would be writing the book while teaching my course and finishing it over the holidays. After my vacation, I was introduced to my Editorial Project Manager, and I was sent a writing style guide. Then I was asked to fill out their Marketing Author Questionnaire by early September and provide at least six subject-experts they could ask to be technical reviewers. All that on top of writing two chapters, not to mention the major client deadline that was rapidly approaching in my day job. Yes, the hardest part of writing the book was going to be making the time to write.

I read through the style guide, and there were two things that jumped out at me. The first was its instructions on formatting code. They wanted it provided separately. The second half of the book was going to be full of HTML and CSS exercises. I was going to be interspersing code with explanations of it. I would have code embedded in the middle of paragraphs. There was no way I was going to be able to provide it separately. I asked about it, and my editor said I should do it something like this:

[start code]
Code goes here.
[end code]

Well, that wasn’t going to work well for code inserted in the middle of a sentence. Besides, I wanted to specify exactly how it would be formatted. I was going to be writing about formatting standards. So, I ignored the style guide and my editor on this particular matter. I created a couple of code styles in Pages and applied them as I saw fit. That worked out for the best.

Then there was the second matter. The style guide told me to submit only black and white images unless I had an agreement with my editor.

Say what?!

To be continued…

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The Birth of a Book: Part 7

The last section of the Short Book Proposal asked for 5 to 10 possible subject matter experts whose opinions I would value as reviewers of my proposal. I was to list them in order of preference, providing contact information, their affiliation, and explanations as to why I recommended them.

That was easy. I provided nine, including a mix of people from academia and industry. I listed some that I new had the technical chops to appreciate the implementation part of the book. I listed some that have published their own books on design.

I submitted the proposal on June 3rd, 2013. On the 18th, I received comments from three reviewers. I wondered why there were only three, as I fully expected at least six of the people I had suggested to agree to do it. I count them as friends, after all. I never asked my editor about it, but I later learned from one of them that he was never contacted by the publisher, yet he had been listed as my first choice. The lack of transparency into the review process foreshadowed what would happen when it came time to review the book itself, which I’ll relate in a future post.

The three people who did review my proposal, Grant Carmichael, Erik Dahl, and Brian Cavalier, were very supportive of it. They offered excellent suggestions, most of which I ended up incorporating. I’m deeply grateful for their input. Obviously, the publisher liked what they had to say. On July 15th, I was offered a contract to write the book.

In the reply to my editor’s email, I said, “You know, it occurs to me that what I’m most excited about is experiencing and learning about the process of writing, revising, and publishing the book. It’s the same mindset I enter when starting a project with a new customer—taking a deep dive into a new domain.” They didn’t want me publicizing the fact that I was working on the book, so I wasn’t able to share that process with you as it happened. I hope you are enjoying reading about it now.

To be continued…

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