Fame, Fortune,
      and Technical
      Writing
      (not necessarily in that
      order)


Dru Lavigne
Editor, OSBR

W...
Outline
I ntroduction

W e (community)

R ecognition

I nspiration

T hem (publishing)

E arn
Introduction
Based on my experience, YMMV

Background info:

● writing awards paid tuition (1980 - 1984)
● curriculum deve...
Introduction
●   the rules of the writing game are changing,
    making it a great time to be a tech writer

●   opportuni...
Community

Community? What about fame & fortune?

Common assumptions:

●   noone gets paid to write docs for “free”
    so...
Community
Don't forget:
● like it or not, writing is a collaborative

  activity (editors, proofreaders, critics)

●   wri...
Community
●   open source is still a Wild West of missing
    and incomplete documentation

●   enough work to last a life...
Community
 Help fellow writers:
● personal introductions to publishers,

  editors

●   invitation to co-write an article ...
Community


Things I'd love to see:

●   “Summer of Documentation”

●   more docathons

●   writing/marketing students con...
Recognition
Get your work (and your name) out there!

●   vital if you're looking for writing contracts
    or envision a ...
Recognition
Write daily!

This allows you to:

●   hone a craft while building a body of work

●   define your style

●   ...
Recognition

No degree required...

●   personal decision

●   second language is an edge

●   cultivate your grammar, spe...
Recognition

You know you're out there when:

●   work finds you

●   you turn down more work than you accept

●   you've ...
Recognition
Tools of the trade:

●   blogs (personal, work, pet project)

●   book reviews (Amazon, publishers)

●   artic...
Inspiration
Writing is diverse--what interests you?

●   curriculum development, training materials

●   marketing, whitep...
Inspiration

What do open source projects need?

● doc team members and leaders
● man pages, tutorials, guides

● articles...
Inspiration

Don't have a pet project yet?

●   what software do you use?

●   what how-to notes have you kept?

●   have ...
Publishing

What publishers want to see:

●   the size of your audience

●   that your expertise is currently “hot”

●   t...
Publishing
What you should know beforehand:

●   for technical books, 10,000 copies is a
    “best seller”

●   3 months f...
Publishing

What you should know beforehand:

●   default is still Word template with no revision
    control--ask to gaug...
Publishing
When reviewing that contract:

●   who retains copyright?

●   do you get distribution rights?

●   translation...
Publishing

Self-publishing:

●   IMHO: use a big publisher for your first
    book, do what you want for the rest

●   th...
Publishing

Self-publishing may be better when:

●   market is small or topic is more esoteric

●   you're the expert in t...
Earn
Consider your goals & priorities:

●   is writing a hobby, desired career, or a
    means to an end?

●   re-evaluate...
Earn


Define your version of success:

● expert in chosen niche
● respect of peers

● contributing back to community

● a...
Contact


Blog:      http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/unix/bsd

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/bsdevents

OSBR:      http://www....
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Fame, Fortune, and Technical Writing

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Presentation from 2009 Writing Open Source conference.

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Fame, Fortune, and Technical Writing

  1. 1. Fame, Fortune, and Technical Writing (not necessarily in that order) Dru Lavigne Editor, OSBR Writing Open Source, 2009
  2. 2. Outline I ntroduction W e (community) R ecognition I nspiration T hem (publishing) E arn
  3. 3. Introduction Based on my experience, YMMV Background info: ● writing awards paid tuition (1980 - 1984) ● curriculum developer since 1997 ● O'Reilly columnist 2000 - 2006 ● negotiating third book ● founder of BSD Certification Group ● BSD Guru blog since 2005 ● launched OSBR e-magazine in 2007
  4. 4. Introduction ● the rules of the writing game are changing, making it a great time to be a tech writer ● opportunities abound: zero barriers to entry, numerous free publicity methods ● how do you get noticed in a sea of info? ● how do you make money, or launch a career, when so much is available for free? Answer: community
  5. 5. Community Community? What about fame & fortune? Common assumptions: ● noone gets paid to write docs for “free” software ● besides, if you're not a developer, you're a nobody in open source
  6. 6. Community Don't forget: ● like it or not, writing is a collaborative activity (editors, proofreaders, critics) ● writing is a skill (use it or lose it) ● writing is an art (it needs to be explored) ● cream rises to the top (and gets paid) Community provides: interaction, mentorship, opportunity, exposure
  7. 7. Community ● open source is still a Wild West of missing and incomplete documentation ● enough work to last a life time or two! ● you get to pick your hours, language, what to write about and in what style ● it's all archived and searchable ● honed writing skills are an asset to any employer
  8. 8. Community Help fellow writers: ● personal introductions to publishers, editors ● invitation to co-write an article or book chapter ● personal invitation to a docathon ● sponsorship to attend conference as press ● invitation as speaker to community conf
  9. 9. Community Things I'd love to see: ● “Summer of Documentation” ● more docathons ● writing/marketing students contributing to projects as part of their studies
  10. 10. Recognition Get your work (and your name) out there! ● vital if you're looking for writing contracts or envision a book in your future ● don't wait til work is “polished”, but always write your best ● be anal with grammar and spelling, even with casual works (email, blog posts) ● do your research (or it will bite you back)
  11. 11. Recognition Write daily! This allows you to: ● hone a craft while building a body of work ● define your style ● gain an audience ● find out what you like to write about, and whether you really do like to write
  12. 12. Recognition No degree required... ● personal decision ● second language is an edge ● cultivate your grammar, spelling, research, and style skills ● the best way to learn to write well is to write (and to read good writing)
  13. 13. Recognition You know you're out there when: ● work finds you ● you turn down more work than you accept ● you've become the “expert” on ______
  14. 14. Recognition Tools of the trade: ● blogs (personal, work, pet project) ● book reviews (Amazon, publishers) ● articles & how-tos (gratis or paid) ● review board of peer-reviewed journal ● write one chapter of a book ● contribute to online magazine
  15. 15. Inspiration Writing is diverse--what interests you? ● curriculum development, training materials ● marketing, whitepapers, brochures ● news items, regular column ● product documentation, how-tos ● editing, translating
  16. 16. Inspiration What do open source projects need? ● doc team members and leaders ● man pages, tutorials, guides ● articles, news in mainstream publications ● whitepapers, brochures, artwork ● forum leaders, bloggers ● mailing list moderators and posters ● press releases, events ● website content
  17. 17. Inspiration Don't have a pet project yet? ● what software do you use? ● what how-to notes have you kept? ● have friends who contribute to a project? ● local community tech-related effort?
  18. 18. Publishing What publishers want to see: ● the size of your audience ● that your expertise is currently “hot” ● the scope of your work ● a well-thought out proposal
  19. 19. Publishing What you should know beforehand: ● for technical books, 10,000 copies is a “best seller” ● 3 months f/t (50+ hrs/wk) is considered fast ● a very small % of books gets promoted by mainstream publishers and small publishers have less resources ● publishing is a gamble--this is reflected in the contract
  20. 20. Publishing What you should know beforehand: ● default is still Word template with no revision control--ask to gauge flexibility ● you will learn a lot working with your editor-- aim for daily feedback ● actively help the publisher in continued promotion
  21. 21. Publishing When reviewing that contract: ● who retains copyright? ● do you get distribution rights? ● translation rights and royalties? ● royalties for non-print distribution? ● keep in mind that no contract is ideal and there will be trade-offs
  22. 22. Publishing Self-publishing: ● IMHO: use a big publisher for your first book, do what you want for the rest ● this establishes your reputation ● if first book is a hit, your bargaining power increases with that publisher
  23. 23. Publishing Self-publishing may be better when: ● market is small or topic is more esoteric ● you're the expert in that market and your audience is aware of promotion avenues ● you want to cut out middle-man and control revenue cut, promotion, production
  24. 24. Earn Consider your goals & priorities: ● is writing a hobby, desired career, or a means to an end? ● re-evaluate your volunteer to paid ratio every 6-12 months--is it shifting into your desired direction? ● if you're entering the field, expect to pay your dues (like university, but cheaper)
  25. 25. Earn Define your version of success: ● expert in chosen niche ● respect of peers ● contributing back to community ● adding to pool of knowledge ● paying the bills ● becoming a rockstar
  26. 26. Contact Blog: http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/unix/bsd Twitter: https://twitter.com/bsdevents OSBR: http://www.osbr.ca Contact: dru@osbr.ca

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