On writing a book (or not)

When I first posted my original document on connectivism, I received a fair bit of interest in exploring the concept with publishers. In particular, a senior editor from Pfeiffer contacted me to develop the concept into a book. I responded with a proposal, which went through the publishing grind. I received an email last week expressing the view that connectivism as a concept wouldn’t be of interest within the corporate market…and as a result, they weren’t interested in publishing.

Other than a mildly bruised ego, I found the publishing process quite interesting. Nothing happens quickly in the industry. Had the book been approved, the release date would have run into 2007. Things move too quickly for a book on technology and learning to remain current 1 1/2 years after initial writing.

I’m a bit unsure of next steps. Publishing a book is often (erroneously, I think) perceived as a sign of confirmation of the value of a concept. I’m sure most authors don’t generate revenue from a book in keeping with the time invested. What do I do now? Write the text as e-books? Continue as a sequence of articles? Write it in a wiki? Thoughts and comments are appreciated.

8 Responses to “On writing a book (or not)”

  1. Charles says:

    I would just send it to another publisher, and you could try a different niche, such as corporate training or education.

  2. Amy Gahran says:

    Hi, George
    I know a lot of book authors, some of whom have published very popular books. This is the main reason why I have not yet published a book. I’ve seen from their experience how financially bad the book business is about 95% of the time.
    I’m sure I’ll publish a book at some point, but if I do, I will self-publish it. The economics are much better. Also publishers expect authors to do the lion’s share of marketing for their own books. If I’m going to have to do all that work, I’ll be damned if I’m paying the publisher a cut. I’d rather work with a good book packager.
    If your goal is to make money, e-books can be good business — as long as they’re fulfilling immediate needs. A wiki can be a good way to develop any major work, and to gain the benefits of collaboration. And you can use your blog to float ideas, collect perspectives, and generate buzz.
    But conventional book publishing? It’s so rarely a good deal for the author that these days I wouldn’t bother. With the way the distribution and marketing dynamics have changed to accommodate the efforts of individuals, I just don’t see the point of traditional publishing in most cases.
    IMHO, of course.
    - Amy Gahran
    editor, Contentious

  3. I think you should go on regardless and write the book. You are clearly onto a very useful concept, and I for one would be really interested in a full-length book on it. While writing you can go on negotiating with commercial publishers and exploring the various self-publishing options. The ideal for me would be if you could get the book published commercially (so it gets to a certain sort of audience that would not otherwise see it) while also making it available as a free download. But I don’t think you have to wait until the publishing thing is sorted out before getting going with it – one way or another it will get published and you most definitely do already have an interested audience.

  4. Thanks for your comments Charles, Amy, and Martin.
    Amy – Your statement of self-publishing is something I’ve thought about as well. I’ve heard from other authors that most established publishers do not provide a great deal of support to authors in terms of marketing. Like you stated, why split the lion’s share of revenue in that type of model.
    ebooks are also an interesting option. I’m not sure about releasing a whole book in that format…but certainly several chapters would be worth considering.
    Martin – Thanks for your commments on your interest in a full-length connectivism book. It’s a direction I would like to pursue simply for raising the profile of the concept. Obviously, most authors don’t write for the money. In my case, I’m interested in creating a community/network of individuals seeking to explore how learning and communication change in a digital environment. As mentioned in my original post – it seems that a book lends far greater credibility to an idea than a blog.

  5. It’s something I’ve thought about – and resisted for just the sort of reason you cite.
    When the books that get published are only those that are ‘of interest within the corporate market’ then what good is publishing a book? And what sort of indicator is the publication of a book?
    I publish online, where I don’t need to worry about being run through such filters. And if I really wanted a print product, I would self-publish through something like lulu.com.

  6. Motivationwise I think you’d be posting it to Changethis as a proposal. It hasn’t been a long ago when I found out that the PersonalMBA concept — that’s just been delivered at http://www.changethis.com/17.PersonalMBA — has a proposal and as it swept through the blogosphere starting from Lifehacker instantly resulting 646 vote s who all wanted to read that one. And it’s been done.
    Renderingwise I really love working with wikispaces and schtuff.
    Electronic self-publishing with on-demand printing is also a very viable option nowadays .

  7. Rae Tanner says:

    Heya George,
    I agree with Stephen Downes. Why would a progressive thinker lower himself to cater to “today’s corporate market” when the whole purpose of book writing is to thrust innovative concepts into the hands of those of us still wading through last week’s email?
    While publishers like Pfeiffer and Jossey Bass aren’t your ticket to financial independence, the credibility and mainstream acceptance they leverage may be. Self-publishing is always an option but don’t give up on the man just yet.
    My suggestion: take the editor’s advice for what it is…a great concept like connectivism needs landing gear as well as wings. Get some real-world case studies and knowledge industry pilots under your belt, and you’ll have the practical applications needed to garner corporate interest. Corporate America needs the “how to” map.
    All in time, my friend. Let me know how I can help.

  8. Regarding self-publishing, you might also look into Xlibris. From what I understand, they help with the distribution end of the marketing equation by announcing your book to all the major book-sellers, plus they print copies on demand. (Lulu may do all of this, as well). I think Rae and the others are spot on – you’re best off not diluting your message with a publisher’s agenda, but it could benefit from some case studies and other how-to’s. It may take a bit of time, but you’re building the momentum that will help you leverage your community to fill that gap. But it will happen… of that I have no doubt. :-)