The book business is undergoing a revolution – not only in the way books are produced (electronically) and published (by the authors themselves), but also in the way books are written in the first place. I’d like to describe the “writing rig” I’m using to write my book, a method that could have only been imagined merely few years ago.
I decided to self-publish using LeanPub – an electronic publishing company that treats books like lean start-up products, touting the philosophy of publishing early (before the books is “finished”), getting feedback, publishing again, and repeating. This process arguably leads to better books (given you have readers who provide meaningful feedback). Publishing an e-book first is a no- brainer strategy for testing the market before making a significant investment in printing and marketing. I’m eager to see the quality of feedback I’ll be getting.
LeanPub uses Dropbox to store the manuscript. This allow me to write on any platform I have handy: my iPhone, iPad of Mac using iA Writer (a no-nonsense text editor) or my laptop (using Notepad++). The manuscript is always synchronized between platforms and up to date, and as a bonus I can access previous versions if something goes wrong. When I’m offline for a prolonged period of time (like on an airplane), I check in versions into Git just to be safe.
I’m writing in Markdown, a bare bones syntax that allows me to mark up the text with formatting tags. I can create titles, quotes, footnotes, etc. and add links and images. Unlike HTML, Markdown is designed to be readable as it is, so it makes it much easier to envision how the final version will look like while writing. Most importantly, it allows you to skip the layout phase, typically done using expensive tools like Adobe InDesign. I lay out the book as I write, using a simple text editor. When I want to see how the actual book will look like, LeanPub generates a preview in seconds (in PDF, Kindle, and iBooks formats) and conveniently stores it in a Dropbox folder. After publishing an e-book, it’s possible to use the same content for a print version – self published or not.
Now all that’s left is to finish writing the book… not an easy feat, but not impossible either.