What it is like to write a technical book

Baron Schwartz is the author of the updated and second edition of the book namely “High Performance MySQL: Optimization, Backups, Replication, and More“. He talks in detail about the procedure he had to follow to complete his book on MySQL. He dwells in detail on various aspects of writing a book such as the collaboration and tools, writing and revision process, the research that went into it, the travails and pitfalls to look out for, what rewards to expect from writing a book and so on.

It is a lengthy post at the end of which, a would be author gets a detailed overview of what it is to write a book. The following  is a small portion of his thoughts from the article.

If you’re thinking about writing a book, I’d suggest you spend some time visualizing how much time it’s really going to take. You can use my hours-per-page ratio as a rough guide if you wish, but realize that

  1. I’m not the only author, so this book was a lot more than just 1000 hours of work and
  2. I may be a faster writer than you are. Unless you’ve written a book before, don’t try to estimate on your gut feeling.

A 200-page book will take a lot more than twice as much as a 100-page. There’s a non-linear relationship between pages and work, and pages that are going into print are going to take a lot more work than your senior thesis or dissertation, believe me. Anyway, however it works for you, try to get a sense of the hours it’ll need. Now mentally visualize where you’re going to get those hours from. Really, how much time do you think you can spend in evenings and weekends? You still have to do all the ordinary things like paying bills and washing dishes, too.

Update (Aug 17, 2009) – A Technical reviewer talks about the travails and pitfalls he encountered in the line of his work which also provides an interesting insight into how the technical book publishing industry works.