Beginning PHP from Wrox and lessons learned
It’s been an interesting couple of week for our PHP program. Since Pádraic Brady first posted his "Art of Deception or Publishing PHP6 Books" and we discovered it via Twitter, we’ve been watching the community response, responding ourselves (which Pádraic then covered here), and looking at our future books to make sure we don’t fall into the same mistakes again.
Based on that, the book most impacted by what we’ve learned is Beginning PHP6 by Matt Doyle. This had been slated to publish at the end of July and we pulled it off line at the printer to take another look. After discussions with Matt, he’s reworking a few parts of the book, we’re going to have it tech edited again with the TE running 5.3, and the book will become "Beginning PHP 5.3 with a PHP6 Preview". The PHP6 parts of the coverage will be moved, footnoted, or otherwise explained so that readers see they’re optional and forward-looking. That’s going to mean an additional 3-4 weeks work for Matt reviewing the page proofs for the whole book, and add in a few more weeks for editing and relaying pages for whatever changes Matt makes, and we’re looking at probably a 2 month delay in the book. (BTW, it will take a few days for our own sites to reflect this change and weeks for 3rd party retailers to make it.)
So why the change and the discussion of it here? Obviously, the way we published the first couple of PHP6 books was a mistake. And I take responsibility for that. There are a lot of people involved in making good books, in making good book decisions. But at the end of the day, in my role for Wrox I take responsibility for that. It’s not the authors’ fault. I wasn’t asking the right questions of the right people. I won’t miss that again.
What could authors have done better (since I know many authors read this)? Communicate with your editors! Writing a book is hard work and a lot of time for you. Don’t do something wrong for us just because you think that’s what we asking for. That wastes the time you invest. And if you aren’t finding the answer you think is right with your editor, find the publisher or someone else at the publishing company to discuss it with. This goes for any author with any publisher. We’re pretty much all blogging and on twitter, facebook, and LinkedIn in these days. If you’ve got an issue with the way your book is being handled, you can find us and tell us, we make ourselves easy to find. Don’t wait until after the book is published to tell us if it were up to you you wouldn’t have done it this or that way that we asked.
Customers, readers (programmers in this case), keep talking to us. We’re using Google and tweet searches to find everything we can that’s being said about us. But if we miss something and you’ve got something important to share, find us. If you tell us and we don’t listen, shame on us. But for the most part, many publishers and editors are trying to listen.
And if you can, try to assume the best until you see otherwise. The editors, the authors, the publishers – we want to publish good books that are useful to you. Most of us are in this kind of work because we like books, or programming (for Wrox books), or books and programming. But we’re human, we make mistakes. Don’t assume our mistakes are evil, greedy, or otherwise malicious. If we repeat the same mistakes and don’t learn, well that’s another story.
I appreciate all the time Pádraic, other readers, and the authors have all put into helping us with this. We’ll keep doing our best to win you all over with better books.
[Aug 2010 update] This post was originally on my semi-official personal Wrox blog which I have since moved. In order to maintain it for legacy reasons, I’ve reposted the item here on the new Wrox blog.
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