Back in November I was proud to announce that I was in the process of writing a book. Well, today I’m equally proud to announce that I’m no longer writing that book! This isn’t really a joke - I’m actually quite proud of myself for giving up here. I think many people stick with things that they know aren’t good ideas for far too long (which is commonly known as the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and known more formally in economics as loss aversion), so I’m really happy that I didn’t fall into this trap. And, I think people don’t celebrate quitting things as much as they should, so I wanted to celebrate that today in the hopes to inspire more people to quit more things that might not be right for them.
So what happened?
I set out to write the book I wished I had read 2 years ago. I envisioned a shorter book, around 150 pages or so, since I like short books. I also pictured the reader of that book to be me 2 years ago, so I was writing for an intermediate to advanced Ruby developer. Someone who maybe didn’t yet have a ton of variety of experience in production applications, but who knew the language really well.
Turns out, that doesn’t make for a good book for a publisher. At every step in the process, they pushed for a longer book with a broader base of people who might be able to get some value out of it. They wanted me to include more beginner level explanations of things that I felt were really redundant. They even asked if it would be possible to write the book in such a way that non-Ruby developers might get something out of it.
This totally makes sense, since longer books can be priced at a higher price point, and the broader audience means more possible sales. Publishing is a hard business to be in, and they need to make a living. But their goals and my goals didn’t really align in the end, and I didn’t think I’d be happy putting my name on the book that would have come out of this process.
When I decided to work with a publisher and editor for this book, I did so hoping to write a better book based on their experience and expertise. But all the feedback I got from them was about how to write a more marketable book, and that’s not really what I wanted. I have this weird thing about sales and marketing where I’m really averse to the feeling of scamming someone, even to my own detriment. There were many times where I felt like I was getting close to that line with some of the tone of the book I was encouraged to adopt.
So, after 50-ish pages - which took around 230 hours to plan, write and edit - I decided to call it quits.
Will we ever see those first 50 pages?
Maybe, but I honestly don’t know. I haven’t heard anything from Manning about the future of the book. According to the publishing agreement, everything that I’ve written is essentially their property, and they have the right to have someone else continue the writing of the book if they want, but I’m not allowed to share any of the stuff I wrote for them. If the book does eventually come out, I asked them not to put my name on it. But I really like the first 50 or so pages I wrote, so I hope they do see the light of day at one point.
Frankly, since I wrote my editors to let them know I was withdrawing from writing the book, I haven’t received even a single email from them, so I’m not sure what will happen.
When I told my wife how it was kind of weird that they didn’t reply at all to my email about withdrawing, she said “well, I guess they’re just writing you off.”
Well done, honey.